Q: My father hurt me deeply when I was a child. Friends tell me I need to forgive him in my heart, but I'm finding that very difficult to do. What would you say?
Jim: My heart goes out to you, and I understand how you feel. I struggled for years trying to forgive my alcoholic father who abandoned me when I was five, and also the stepdad who left my four siblings and me to fend for ourselves when my mom died four years later. For a long time, I thought: Why should I?
But eventually, I had to come to grips with the fact that I could either forgive or slowly poison my own mind and heart. Holding on to unresolved bitterness will destroy you. You can't control your father's actions and attitudes. But by God's grace — and with His help — you must learn to control your own. If you choose not to forgive, you'll only hurt yourself.
Of course, a very important piece of the puzzle is how your father hurt you. If there was sexual or physical abuse involved, it's critical that you work through that hurt and betrayal with people you can trust; in fact, I'd strongly recommend working with a qualified counselor. Or perhaps you've "only" been scarred by years of rejection or emotional neglect. These are still serious and painful wounds that won't heal until you're able to forgive your father from the heart.
To be honest, this won't happen without divine grace, and possibly the guidance of a professional therapist who can help you sort all this out in a healthy, non-threatening way. Focus on the Family's counselors would be pleased to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. I invite you to contact them at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: How can we help our kids become less selfish? They are very eager to take but seldom seem willing to give.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: In a world of consumers, or takers, few people are enthusiastic about being a contributor. Fortunately, you can lead your kids in that direction.
We all tend to be consumers by nature. In relationships our attitude is often "I'll love you if you love me back." But real love contributes to other people's lives.
Consumer kids can be friendly, nice and respectful. But these children often do things for someone just to get something in return, are less empathetic, see others as either "useful" or "useless" and seek ways to use people's emotions and thoughts for their own benefit.
On the other hand, children who are contributors often do things for someone without expecting something in return, are genuinely empathetic toward others, see people as valuable, seek out needs and offer help.
Help your children do these six things to become contributors:
1. Be humble. Humility is a foundational character trait for all relationships.
2. Develop empathy. Learning empathy early leads to connectedness later in life.
3. Be a noticer and encourager. Teach your kids to notice their own motives. Help them see the value and worth of other people.
4. See work as a way to love others. At its best, work is love in action. Use it as an opportunity to teach kids about responsibility, service and perseverance.
5. Be patient. Patience will yield benefits in all areas of your child's life, including finances, sexuality and relationships.
6. Be courageous. Courage helps build self-confidence and the ability to stand alone when necessary. Courageous contributors can do what is loving and right without the approval and affirmation of others.
For a parenting "win," aim to raise genuine contributors rather than well-behaved consumers. Find more tips at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.