Adult Children of Alcoholics: Is Forgiveness Possible?

Adult Children of Alcoholics Is Forgiveness Possible

For adult children of alcoholics, forgiveness can be difficult to even consider. Learn what forgiveness really is, and how to make it work for you.

For adult children of alcoholics, forgiveness can be difficult to even consider, let alone achieve. That is, until you understand the true concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not for anyone else. As you heal from your childhood traumas, you must do things that are for your benefit. Before exploring what forgiveness actually is, let’s explore what forgiveness is not.

What Forgiveness Is Not

  • Forgiveness is not pretending that nothing ever happened – there is no denying the facts.
  • It is not approving of what was done or ignoring what happened – neither of these is healthy.
  • It is not making excuses for what was done.
  • It is not justifying their behavior or pardoning them for what was done.
  • It is not refusing to face the seriousness of the situation – that would be avoiding the issue.
  • You don’t have to pretend you are not hurt – working through the pain leads to healing.
  • You do not have to actually tell the person you forgive them. In many cases, they may not even realize that they needed to be forgiven for their wrongdoings.
  • You do not have to make any attempt to have a relationship with this person, unless you feel led to do so. Even if no reconciliation ever occurs with the person, forgiveness is still possible.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person has said they were sorry – chances are, you will never sincerely hear the words “I’m sorry” from someone who has offended you.
  • It is not about restoring relationships.
  • It is not forgetting – this is unrealistic.

What if We Don’t Forgive?

If you are anything like me, there are gaping holes where happy memories should be. Or, perhaps you are angry or bitter, holding onto resentment, wanting justice or revenge, or replaying mental films of wrongs done to you over the years. I’ll ask you the modern question, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” You must realize that not only is it not working for you, it’s actually working against you.

A negative, critical or unforgiving spirit holds you back. It serves no positive purpose in your life. By hanging on to your negative past you make no room for your new and exciting future.

Author R.T. Kendall writes in Total Forgiveness, “We only hurt ourselves when we dwell on what has happened to us and fantasize about what it will be like when ‘they’ get punished.” By holding onto the resentment or bitterness, we allow those who have done us wrong to still have a hold over us; they still have a negative influence on our lives. We don’t ever want anyone to have a hold over us like that.

What is Forgiveness?

  • Forgiveness is fully acknowledging what was done, and still forgiving someone.
  • It means not keeping track of the times we have been offended – if we stockpile offenses in our heart, what good does that do?
  • Forgiveness is giving up your desire for revenge – God will eventually insist that they answer for their behavior. Let’s allow God to handle it (we have much better things to do).
  • Forgiveness is giving up any hope that your name will be cleared or that you will be avenged in any way.
  • Forgiveness is personally letting go. As in, let the other person/people off the hook. Resign to the knowledge that they will probably never change, that you will not see justice in the matter here on earth, that only you will know what really happened, and that the person/people will probably experience prosperity and blessings as though they had never done anything wrong. We must move beyond the hurt in order to move forward in this life.
  • Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. It’s releasing the pain and bitterness that eats away at you. It’s halting the scenarios that replay in your mind. It’s restoring peace and happiness to your world, and passionately pursuing the awesome life God has in store for you.
  • It’s an internal matter for your benefit. When you forgive from your heart, even though the other person has no inclination of it or a relationship with you, you achieve the victory! When your heart experiences this type of forgiveness, it doesn’t matter if you ever reconcile with the person or not. Forgiveness heals.

What God Says About Forgiveness

Jesus himself asked God to forgive those who had persecuted him and crucified him. Luke 23:34 describes Jesus’ response to his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Often, people who hurt us haven’t got a clue. Or, they are so caught up in their own misery, or feel so darn justified in their behavior, that the thought that they are doing wrong or causing harm doesn’t even cross their mind. I know that in my life, my alcoholic parents didn’t realize what they were doing to their children. They will go from this world to the next without any concept of the damage they inflicted. The longer I live, the more I see people behaving carelessly with no regard for the feelings of others – they truly do not know what they are doing.

God’s View of Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness builds a wall between us and God. Ephesians 4:3 lists bitterness as something that grieves the Holy Spirit. If we grieve the Holy Spirit, our connection to His guidance becomes clogged and we don’t have the full gambit of spiritual resources to call upon. When we release the bitterness, the Holy Spirit flows freely through our lives. When the Holy Spirit is working freely in your life, God will change your life in ways you’d never dream possible, and there will probably be no natural explanation for these changes – only by the hand of God could they occur.

We will lose our sense of peace when we try to take matters into our own hands, or even imagine that we could ever do so. It’s not worth it. It is a choice to pursue God’s peace and blessings in your life, rather than seeking revenge.

Who would have guessed there were so many facets to forgiveness? And there’s more to it when you consider forgiving yourself, and the concept of “total forgiveness” which a way of life for those who want to be set free. I recommend reading R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness and allowing his teaching to touch your heart and lead you to “freedom and inner peace.”