How forgiveness helped my family

When a misunderstanding within her family spiraled out of control, a teen asked God for help in forgiving her dad. The healing effects of that love-fueled prayer were profound and lasting.

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The author's name has been withheld at their request.

Like many teenage siblings, my sister and I fought. We loved each other, but there was definitely a lot of bickering. Still, it caught me by surprise when one time, out of nowhere, she threatened me. I was shocked because this was so uncharacteristic of her, and shaken because of what she’d done. So, the next day I decided to pretend to do the same to her.

I had no intention of harming her. I just wanted to get back at her – maybe scare her enough so she’d never threaten me again. Only this time, my father saw what was happening, and he didn’t realize I was just fooling around. Neither did my sister, who ran away from me, shrieking, and hid under her bed. My dad was upset and sent me to my room, telling me that if I stayed there, he wouldn’t mention to my mother what had happened.

After having a long cry over what felt like a great injustice, I turned to my Bible, as I had done so many times before. I opened to the scene of the crucifixion, in which Jesus asks God to forgive his crucifiers “for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). While I knew my injustice paled in comparison to the crucifixion, I’d learned in Christian Science Sunday school that each Bible story and passage has relevance to our lives when we pray with it and understand its deeper meaning. So, that’s what I did.

As I prayed with this idea, I was so inspired by Jesus’ example that I saw that I could forgive, too. And I felt compassion for my father, because he hadn’t understood what was going on. Through my prayers, I grasped to some degree the goodness and innocence of each of us as God’s children. I felt a shift of thought away from feelings of hurt and injustice and toward love and forgiveness. And with that, I let go of the whole ordeal and felt so at peace that I fell asleep.

A little while later, I was awakened by a knocking on my door. When I emerged from my room, my mom was waiting for me at the end of the hallway. My heart sank; my dad had told her what had happened after all.

Even worse, when she said something to me firmly, I must have responded in a way that my dad didn’t like, because suddenly he raised his hand to hit me. The few seconds that followed felt like minutes. Time slowed down, and in that moment I felt God, who is divine Love, stir my thoughts. I found myself thinking, “Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”

What followed was amazing. It felt like I’d been struck by a pillow, even though the force of the slap was enough to send me to the floor. I was so in awe of how protected I had been that I was only half aware of my dad telling me to say, “Yes, sir.” Though I promptly did.

After that, things calmed down a bit, and I was able to tell him my side of the story. (I had tried earlier, but apparently he hadn’t really heard me.) When I explained what my sister had originally done to me, my father said that she would have to be punished. I heard my sister shriek with terror from her bedroom. But before he could do anything, I told my father I forgave her. He then told my sister that since I’d forgiven her, there was no need for her to be punished.

Not only did I have this complete feeling of forgiveness, but when I looked in the mirror not long afterward, there was no mark on my cheek, even though I had been slapped forcefully. I’d been completely protected.

After this experience, I was never again intimidated by my father, in spite of his short temper. And things in our family went back to normal – between my parents and me, and between my sister and me. Also, my dad never struck either of us again.

This healing taught me just how powerful genuine forgiveness is. When my dad raised his hand to hit me, I didn’t pray to protect myself, nor did I know the outcome would be protection. I simply felt love for my father, and that love naturally impelled me to ask God for help in forgiving him. The ripple effect of these prayers left a big impression on me, and I’ve been able to trust more in the power of Love to harmonize my relationships, including those with my family, ever since.

Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel’s online TeenConnect section, June 15, 2021.

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