I am the adult child of an alcoholic father and so I have my scars, both emotional and physical. When I went to my minister for help, he said I should work on forgiving my father. When I went to a counselor who calls herself a “spiritual healer” she said that I have nothing to forgive. She said it will take some time for me to develop sufficiently to really understand and accept this as true. She said that my minister is not developed enough to see this truth. I am confused by the two very different messages. Can you help me understand and move forward?

Your minister and the “spiritual healer” have conflicting views of how the world works. They cannot both be correct. Let us start with your minister. He will tell you that there is such a thing as sin, or offense against God. God has standards of right and wrong and when the standards are broken, not only is there offense against God but also against our fellow men and women. The offenses against people are injustices, not sins against other people. Moral virtues have been created by God (your minister will tell you) as ways of dealing with offenses against other people. Two primary virtues are justice and forgiveness. When a person sins against God, he or she usually commits an injustice against persons, and we try to right the wrong by engaging in the moral virtue of justice. We try to deal with the consequences of injustice through forgiveness. Thus, justice (righting a wrong) and forgiveness (responding to the consequences of injustice) exist side by side.

The “spiritual healer” seems to espouse New Age beliefs. The gist is that love is at the center of the universe and it so dominates that there is no sin because there is no God-as-a-person (or as a trinity of Persons). If there is no personified God, then there is no sin (because there is no divine Person to go against). If there is no sin, then there is no injustice. If there is no injustice then there is no need of forgiveness. What, then, of all of our disappointments with how others act? Those misbehaviors are actually mistakes (according to New Age beliefs) coupled with our mistaken notion that the person has sinned and been unjust. One is to see mistakes where your minister sees sins and injustices.

Here now is your dilemma: Do you think it is a good idea to say that all of your father’s behaviors toward you, which scarred you both physically and emotionally, are mistakes on his part? Do you think it is a good idea to say that your seeing injustice in your father is a mistaken thought on your part? If so, then the burden is on you to change your thought. If the “spiritual healer” is incorrect, then you will be fighting against your natural inclination to label as unjust what your father did to you. You will not have recourse to forgiveness.

You cannot choose both world views without living a contradiction. You now have a fork in the road of your life’s journey.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness