My stepdad, Joe, was a very difficult person to live with. He lived two different lives. He was fun and quite the joker much of the time. I am sure his friends referred to him as the wild man. But … there was another side.
He was easily angered, mean, and very critical. He was also abusive—in every way. You can read more about that here.
I was ten years old when the abuse started. When I was fourteen, some of it stopped. But the anger and mental abuse never quit.
He and my mom divorced when I was eighteen. Soon after I turned twenty-four, I remember thinking the weirdest thing: I forgive my stepdad. I am not sure why I thought this, but I just forgave him. He didn’t ask for it. He never admitted to the abuse. He never told me he was sorry. This weird peace ran over me. It was forgiveness.
Let me take you back a few years. I had spent the past fourteen years feeling so bitter, angry, and MAD that I lived in this nightmare. I lived two lives. I looked happy and put together on the outside, but I was a very broken, insecure, and bitter girl on the inside.
This double life, with bitterness on the inside, was like a jail. I thought that he deserved never to be forgiven, but what I didn’t realize was that the unforgiveness I so cherished was what kept me in bondage. I was in bondage to what had happened to me, to how people treated me, to the need to be loved by a man so I would feel worthy.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:35–37 NIV)
I was condemned—I condemned myself. I was judged. I was judging myself. I didn’t give myself mercy. I was in bondage to condemnation, shame, and unforgiveness.
On the day I forgave, a weird peace came over me. That day, I was set free!
Free from unforgiveness and bitterness.
Five months after I forgave my stepdad, he died. I don’t know if he knew Jesus.