How can I forgive father for having abused my mother?

Violence in homes is not new, and seems to be escalating with each passing year. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • This violent environment eroded the foundation that every child needs to lead a healthy and productive life.
  • Anger and hate are strong emotions that act like poison.
  • Building a great foundation for the future calls for a clear focus and a determined will to focus on the present even when it hurts.

Dear Philip,

I’m a 25-year-old, running my own business. However, I’m an angry woman harbouring issues from my childhood that I have never really dealt with. I saw my dad bully and abuse my mum daily.

With such a hostile and violent home environment, I became angry, hateful and fearful about the future. My mother died six years ago from depression and other complications.

Not long after that, my dad remarried. Although my dad and I do not see eye to eye, my stepmother seems like a good woman. She has really tried to connect with me, but I still hate and blame my dad for what happened to my mother.

Violence in homes is not new, and seems to be escalating with each passing year. WHO estimates that worldwide, up to a billion children between two and 17 years have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect. According to the report, exposure to violence at an early age can impair the development of a child.

I empathise with the painful past you have been through. The abuse you watched your mother go through, coupled with what you personally experienced left you starved for true love and care.

As you grew up, this defined your perspective of relationships. This violent environment eroded the foundation that every child needs to lead a healthy and productive life. In addition, your understanding and appreciation of fatherhood was distorted.

According to a 2012 UN Economic Commission for Africa report, violence against women is perhaps the most widespread and socially tolerated human rights violation, cutting across borders, race, class, ethnicity, and religion.


While most communities see fathers as symbols of protection and provision for their families, the abuse by your father and your mother’s death left a void in your life.

The anger and hate you feel is part of the helplessness you felt as you grew up, made worse by the fact that there was nothing you could do to stop the violence against your mother.

You ended up with emotional baggage that includes hate for your dad for depriving you and your mother of the true love families should enjoy.

For you to chart the way forward, it’s important that you deal with this past by doing several things. First, there is need for recognition that your father bears the responsibility for the misery he caused you. You are an adult now and able to decide what to do with the abuse you experienced as you map out the kind of future you want to have. Ahead of you is the choice to allow hate to fester inside of you, which may end in self-destruction. Or you could choose to confront the anger, bitterness and hurt.

Anger and hate are strong emotions that act like poison. They can pollute your heart and soul and destroy the relationships around you. People show two kinds of hate.

The one that is easily seen is the kind that is turned outward. The other is inward focused. The danger with the second is that it’s a silent killer. Over the years, your hate has focused inward. However, as you learn to talk about it, as you’re doing now, you will lessen the inner pressure that you feel.

Make a choice to not carry this past into your future. You have to conquer these emotions, and the only way to deal with this is through forgiveness. If done right, forgiveness will empty your heart and life of the fear, hate and anger you feel.


However, for forgiveness to be effective, the ability to forgive yourself is as key as the action of forgiving those that have hurt you. The challenge is that most people find it easier to blame and point a finger than to be introspective in their forgiveness.

For example, we can control the feelings that lead to anger and hate, so instead of blaming those who hurt us, we can also look inward and find moments where we would have stopped the hate and anger by making wise choices.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation and full trust in the person that hurt you. While forgiveness is a choice to let go of the pain and resentment you feel, trust takes time to build. There is also need to note that the primary distress and anger you feel has its source from your hurt feelings. Forgiveness provides a path for rebuilding trust.

The best you can do for yourself is to nurture positive thoughts. I’m glad your stepmother is showing the way. I’m sure she has an inkling of your difficult past; use her as a ladder to re-engage with your dad.

It’s also important to maintain a clear focus on doing what is right. To best deal with anger and the hate you feel, I suggest the following:

1) Acknowledge the anger and pain you feel towards your dad.

2) Be honest about your pain and those who caused it, admitting that what happened was bad and made you angry.

3) Remember that the offender has no obligation to accept your forgiveness.

4) Avoid replaying the hurt you went through in your mind. Choose to let go.

5) The future is dependent on the seed we plant today.

Building a great foundation for the future calls for a clear focus and a determined will to focus on the present even when it hurts.

Author, Cliff Hsia, argues that, “Forgiveness lets you love again. Once you forgive, your heart is full of love. You are stronger because you love yourself and love others, no matter the magnitude of their shortcomings or transgressions.”

He adds that it’s important to acknowledge that forgiveness is not easy, it does not make sense, and it requires great investment of faith and courage. Instead of blaming your dad, give him what he does not deserve: love and forgiveness.

This will not only free you from this burden you have been carrying, but will also help you to love the way God loves, unconditionally. The power of relationships is in the price we are willing to pay to keep good neighbourliness among enemies. The danger is not in the fact that we are different, no, the challenge lies in how we accept our differences and learn to remain the voice of reason.

There is a quote by Mother Theresa that I like; it says: “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create it anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. In the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

My adopted cousin and I have a child together, but no one knows.

Dear Philip

I am 25 years old, and in a relationship with an adopted cousin. We started dating six years ago. In the third year, she got pregnant, and two weeks after that, we found out that her dad married her off to someone else who thinks the child is his. The problem is that we still meet and are still in love with each other.

In fact, she wants to leave her husband and move in with me permanently. Should we go ahead with the plan or let go of the relationship? Please advise me.

Hi there,

Your issue is definitely confusing and mixed up. Not only are you dating and having sex with your adopted cousin, you have made her pregnant. As if this were not enough, she is married to a man who thinks that he is the father of her child. To add to this complicated story, you are going behind the man’s back and carrying on an affair with his wife.

This not only sounds weird, it will be heartbreaking for your parents and hers should this complicated relationship come to the open.

Of course, she is not your blood relative having been adopted, but she is still your relative having been brought up within the family and accepted by your parents as a part of the family.


I can only, therefore, imagine the pain of betrayal your uncle and his family will feel when he finds out about this affair.

From where I stand, any parent would definitely be hurt, disappointed and unable to accept the fact that their nephew has an intimate relationship with a girl that was brought into their family and taken in as a daughter. Take note that this relationship has resulted in a pregnancy, a factor that could actually break your two families.

I recommend that you disclose what has been happening behind their backs. As much as this may never get rid of the pain and disappointment it has brought, it is still important for them to know.

I’m of the view that your cousin’s marriage to this other man is not as critical as you walking in the light with her parents and the husband.

If you’re sure you are the biological father, this man needs to know the truth and the baby needs to know who his real father is.

I suggest you stop seeing her and start working on a strategy of how to deal with this issue. Don’t fool yourself that she is adopted anyway, and, therefore, not a close relative.

My conviction is that once a child is adopted into a family, he/she is considered the same as the family’s biological children.

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