Q: How can I forgive someone who isn't sorry for what he's done? My father hurt me deeply when I was young. Friends have said that I need to forgive him in my heart, but how can he receive something he isn't even asking for?
Jim: I understand how you feel, and my heart goes out to you. For years I couldn't forgive my alcoholic father who abandoned me when I was 5, or the stepfather who left me and my four siblings to fend for ourselves when my mom died four years later. Why should I?
But what I eventually had to come to grips with was that I either had to forgive or slowly poison my mind and heart. Holding on to unresolved bitterness will destroy you. You can't control your father's actions and attitudes. But by God's grace and with His help, you must learn to control your own. If you choose not to forgive, you'll only hurt yourself.
How your father hurt you is a very important piece of the puzzle. If you've experienced sexual or physical abuse, it's critical that you talk openly with someone else about the hurt and betrayal you've endured. Or perhaps you've been scarred by years of rejection or emotional neglect. These are serious and painful wounds that won't heal until you're able to forgive your father from the heart.
To be honest, this won't happen without divine grace, and possibly the guidance of a professional counselor who can help you sort all this out in a healthy, nonthreatening way. Focus on the Family's counselors would be pleased to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. I'd strongly encourage you to give them a call at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: My brother and his girlfriend have been living together for four years. He's wanted our two boys to come over and spend a weekend with them, but because their living arrangement contradicts our values, I've been putting him off. My wife disagrees with their living together, but feels we should let them spend the night so they can develop a relationship with their uncle. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Because I share your concerns related to cohabitation, I understand and appreciate your struggle. So what's the answer?
The first thing you need to make absolutely certain is that you don't allow this to drive a wedge between you and your wife. As you discuss this question, don't forget that you're both on the same team.
Your next step is to prayerfully identify what your real concerns are. For your wife, it's that your boys won't develop a relationship with their uncle. That's legitimate. I suspect that's equally important to you, but you're afraid that by allowing them to spend the weekend with your brother, you'll be communicating a confusing and compromising message to your kids.
Depending on your boys' ages and maturity, you might consider allowing them to go, provided you discuss things with them beforehand. The truth is, their values will be challenged and confronted soon enough, and this provides a teachable moment opportunity.
You can start by teaching them the important differences between marriage and cohabitation. Second, you can help them answer the hard question of, "What do we do when we don't agree with someone's choice?" You can do this by helping them understand the difference between "love" and "approval"; that they can love their uncle by spending time with him, without approving of his choices. And though they disapprove of his choices, it doesn't mean they don't love him.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.