Archive for June, 2013

My mother abandoned me when I was little. I was raised by my grandparents. Now that my mother is old she needs care and money and she is asking me for help. I am still disappointed and confused because of her abandonment of me. I feel that I cold lose my very self by taking care of her now. Do I have an obligation to forgive her because she is my mother and is vulnerable now?

Let us first make a distinction between forgiving and caring for your mother. When you forgive, you do so as an act of mercy from your heart. You can forgive your mother for her abandonment whether or not you take care of her. Regarding the sense of obligation, if you hold to certain religious beliefs, you will see an obligation to forgive her. If you do not hold to certain religious beliefs, you may not see such an obligation.

Are you ready to try to forgive, setting aside the issue of caring for your mother for now? I ask for this reason: Sometimes when we forgive, even when we do not want to care for someone’s physical needs, the desire to help changes once we complete the process of forgiveness. I suggest that you first try to forgive your mother, if you choose to do so, and then see how you feel about caring for her once the forgiveness is accomplished.

What Happens When News Media Get It Wrong Regarding Forgiveness?

While browsing the Internet today, I came across a piece from National Public Radio dated March 11, 2013. It has the ominous title, “Forgiveness Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be.”

Let us examine their points to see if they are true. The program included an advice columnist, Emily Yoffe and psychiatrist, Richard Friedman.

An opening salvo comes from Yoffe, who describes myriad letters she receives from people whose parents are old, sick, and who never were there for the son or daughter when growing up. She thinks it can be inappropriate to forgive with this statement, “…there can be a tremendous cost to the person who was abused to go back to the abuser and say, all is forgiven.”

Our rebuttal: When we forgive we do not have to go to the person and proclaim it. We can forgive from the heart and keep our distance if the other is abusive.

When it was Dr. Friedman’s turn he said this, “…to ask these people to go back and try to, quote, ‘repair’ their relationship with their parents would do more harm than good.”

Our rebuttal: To forgive is not necessarily to repair a relationship. That is the job of reconciliation. To equate forgiveness and reconciliation is to distort the meaning of each. Forgiveness is a moral virtue and one can offer the virtue of mercy to another without reconciling. Reconciliation is not a moral virtue but instead is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.

Emily Yoffe then reiterates the moral equality of forgiveness and reconciliation when she says this, “People can be re-victimized by the sense that you must forgive and move on, and that’s going to mean reconciliation and helping.”

Our rebuttal: We should not swing at forgiveness and give it a black eye when we really mean to swing at a different target, reconciliation.

Forgiveness is not all it’s cracked up to be. If this is so, the NPR program certainly did not defend this premise. Instead, it engaged in distortions and perhaps gave itself a black eye.


Forgiveness on the Killing Fields of Cambodia

The Huffington Post – As a boy of eleven, Sokreaksa Himm and his Cambodian family were forced-marched from their home in Siem Reap out into the rural area to work in farming. It was there that he watched as the villagers hacked to death his father and brothers and later his mother. Lying under dead bodies in the pit in which the killers had dumped their victims, he waited until they left to make his escape.

Himm was one of the lucky ones. “The killing fields” of Cambodia were as foreboding as “The ovens” of Auschwitz. In four years — 1975-1979 — as many as three million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime or died from starvation or disease. As a result, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot is sometimes described as “the Hitler of Cambodia.”

After Himm escaped from his family’s killers, he was able to cross the border into Thailand and was eventually sent to Canada where he was cared for by World Vision (an international Christian relief organization) at one of their refugee centers. There, his young mind was not only plagued by the memory of his family now dead — with the exception of his sister — but feelings of revenge for those who had so devastated his family and his life. Those feelings began to change, however, after he enrolled at Providence University College near Winnipeg, Canada–a school that proclaims: We help you see your education through a Christian worldview.

“I could tell that something was wrong with me, and underneath the fa??ade I suddenly realized that I needed to forgive totally,” Himm recalls.??”Forgiveness is not easy, but if I allowed the big ball of fire to keep burning inside my heart, my life would not be worth living. . . When I could not forgive, I was actually burying myself into the grave of bitterness, anger and hatred.”

Determined, Himm returned to Cambodia and to the village of Kokpreach where he met with the man who killed his father and the one who killed his mother. He tied a Cambodian scarf around each of their necks as a symbol of forgiveness. Then he gave them a Cambodian Bible and read from Luke 23:34 — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…” — and in so doing, offered his forgiveness.

Himm has since found his sister and returned to his family home in Siem Reap where he’s determined to build a new and better life for himself and his fellow Cambodians.

Read the full story: A Face in Pol Pot’s Killing Fields.”

I am in a relationship with a man who is verbally abusive to me. No matter how hard I try and no matter how much I ask, he keeps it up. His own father was gruff and so he kind of inherited this. I am at my breaking point with him. What do I do?

First, you have to protect yourself. From your question, we cannot determine the depth of the verbal abuse. Please assess this first. Regarding his behavior toward you, it looks like he has unhealthy anger toward his father. We suggest that you bring up this issue to your partner.  You might even want to show him this post. If he can work on forgiving his father, he is less likely to displace that anger onto you. As he learns to forgive, he will learn more respect and love, which we hope he gives not only to his father but also to you.