Thursday , 6, February 2014 Comments Off

Dear Susan:

My mother is a born-again Christian. While I’m happy that she’s happy, it upsets me that she thinks she can ignore all the horrible things she has done to me and my family in the past. She was very violent with me and my siblings when we were coming up. I never got a word of encouragement from her and she even seemed to go out of her way to disappoint me. Now she tells me that I’m not being Christian if I don’t forgive her.

My pastor tells me I should pray about it and try to forgive (I go to the same small church as my mother). My siblings tell me to forget it because I’ll just ruin any type of relationship I might have with my mother now that she’s being nice. I’m having a really hard time with this. I’m the oldest and I saw more of my mother’s bad behavior. I don’t think it’s fair to just accept forgiveness without trying to make amends, but everyone tells me I’m wrong for carrying a grudge. What do you think?


Dear Unforgiving:

This is a common scenario. Someone acts horribly either with sins of commission or by sins of omission (sort of the difference between abuse and neglect) when he is a young adult. With age he mellows and tries to forget that those things ever happened. Or he gets “saved” and tries to imagine he’s off the hook for good. I’m sure that helps HIM sleep through the night, but it does leave his victims out in the cold.

I look at it like this: We are all sinners. Not one of us gets to the end of life without doing wrong again and again. If you are a Christian, you also believe that we are all saved — Jesus died for our sins, all of them, from everybody. How you reconcile those two, seemingly irreconcilable truths is open to a wide variety of interpretations.

And, unfortunately, a lot of people jump in the game trying to say that their interpretation is the only true one. They can’t ALL be right, so I choose not to decide between them. I leave it up to God. He knows everything we have done or will do, all that was in our hearts then and now. I let him judge. All I need to decide is how I feel, what I want.

And that is what I would counsel you to do. Decide what YOU need to hear from your mother (or to have her do) that will constitute adequate, sincere atonement for YOU. And for how long. If she’s played this card before and then “backslid”, you might be wise to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Just remember this: The anger and resentment you harbor does not affect her nearly so much as it affects you. Be careful what you choose to carry.