I am seeking your advice on how to reconcile with someone who refuses to forgive you even when you admit that you were wrong and try to make amends.
Recently I allowed frustration to get the better of me and had responded to my mom in a way that I should not have. For a short while, we were not speaking. I realized that my reaction was wrong and I went to my mom to make amends. At that time I felt that she had not truly forgiven me because she immediately brought up what I had done wrong as soon as I tried to make things right. It didn’t feel as if the situation had been fully fixed so I tried to approach her a second time the next day to make things right. I admitted that I was wrong and again, it seemed as if she was not willing to forgive. I then told her about the Bible saying that we are to forgive someone who has wronged us if the person admits their wrong and repents of it.
This is not the first time I have allowed my frustrations to get the better of me, and I admit that I continue to struggle with controlling my tongue, though I have done better overall with choosing my words and being careful not to say something that I would regret. I told her that when someone tries to make things right with another person after they have done wrong, the right thing to do is to forgive, forget, and move on. She responded that because she was my mother, she did not have to “bow down” to me. I explained to her that it had nothing to do with getting her to “bow down” to me; rather I wanted her to realize that because I admitted I was wrong and was trying to make amends the right thing for her to do would be to forgive. When I brought up the Bible’s word on this subject, she began to laugh and mock me calling me “reverend” and saying that I was not to lecture her. It was never my intention to come across as lecturing; rather, I felt the need to mention what the Bible says on this matter. I had already admitted that I was wrong and was trying to make things right, but I was also trying to get her to realize that she is to forgive and move on if someone comes to her admitting their wrong.
It upsets me that she responded this way and I said that I didn’t understand why she felt that she did not have to forgive people who wronged her even when they apologized and tried to make things right. She told me that what I had to do was to “Shut up and go away.” In hindsight, I realized that I probably should have left at that point and not discussed it further so as to not escalate the situation but instead I stayed and kept trying to explain to her that I was trying to make things right. She refused to hear me and told me to go away and even got physical with me trying to get me to go away. Looking back I feel that I may have done more harm than good in insisting on staying in the situation and trying to get my point across instead of leaving and trying to reconcile another time when things had settled down. As soon as she put her hands on me I told her not to do that and I walked away.
My dad heard what was going on and said that there was to be nothing physical. Unfortunately, things escalated from there very quickly and my mom continued yelling things at both my dad and me that were quite hurtful that I cannot repeat. When my dad had said there was to be nothing physical, I think my mom took that as him defending me and taking my side when he was simply saying there was to be no violence as she has gotten physical with me before. She continued berating my dad and me and bringing up things from the past that were not relevant to the situation. I have noticed she does this frequently when she is angry and I have a feeling that she has not forgiven many things in the past that have already been admitted and repented of because she continually brings them up to use against us.
As I mentioned previously there have been times when I’ve allowed my temper to get the better of me and said things I shouldn’t have. I’ve admitted to her many times that I was wrong. Over time I’ve really been trying to do better though I do slip and get upset with myself for doing so. On the other hand, when I mention to her that some things she says to me are hurtful and uncalled for, she tells me that I deserve it and that it’s my fault that she talks and acts the way she does. After many years of hearing that I started believing that perhaps it really was all my fault and that I deserved her name-calling and insults. I don’t bring these things up to her to shift blame from myself as I realize I’ve allowed my frustrations to get the better of me; rather, I want her to realize that her words tend to be cruel and hurtful when she is angry. It saddens me that she uses hurtful words toward my dad as well. I’ve tried to explain that even when she is angry it’s not right to use that type of language, and the response is always the same: that I deserve it. I’ve told her that if I’m doing something she doesn’t like or that she wants me to change, please let me know with kinder words instead of using hurtful language. But the response is always the same: I deserve it. Because I’ve heard so often from my mom that I deserve the names I’m called and have been made to feel as if it is always my fault, it’s hard for me to discern when her anger directed towards me is justified and when it is taken too far. I willingly admit my wrongs and try to reconcile with her but I realize that I can’t make her do the same. Although I can tell her that her words hurt me I know that I can’t force her to realize that she is wrong for using profane language when she is angry. From what I’ve observed she’s convinced that she never needs to apologize for anything and that it’s always someone else who is in the wrong.
The worst thing that came of all this is that she declared that she is not going to church anymore. She has stayed away from the church in the past due to anger directed at my dad. I suspect a part of her anger is directed at me as well. This worries me because as I mentioned before, I probably should have walked away when she told me to go away but instead I insisted on staying to try to make things right and probably ended up doing more harm than good. In a way I partially responsible and guilty that she has declared that she won’t be going to church.
It’s difficult to reconcile with someone when they don’t seem to be interested in doing the same, but I can’t pretend the problem isn’t there and then not work to resolve it. How do you go about this when the other person isn’t willing to reconcile? How do you not make a pest of yourself but also actively work to resolve things? After these kinds of things happen I feel terrible and I want to make things right but when my mom is not willing to reconcile, I feel even worse. I feel a heavy burden on my shoulders and a pressure to get things fixed and it’s more difficult when she is not interested in doing so. In the past when we’ve had disagreements, I’ve sent emails to her admitting that I was wrong and also trying to get her to see that some of her responses were hurtful as well. I’ve also included Bible verses to try to offer encouragement about turning away wrath with gentle answers and not using words to tear others down. She once said to me that she doesn’t bother reading my emails.
I’d really appreciate your advice on how to reconcile with someone who still refuses to forgive even though you’ve admitted your wrong and have tried to make amends.
The first lesson you need to learn is that you can't make anyone do what is right. God made each of us with free will, which means some of us choose to do the wrong things. You are not responsible for another person's behavior.
You don't think you are forgiven until your mother says she forgives you. That is not what God said. Forgiveness for sins comes from God and not from people. When you realize that you've done wrong, you make changes and apologize to the one you've wronged. These are your requirements. That is what God is asking of the wrongdoer.
When someone is wronged, they are told that they must forgive and if they do not, they will face judgment by God. "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14-15). You cannot take responsibility for your mother's sins. "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Her refusal to give forgiveness has nothing to do with you.
I also get the impression that you blame yourself for problems that are actually caused by your mother. Just because another person claims that you are at fault, it does not mean you actually did something wrong.
Thank you for taking the time to reply.
I have another question. My mom is a Christian and because she is still upset about what happened, she has decided that she is not going to church. I understand I can't make her do what is right; the choice to return to church will be hers. I also realize that as a Christian I have a duty to try to help a fallen Christian see the error of their ways and try to restore them to the Lord. I know this will be a difficult task as she has already told me she will never speak to me again and she refuses to acknowledge me. The few times I've tried to talk to her seems to make her angry as she has told me to go away as soon as I try speaking to her. I don't want to cause any more strife but I also care about my mom's salvation. I think of Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people."
How do you go about trying to restore someone to the Lord who refuses to talk to you? Would it be better to wait until a time where she may possibly be willing to hear or do I need to accept that she has made her choice, leave it in God's hands, and pray that she eventually does decide to return? From the way things are at the moment, it seems as if it will be a long time, if ever, until she may want to speak to me again.
I'd really appreciate your advice and direction towards additional Scripture where I can find guidance on this.
Why are you discounting that you did try to talk to your mother about returning to the Lord? Just because she decided not to listen, it doesn't mean you failed to do your duty.
"But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life" (Ezekiel 33:9).
I know you want her to be saved, but the decision is her own to make, not yours. What you have left is to set a good example for her in the same way a wife influences her disobedient husband. "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (I Peter 3:1-2).
Sorry, I wasn't clear. By trying to talk to her I meant just saying "hello" or trying to say anything to her to open up a conversation again, but none of it was about returning to the Lord yet though that thought came later, which is why I was asking about this. I do appreciate the advice about handling this situation when I do eventually try to bring it up to her later about returning to church.
I'm sorry that your mother is having these problems. But there is nothing more you can do. Be friendly. Be polite. But understand that your mother has deep problems. Those problems have nothing to do with you. Thus, move on with your life. Perhaps one day your mother will overcome her problems, but you can't stall your own life waiting for her.