The Bridge Chicago is a way to offer the resources of Mission:USA to help people do good ministry.
When I was young, my parents filed for separation due to infidelity. The divorce was messy and I despised my dad for ruining my life. Though I no longer see him anymore, I now fully forgive and love him, because he’s still my biological dad. We all make mistakes. I now live with my mom and my step dad whom I’ve known for about 6-7 years. And I’m ashamed to admit that, even to this day, I still can’t accept him as a father figure. It’s gone to the point where I avoid talking to him and even eye contact. I have nothing against him as a person, but as a father figure, I can’t accept him. I pick out every single flaw he has and hold them against him. I don’t get why I’m still holding on to these feelings of bitterness, antipathy and anger. How is it that I’m able to forgive and love my dad, but I can’t even accept him as a member of the family? I know I’m supposed to love and forgive everyone like Jesus does, but this is impossible for me to do when it comes to him. What’s wrong with me?
There is nothing wrong with you. It’s just that this forgiveness thing is a lot more complicated than it seems. It seems like you may be taking some emotions about your parent’s split and focusing that negativity on your step dad, instead of your dad. So what makes those situations different in your eyes to cause that? The things that make it easier for you to forgive your biological father are: you want to forgive him, and he is not around.
You point out that the reason that you can forgive him is “because he’s still my biological dad.” You have the the motivation to forgive him because you want to have peace about your relationship with him. It seems like you feel that you owe your father forgiveness because he is your father. You appear to not have found that motivation about your step dad. And that doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you a bad Christian, it’s just something you need to look at and try to understand and work on.
The other big difference between your biological father and stepfather is that you don’t have to be around your father everyday. It’s probably not that your stepfather has annoying quirks whereas your dad doesn’t, it’s that you don’t have to be around your dad to notice his. When you have to be around someone on a daily basis, and you have decided that you dislike them, it becomes easy to project negative feelings onto whatever they do. It is a little easier to have affection for someone when you aren’t exposed to the little grating daily things about them (that everyone has). Not having to deal with those messy details and the messy emotions that come with them makes it easier to forgive someone and focus on what you see as the positives.
It is a very mature and powerful statement when you say “I know I’m supposed to love and forgive like Jesus does”. We need to think about how Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us even though He is under no obligation to, His is a love of choice. He also loves knowing full well our mess and weaknesses. Jesus doesn’t love an idealized, best version of us. He loves the real you. Those are the things that make the love of Jesus so unique and so different from others.
One important thing you can do is keep in mind the kind of love and forgiveness that Jesus has shown you, and try to hold on to that when you feel negativity welling up towards your stepfather. It might also be good to make sure you have totally dealt with the emotions towards your dad about his infidelity and his leaving. Just deciding you have forgiven is not the same as going through the real work to get there. You have the right heart, you have the strength to do it, you just need the right perspective.
-Matt from The Bridge