forgive us our debts

How to Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You Deepest

I called my grandma last month.

It was the hardest thing I had done in my life, because we hadn’t spoken in over three years, and I was pretty sure she would rake me over the coals.

Last week I shared with you a story I really didn’t want to tell, but I knew that it was time to get it out in the open. You can read it here.

The reason I finally opened up about my family’s story is because I realized every one of us leaves childhood wounded, in big or small ways. Whether you were a daddy’s girl like me or you’ve built walls to protect yourself from an abrasive parent, whether your mother walked out on your family for another man or tried to shield you from abusive men, whatever the form of childhood hurts we carry, most of us have them.

And it’s hard to forgive. Really hard.forgive us our debts

Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt Us

There’s a part of The Lord’s Prayer that always struck fear in my heart as a child:

Forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12

Every time I prayed that prayer, I secretly wondered if there was someone I was forgetting to forgive, because I most certainly didn’t want to miss out on God’s forgiveness. And while that might have been a warped understanding of the teaching of Jesus, it did drive home the point that God wants us to forgive just as we have been forgiven. So I always considered myself a pretty forgiving person.

But when I got a review copy of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers, it sat on my shelf for months. I eyed it suspiciously, not sure I wanted to deal with all the pain that had accumulated over the years. But day after day, the Spirit kept bringing it to mind, and I finally cracked open the cover.DSC09665

As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I had been harboring bitterness, resentment, anger, and even hatred toward family members in my heart because of things that had happened in my childhood. I wanted justice, and I was merciless in my condemnation. Like the Pharisees, I was quick to point out the wrong in others while overlooking the massive forgiveness covering my own life.

But slowly, ever so tenderly, the Father began to peel back the layers of hurt and breathe Life into atrophied parts of my heart.

Facing the Unforgiveness In Our Hearts

Over the course of a year, I read the book and alternated between tears of grief and relief as I realized that the emotional roller coaster I had been living on for years was not unique to me. Through lovely storytelling and hard truth-telling, Leslie Leyland Field took me by the hand and lead me through the Gospel, showing at once the universality of childhood hurts and the power of God to release us from past hurts and hatred when we offer complete forgiveness.

If you’ve walked through those dark corridors of unforgiveness, whether toward a parent or anyone else (because the principles are true no matter what relationship you apply them to), I highly recommend this book. It helped me come face-to-face with the unforgiveness I was harboring in my heart.

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

I read this important truth:

Forgiveness is really a two-way release. It means releasing others from the debts and sins they have committed against us, and at the same time releasing ourselves as judge, jury and prison guard over them because that’s God’s position.
~ Leslie Leyland Field, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

Until I relinquished my right to judge and condemn those who hurt me, I wasn’t able to forgive them. I was waiting for them to acknowledge their mistakes and repent like the prodigal son, but that wasn’t going to happen. So I had a choice: forgive or carry the burden of unforgiveness for the rest of my life.

By God’s grace, I chose forgiveness.

God’s Not Finished With Us Yet

Slowly, God began healing festering wounds that I hadn’t even realized were poisoning my relationship with my husband and other family members. He breathed love and compassion in me and worked a ministry of forgiveness toward my parents. He began to prod me to build bridges… and I’ll admit: I’ve been slow to build because I’m afraid the past will repeat itself and I don’t know what healthy boundaries in these relationships look like yet.

But God is continuing to write this story: He’s not finished with us yet. Any of us. Not my dad. Not my mom. Not my grandma. Not me. Not you.

And I cling to the Truth of God:

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
Philippians 1:6

He’ll be faithful. Even when we’re hurt and hard-hearted. He is faithful.

And as we forgive, in His time, He will show us what steps to take next.

The Power of a Phone Call

I held my breath when she picked up the phone, not sure how she’d react to hearing from her granddaughter after all this time. And while our conversation wasn’t what I expected, it brought a small measure of healing. Some hurt, too, and old wounds were opened once more, but God has been working healing and forgiveness in my life, starting with my relationship with my grandma and moving on toward my parents.

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." C. S. Lewis

So what’s this got to do with you?

Sweet friend, I believe God is calling you to forgive. Your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, relatives, teachers, pastors, or whoever.

You. Forgive.

Yes, you.

Show the grace and forgiveness that God showered upon you to those who have hurt you much.

Me? Forgive?

Jesus forgave us much. So so very much. While we still had our backs to Him, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). He made the first move, and He calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness is often an ongoing decision, and it may take us months or years to work out, but God will empower us to release the bitterness and resentment that robs us of our joy.

So whether that person from your past is old or passed on, forgive.

Whether they wronged you horridly or slightly, forgive.

Whether they purposefully inflicted harm or neglectfully permitted it, forgive.

Whether they know their wrong or are completely oblivious, forgive.

This is a hard journey, friends, and one that may take us many months or years to travel. But it is a good road, a healing path, a life-giving way.

And the best part of the story?

He’s not finished with us yet.

I’d love to hear from you: Have you battled unforgiveness in your life? What did you do to overcome it?

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Comments 13

  1. Felicia Oana

    Painfully true! Thank you for forgiving me Asheritah!
    Thank you for your unconditional love and permanent support!

  2. Katie

    Thank you and may God bless you for sharing your story.
    The quote you included above from Leslie’s book: “Forgiveness is really a two-way release. It means releasing others from the debts and sins they have committed against us, and at the same time releasing ourselves as judge, jury and prison guard over them because that’s God’s position.” and also, your comment that “Until I relinquished my right to judge and condemn those who hurt me, I wasn’t able to forgive them.” God has used both of these statements to let me see my un-forgiveness toward some family and friends. I pray that He will move me along that “hard journey, good road, healing path, and living way – forgiveness.” Thanks again for your willingness to share what God has taught you. I praise Him that He is not finished with us yet, but continues to write our stories of redemption through Jesus Christ!

  3. Jana Kennedy-Spicer

    Asheritah, thank you for opening your heart and sharing such a personal and profound truth. I pray that God continue to heal the wounds for you as well as the relationships with your family.

    Blessings, Jana

  4. Debra

    Thank you so much for opening your heart. I appreciate your honesty in a difficult thing to share. I too am having trouble forgiving. A scammer earned my trust through manipulation. He was able to con me. I lost a lot of money. I ended up having to file bankruptcy. Now I have so much trouble trusting. I want to put this behind me. It hinders me. I feel enraged sometimes. Letting go of the situation of the past is very hard. I am rebuilding my life, but I can’t seem to let go of the hurt. Still trusting God and lean on Him, but I want to let go of this.

  5. Sandra Houtz

    I had to overcome the bitterness, rage, hate, you name it, I was feeling it and felt I was entitled to it … you see my brother was brutally murdered when I was just 22 years old and he was 26 … and it was NOT a stranger … it was his best friend, all based on a lie that he was told about my brother …. he didn’t bother to ask questions, he shot first, and then found out in jail from the person that betrayed him (my brother’s estranged wife) that it was all LIES and he was used to perpetrate this hateful act … I sat across from this man (he was still in jail, 3rd degree, here in PA is 10-20 years, we couldn’t get the jury to see that it was 1st degree (premeditation) he had already served about 15 years until I had the permission from the state to go ,, we each had a mediator assigned to us, we both went through intense meetings with both mediators to make sure we were both “ready” … and it was time … God took over and we spent 8 1/2 hours together … stopping for lunch, coming back together for the afternoon, crying, laughing, he told me stories about my brother that only he knew … it was so comforting, strange but it was … and when we were all done, I was able to look this man in the eye, that I had hated for so many many years, and tell him “I forgive you, it doesn’t mean I will ever forget what you took from me, but I do forgive you, and so does God” … we both cried as we walked away from each other … I”m currently working on forgiving my mother and aunt for betraying me so deeply I don’t know if I can … but if I can forgive the man that murdered my brother with God’s help hopefully that forgiveness is not to far down the road for us … I had a similar situation to the author of this blog post with my grammy ,,, I hadn’t talked to her for 2 years and she was getting older … I would drive by the nursing home and feel the pounding in my chest that only God can do to us ,,, lol … and finally, I turned on my turn signal and went into the home, and she stood up and started shaking and crying and started apologizing to me for her part in our arguement … it was the BEST thing I could have ever done as she passed away about 9 months after that .. so I lost 2 precious years with her harboring bitterness and anger towards her over something really really stupid … just my 2 cents 🙂

  6. Sandra Houtz

    would it be possible to get a copy of the Dwell Deeply as I lost mine when my computer went crazy this week 🙁

  7. Mary Hill

    It is so true that we all come out of our childhood wounded.My father was abusive when I was growing up toard my mother and sisters and brothers. I dealt with my unforgiveness to my father, but my siblings and mother still struggle. Please pray for us. Thank you for sharing this great post too.

  8. Anita Ojeda

    This sounds like an excellent book–my dad was unfaithful to my mom and they have worked long and hard to stay together over the years. It’s taken me a long time to forgive–but life is so much better when one lives forgiven and forgives freely.

  9. Nicole A Lowande

    I am STRUGGLING with forgiving 2 people where the things I need to forgive for are not over yet. They are hurting my daughter on a daily basis for the last 2 years. Not physical abuse although for a child who was never shown corporal punishment, now has a stepmother who uses this type of punishment and a father who allows his wife “to run the show” in all things concerning our daughter, well there is this also. But mostly such emotional abuse, telling so many lies about me her mommy, her half-brother and most all of my family members. I have turned to the bible to get answers but unfortunately I haven’t really found any. I pray for their salvation on occasion (it’s not an easy thing for me to do) and I need to forgive them but how can I when they’re hurting my little girl? If the harm to this innocent child would end I believe I would be able to forgive but I am CLUELESS how to do this while the harm is still taking place?

    1. Felicia Oana

      Be persistent in searching the way of the Lord for forgiveness Nicole. He will bring you the answer one way or another… I pray for you tonight as I read this!

  10. Mina

    I think that if we ask God to help us with forgiving others it makes it easier. Of course it’s hard especially when you have no idea why members of the family reject you. I’m in the process of still learning because I get very upset when family takes advantage of my mom, she is someone that doesn’t like conflict at All. I always wanted to defend her but she would stop me. I would always wish that someone would tell her something in front of me to say something but it never happens. I’m learning how to let it go and forgive those people that hurt my family or me and at the same time teaching my children too!

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