How to Forgive Family Members

Resentment is a killer. It eats away at our hearts and our souls. It is as potent as carbon monoxide. If not dealt with, it will slowly harden your heart.

When we encounter unresolved conflicts in the families that we serve, we will ask them: “If it were possible to heal this relationship and resolve this conflict, do you want a loving, intimate and meaningful relationship with the other person?”

Almost without exception, the answer is YES.

Where do you start when you long to reconcile with a family member and return to a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with them? How do you begin to unravel the complications and complexities that exist?

In this short post, I want to give you five powerful steps we use to help families who are dealing with family conflict and deteriorating relationships.

  1. Make an actual list of all those people who have hurt or offended you where reconciliation has not occurred. Don’t worry about how long the list becomes, and don’t hurry through it. It may take a week or two to list all of your offenders. Making a list helps you think through the issues and circumstances so you can dig down to the root of the problem. By creating a list on a tangible piece of paper, you create an object that can be visualized and realized.
  2. By name, write the offenses for which you are holding these people guilty. Be specific. They abandoned you. They stole from you. They slandered you. They physically abused you. Whatever it is, put the whole ugly mess on the list.
  3. Go away to some lonely, secluded place and talk to the Lord. Give your list to Him. Verbalize that you are voluntarily extending forgiveness to each person on your list. You are setting them free. The “crimes” against you are forgiven. You are dropping all charges against them. Free them! 
  4. Express your hurt and resentment. Also be willing to admit that your bitterness and hateful attitudes about them have been just as wrong as what they have done to you. Let go of both the person and the offense. Acknowledge that you will not try to change or correct that person in any way. You are turning them over to a higher authority.
  5. Once you have completed 1-4, destroy your tangible list and do not tell any of the people know what you have done. This is a private decision between you and your maker. Now, let it go!

There is nothing mystical about resolving family conflicts and repairing broken relationships. There are only two ingredients needed: one, the desire to resolve and repair, and two, a willingness to forgive and seek forgiveness.

One more point. Maybe you’re the one who your family members have issues with. Ask this question of your wife or husband: “How have I been as a wife or husband?” Now just sit and listen. Ask this question of your adult children: “How was I as a father or mother?” Now just sit and listen. In this stage in your life, be willing to clear up all past baggage to live a life of impact and set your family free from your past mistakes. 

Forgiveness is the most critical and important action that you and any member of your family can take to recreate the glue of family love. Don’t lose heart if your situation appears impossible. There is a way to peace and reconciliation. Communication is key in every relationship, and it’s up to you to take the initiative.


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joe-sturnioloBy Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring
about significant impact for His Kingdom.

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