Forgiveness is always difficult, but it is especially messy when family is involved. In “Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate,” award-winning Christian author Leslie Leyland Fields has partnered with psychologist Dr. Jill Hubbard to tell readers how they can begin moving past the bitterness caused by parents to place of health and wholeness. Here, we discuss the myth of the perfect family, how to forgive those who keep causing pain, and whether it is possible to fully forgive a parent who has died.
RNS: The “myth of perfect family” is really a myth, isn’t it?
LLF: Yes, and we’ve got a serious problem with this in our churches, elevating “godly families” and judging “worldly families.” [tweetable]Some families are just better at looking good.[/tweetable] And sometimes when “godly families” have a teaching platform, they prescribe their own family recipe for “success,” which tends to be simplistic and rules-based. There’s not a “perfect” family because we’re all sinners raising sinners. I’ve got great kids and a wonderful husband, but struggle like everyone else. We need to stop passing judgment on one another and pass God’s peace and grace instead.
RNS: You talk about the importance of forgiveness in your book, but how do we forgive those who don’t want it? Those who don’t think they’ve done anything wrong?
LLF: Most parents are aware of at least some of their failings. They hoped to be and do better raising their children, but you’re right, plenty of parents are defensive and blithe to the ways they harmed their children. Nor are they interested in knowing about it later. We forgive them anyway. We don’t limit our forgiveness to those who earn it through repentance and apology.
RNS: And then how do we offer forgiveness to those who continue to cause pain even as we forgive?