When it comes to letting go of toxic family members, Christians struggle with this decision.
Many shared that they feel it is not Christ-like and wondered how they might be perceived if they make such a bold statement.
Sometimes this struggle is linked to what they think God will view them if they decide to let go. They feel it is good to be long-suffering and give people chances.
There is also the teaching around forgiveness that enables the perpetrator to continue hurting and tie the victim to a life of pain. I am convinced that people who were injured and never allowed themselves to heal, teach mercy without accountability.
However, there must be room in the discussion for the victim to make a decision based on their knowledge of their family and the hurt that they sustained.
It is complicated to heal, change and grow when the situation doesn’t change. Especially when you are living in the same circumstances; for example, your stress levels will never reduce if you do not modify the stressful situations in your life.
Without change, many suffer in silence, and the cycle of pain continues and perpetuates through generations.
Notwithstanding all the evidence of the pain strewn across time, the question I usually get asked is ‘can I cut them off and still be a good Christian?; The guilt in this scenario is enormous; it is heavy and often leave people in limbo for a long time.
They want biblical proof that it is ok to cut hurtful people out of their lives. Unfortunately, I do not have a proof text method to share with you, no concrete bible verse that is bound to get you to shift your position and make the cut. Instead, I am going to share with you some principles that should be present in all healthy relationships. If they are not present in your interaction with your family, then you might want to consider deciding to create some space between you and them so that you can heal.
Culture sometimes represents the number one reason people suffer in silence. For example, the attitudes present in some families that fosters silence around abuse. For some, the subject is taboo, whether it is sexual or physical abuse.
Some families’ tires to deal with abuse internally meanwhile, uncle so and so is allowed full reign and can hurt more people.
Some wonder if it is unchristian to cut uncle entirely out of their lives. It might be the father’s brother, and he is encouraging you to ‘just’ forgive. Meanwhile, no one holds him accountable, and he is not made to experience the consequence of his actions.
When this is the attitude around speaking out, then perpetrators get room to keep abusing, and the pain deepens and sometimes morph into physical illness.
Here is why forgiving him won’t heal you.
Forgiving is not a means to heal. You have to do the work of processing the hurt. You will always have to find an outlet for the anger, pain, fear, and sense of shame, low self-worth and all the other emotional challenges that accompany trauma.
Protecting yourself is not unchristian; it is ok to have boundaries and to protect yourself from further harm. Follow the principles for accountability outlined in Matthew 18:15-17
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not go listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector’.
Often forgiveness is not the problem. However, this is the word or action that most suggest will help offenders to move forward.
I’ve heard the sermons that talks about the horrific incidents that happen in families and the victim forgive and all was well after that.
What we rarely hear about is the pain and the after effects of the actions of the offender.
Often forgiveness is not a problem. Instead, people need to get help to change long-standing harmful behaviours before they can be safe again to be around anyone.
Sometimes they need the necessary period of incarceration that will help to rehabilitate them. It is also worth considering that the offender might never be safe again to be around you or anyone until they can face the problem and make concerted efforts towards change.
We all know the scripture in Matthew 18:21 – 22 Then ‘Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesusanswered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!
I believe in forgiveness, but I also think What John said in Matthew 3:8-9 also has merit. But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his place of baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit worthy of repentance. And do not presume to say to you, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones, God can raise up children for Abraham’
If the current fruits tell you that they are not at the stage yet where they are safe to be around, then believe what you see. Hiding from the truth will not help you to heal.
If like many, you are only familiar with the model of forgiveness that ignores the wrongs and treats pardoning as the only means to help the offender, and then this might be difficult for you. But, the Bible has clear conditions for the offender.
According to Matthew 7:16 ‘By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?’ That means action demonstrates change.
Believe the actions that you see. That’s what shows the level of growth or lack of growth.
As much as you might want it to be something else, for your safety, mental health and sometimes salvation, it is necessary for you to believe what you see and act accordingly.
It might be challenging to accept that for you to restore; you will need to separate yourself from your family.
It is essential to allow yourself to sit with those feelings and find a safe place to work through them. Blindly going along with family norms because it gives an image of togetherness will not be beneficial.
Accepting that your family is the way they are might be the first step in helping to free you to do the work of healing that is necessary.
Accepting that you have the only relationship that might be possible to have with them is essential.
You are not the reason for the problem. The fact that you noticed that the issue exist is proof that you are the one willing to make the change.