Abuse wasn’t my fault

Giving forgiveness liberated Kristy

Kristy with her Dad
Kristy with her Dad

I wonder how you would write your biography if you could use only seven words?

Mine would read, "Got forgiveness, gave forgiveness, now everything's different!" But my journey to this point was ten years in the making; as my life in seven words used to be, "My family's broken, it's all my fault!"

For most of life, I honed the habit of taking responsibility for everything that went wrong. If I didn't cause what was wrong; then I believed it was my fault for not preventing it - this is the definition of shame! Although this was a painful way to live, it seemed easier than believing the truth. For example; it was easier for me to believe I wasn't lovable then to believe I wasn't loved. But this weight of carrying someone else's wrong behaviour was way too heavy for me to bear, but I didn't know how to let go of it ...yet.

Grace and mercy stepped into my life when I was 17. I moved to the outback, and was surrounded by red dust and strangers who showed me the love of God. I found a place that was true and beautiful and gave me what I needed most; love, security and a relationship with Jesus. It was the first time I had found a place that was stronger than the secret sins I was harbouring. I also learned the life-changing power of forgiveness.

I assumed I already had forgiven my abusive Dad because I felt love for him and, in practical terms, I was the only one in the family who still talked to him. But one night, while watching the movie Pay It Forward, a realisation hit me and I took off. I ran into the darkness until I found myself standing in a dry lake bed inwardly screaming ... 'It wasn't my sin. It wasn't my fault'. By now I had discovered that I was loved and lovable – but my dad had never loved me! Dad was an abusive alcoholic, we moved houses all the time because he kept losing his job, we'd play loud music so we couldn't hear him fighting and beating up my mother - and then we'd hope that mum would be able to get up again (and there are more specifics I won't share in order to honour my family).

Realising I needed to forgive my dad took my grief to a whole new level. He had done everything deserving of losing me, but nothing had made me want to desert him until I was faced with the decision whether to truly, deeply forgive him. It hurt bitterly. He wasn't sorry, he wasn't going to make it right, he would never be held to account for what he had done; he didn't even admit he had done anything wrong. I spent months in that process of learning how to truly forgive. Part of that process was moving from denial and excuses about my dad, to looking honestly at my father's sins. I grieved a lot, worked through a new found anger and I wept for all the pain my mother had endured over the years!

I learnt about Jesus' love for me and His forgiveness for what I had done. He had carried the weight of my wrongs onto the cross. I felt lighter! I remembered the story of the man walking along the road carrying a barrel who accepted a lift from a farmer with a horse and cart. When he sat down he kept the barrel on his shoulders. The farmer asked him to put his load in the back but the man replied, "It is enough that you are carrying me, I can't expect you to carry my burden as well!"

I had to not only let Jesus forgive me for my wrongs, I also had to stop carrying my Dad's burdens as if they were mine to bear. They were not! Giving Dad back the responsibility of his own sin seemed harder then carrying it myself. But it wasn't mine and I couldn't avoid that anymore. I had come alive in a new way and in relationship with God and his people. I finally saw clearly who I was; and that Dad's crimes were separate from me. I finally saw that Dad was responsible for his own choices, his mistakes and his sin. I realised I didn't have to carry my Dad's load anymore. What freedom!

The decision to forgive Dad was an act of the will. I didn't feel like it. I was still mad, grieving and broken but I made a promise that even though he had been a horrible father, it didn't mean I was a horrible daughter. I refused to let it define me any longer. I wasn't responsible for what happened in the past, but I was responsible for what happened next and for how I would let it affect me in the future.

I had carried the burden of shame and the burden of being a victim long enough. I decided to choose the freedom and liberty that come through forgiveness. Forgiveness is Jesus' whole story, He had given forgiveness to me and now I chose to give it to Dad.

Choosing to forgive Dad has given me the freedom, health and joy I would never have otherwise experienced. I thank God for my new story ... "Got forgiveness, gave forgiveness, now everything's different!"

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