What to do when you can’t forgive your father?


From my childhood I saw my father beating my mother. I never understood why he did this, especially when he always did it without being drunk. He was always looking for a reason to blame her. To all my tears and questions “Why?” I got the same answer– “Shut your mouth!” When I was 14 years old he lost our apartment, played at the casino and disappeared. My mother and I had to deal with this situation on our own. Then, half a year later, he appeared. My mother went back to him, but I couldn’t do that. We have been in such a relationship for five years now. Now he lives off my mother’s back, he doesn’t work anywhere, only my mother works and he also has the audacity to raise his voice at her. I am desperate. I know I have to forgive him, but I can’t, and this condition weighs on me.

The situation in your family and the way your father did is very sad. I understand well what you are facing because I went through such a condition. My father was abusive in his relationship with my mother and us. Thus, my mother died when I was only 9 years old, and my father remarried another woman and abandoned us. This made me have a great hatred for him and a desire for revenge. I didn’t think I would ever be able to forgive him, and this condition weighed heavily on me. My whole being highlighted this pain and burden of my soul until I entered into the New Covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ and experienced God’s true forgiveness.

You must understand that your father is a slave to sin like all people who do not know God. The passions that overwhelmed him made him lose his house at the casino and proceed as you wrote. It’s not good that you haven’t communicated with him in 5 years. Lack of communication does not solve the problem. You need to take the initiative and go talk to him to help him understand the situation and repent. Only if you have not forgiven him in your heart and if you do not have compassion for him, I do not think that in such a state you can help him. I’m even afraid that when you start talking to him you can make the situation worse.

Therefore, the first thing I urge you to do is to begin to study the Holy Scriptures and seek with all your heart and insistence to understand what the New Covenant is with the Lord Jesus Christ and then enter into this covenant. You must first ask God for forgiveness for the hatred you now carry in your heart and for all your sins. You must understand and experience God’s forgiveness. When you are born again, you will receive the Holy Spirit of God, and together with the Holy Spirit will be poured into your heart the love of God that surpasses all human understanding and through which it will be easy for you to fully forgive your father and all the people who have wronged you, and to stop having hatred toward them in your heart.

Once at an international leadership course, the teacher taught us a lesson about forgiveness. He read the following Bible text:

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’  And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the [debt.  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.  So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.  Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)( NASB)

After reading the text, the teacher asked us what we would have done if someone had borrowed such a large sum of money from us and not returned it. Some said that he would take all his possessions, others that he would ask him all his life to return little by little, as much as he could, etc. When it was my turn, I said I would forgive him and ask him nothing more. Some of my colleagues thought that my answer seemed a bit “too spiritual,” and some even made jokes. Then I told them that no wealth could be equated with my mother’s life and the destroyed childhood of me and my sisters. All this was due to our father and I hated him. But on the day I wholeheartedly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, I received a perfect forgiveness from God and the strength to forgive my father. I think that if I had received such forgiveness from God and if I had received the power to forgive my father, I would also have forgiveness if anyone owed me such a sum and wasn’t able to return it to me.

You must experience God’s forgiveness in your life and then forgive your father. You will say that he must first apologize in order to forgive him. Yes, it would be ideal for him to apologize first, but by then you should be ready to forgive him and forgive him in your heart. Without forgiveness you will not be able to help him. Only after you forgive him in your heart will you be able and should you resume the relationship with him and start talking to him about the love of God that can change his life and give him eternal forgiveness.

I’m not sure if your mother returned to live with your father because she really forgave him, or because of her weakness in this relationship. The fact that your father is still behaving the same as before makes me believe the second. You must also help your mother understand God’s forgiveness and then help your father understand his sin so that he can ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy and be saved. May God help you.

Translated by Ina Croitoru