How Do I Deal With Christian Parents Who Don't Acknowledge That They Abused Me?
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
As a Christian adult, how do I deal with and honor Christian parents who don't acknowledge the abuse I suffered at their hands as a child?
It's appropriate, I think—at some stage in your coming alive and aware to things in your background that hurt you, as you perceive it—it's appropriate to look for ways to talk to mom and dad about that. And how you talk about them will feel honoring in the very demeanor or spiteful in the very demeanor.
So that's the first thing: seek a demeanor from the Lord Jesus to be honoring in the way you talk about it. You will wind up saying things that are hurtful, but that's different from the actual demeanor being aggressively despising.
Second, if in those conversations they're either denying that it ever happened—denying they ever talked to you that way or ever did that to you—or if they acknowledge it and then minimize it and say, "Get over it. Come on, every parent does that," or whatever, then you've got a challenge.
One solution would be to ask if they willing to go further into more serious counseling together where you have a friend or a counselor who actually sits down and helps go deeper. If they're willing, I think that can be very healthy.
Many would probably be scared of that and wouldn't. That's probably what you're dealing with when you ask this question.
At that point—and this is true in many areas of life—at that point you're not getting the hoped-for resolution. That's true, and it's sad. They are just not able or willing at this time to go there. Now what do you do?
Jesus modeled this for us. He's quoted as doing it in Romans 12 and in 1 Peter 2. It says in 1 Peter that when he was reviled he did not revile in return. And when he was rebuked or scorned, he didn't retaliate. But he handed over to him who judges justly. That's what you've got to do.
In other words, there are lots of times in life where justice is not done to us. We get fired when we shouldn't have gotten fired. We get lied about by some trusted friend and we shouldn't have gotten lied about. We got abused by a parent, and we shouldn't have gotten abused. And none of these things ever get resolved!
You may try. "Speak peace with all men, as much as it lies within you." But it won't. You're just not going to get resolution in many areas of your life. So what do you do? Do you seethe with anger and hold resentments and grudges? No! Jesus handed it over to him who judges justly.
So what we do at that point is say, "God, you know and I know that this shouldn't have happened. You know and I know that it was painful. You know and I know that it has these ongoing effects on me and struggle. But, Lord, I don't want to add the burden to my life of an unforgiving spirit. So I'm taking that injustice that was done to me and giving it to you and asking, 'Would you please settle and take care of that?'"
And there are two ways he could do that: 1) he could forgive them, because they really trust in the cross. In which case, you wouldn't want to belittle the sufficiency of Christ's sufferings by adding punishment to Christ's. Or 2) he's going to send them to hell. And you will someday even endorse that.
So he's going to settle it, and you don't need to.
I find this absolutely liberating, which is exactly what it's supposed to be, according to Romans 12. "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. And you will dump fiery coals on his head."
So God says, "Don't take vengeance. Don't hold a grudge. Let it go. Give it to me. I'm God. I will settle accounts. You just keep loving."
So I think the simple short answer to "What do you do with it?" is that you seek reconciliation. And when it isn't resolved to your satisfaction, you take the pain and the injustice, you give it to God, and you don't hold it. You say, "I'm not going to be the judge anymore. I'm not going to be the jury anymore. I'm not going to be the executioner anymore. I'm going to be free!"
Don't add the burden of unforgiveness on your life when people have treated you wrongly.
©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org