The process of coming to terms with our brokenness often includes discovery of wounds we have received at the hands of others. It is common to discover these wounds came during our childhood years; often came from someone in the family; and very often came from our fathers. It becomes clear how these wounds have led to the development of the false self and the poser mentality as we have tried to compensate for the effects of these wounds and still function in the world.
As we enter into our story and the process of interpreting the events of our lives, the discovery of these wounds often opens the gates for anger to surface. Or we might begin to understand our anger, and other behaviors such as fear, worry, control, shame etc., as being connected to those wounds from our childhood. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume the wounding came from the father. As we gain understanding of our brokenness and wounded-ness, we often come to realize we cannot fully move on to our healing without acknowledging and forgiving the one who wounded us. And if that is our father, and he is still alive, it can be a big problem.
Men tell me they can’t forgive their father. They understand forgiveness to mean they must go to their father, regardless of the lack of change or movement from the father, and tell him they forgive him. And for many men, it’s an impossible task.
Foremost, the work of forgiving another, benefits the heart of the forgiver. You bear the weight of the offense, or in this case the wound. The offender may be oblivious or uncaring about how their actions have affected you.
I am suggesting forgiveness is not primarily for the benefit of the offender. It is for you, the one who bears the burden of the offenses. The pain, shame, embarrassment, etc. of what was done, even if it occurred long ago. The walk toward forgiveness is for you to have the weight of that offense lifted from your heart. The healing, the releasing, the lifting of the weight is done by God, by the Spirit, not by our fathers. They can’t do it.
God can do it! God wants to heal those broken places in our hearts. When we are willing to express to God, in our own fumbling, uncertain ways, what those wounds have done to us, God can lift that weight. He can heal the shame, the pain and so on. He has the power and he knows our hearts. He says he will do it, so he will. As that healing becomes a reality in our lives, we can begin to move on to learning to live without the burden of those wounds. We can learn to approach God differently, out of our healing. And we can begin to live wholeheartedly.
And what of our fathers? What effect does our forgiveness and healing have on them? Little or none, until the time comes when they apologize or approach you, asking for your forgiveness.
Until then, the effect of the forgiveness is for you. For your heart. You get to begin to live without the burden of that offense weighing you down every day.
There is much more that could happen in the relationship with our fathers. There is repentance, dialogue, maybe reconciliation, maybe even a rebuilding of trust. Those changes may come, over time. Or they may not.
But please don’t overlook the enormous value of the freedom that comes to you by asking and allowing God our Father to heal those offenses and wounds. It is a rich blessing of freedom from the life-long effects of those wounds. If that is all that was to happen, it would still be huge. It would be life-changing.
A great reference for this discussion is the book, TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNichol and John Lynch.