Forgiveness, Boundaries and Family

How to Forgive Your Family

How to Forgive Your Family

Forgiveness with family members is tricky business. It involves a good understanding of how to set boundaries. Today I answer three questions that are related to forgiveness, boundaries and family.

Q: I have struggled with the “what happens now” after forgiveness has been given.  I would love to hear your perspective on how to let-go of an unhealthy relationship (sibling, etc.) in a way that still honors God.

A: With family members the ties and history give you more reason to work at reunion after forgiveness. But don’t let that coerce you either. Don’t feel obligated to get back together or spend every holiday together, etc. Give yourself permission to set boundaries that create distance between you and your family. Just because they are family doesn’t give them immediate access to your space. They must earn that right like anyone else.

Be careful not to let family members pressure you to live up to their expectations. I’m amazed at how often  people allow their parents to dictate their lives well into adulthood.  You can set boundaries respectfully. Your family might resent the boundaries, especially if they aren’t used to them. But don’t let them intimidate you.

We honor God by respecting our own personal space that he wants us to have (versus being overwhelmed by unhealthy people) and communicating boundaries in a firm and respectful manner. Don’t use boundaries to punish. Don’t be cruel. But be firm and consistent.

Q: What if my child is on a self-destructive path? I want to help him but not enable him. But I can’t stand the thought of him dying because no one intervened.

A:  You can follow the teaching of Jesus who tells us to do three things; one, go to the person. Two, bring others to confront with you. Three, tell it to the church. In other words, you keep increasing the intensity of the confrontation in hopes of them changing their lives.  Speak directly to them but don’t nag. That only shuts them down.

You can perform an intervention with family and friends. This is what causes many people to “see the light”. You can even call the police if you think they are in danger of harming themselves. But ultimately it is up to them. You can’t solve their problems for them as much as you’d like to.  Unfortunately death is a real possibility. You need to come to terms with that reality just like parents do who send their children off to war.

Q: Is everything forgivable? Affairs?

A: Everything is forgivable, even affairs. But some people don’t want to be forgiven. Or some people want to work it both ways. They want the marriage but they don’t want to change their behavior or ask forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is free. Trust is earned.

Refer back (in earlier posts) to what I said about forgiveness not meaning trust. Forgiveness is free. Trust is earned. You can forgive an affair but not trust someone until they rebuild your trust. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that you stay together. Forgiveness is simply giving up the right to get even.

Question: What questions do you have about forgiveness, family and boundaries? Leave them in the comment section below. Please share this post on Facebook, etc. if you found it helpful.

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