Your mother doesn’t have to change – or ask for forgiveness – in order for you to be happy. Forgiving your mom for hurting you isn’t a gift for her…it’s for you. With forgiveness comes healing, freedom, and peace. Learning how to forgive your mother for what she did (or didn’t do) you won’t just change your relationship with her. Forgiveness changes your relationship with yourself. Forgiving her will loosen the anger, grief, and guilt you’re carrying.
“Since I was young I’ve never been good enough for my mom,” says Sandra on What to Do When Nothing is Good Enough for Your Mother. “How I feel or what I wanted was never important. My mom always calls me selfish and tries to control everything. I’m stressed and feel drained all the time and I know it’s because of her. I can’t forgive my mother. I’m in my late twenties with no family of my own, still living under my mother’s roof and trying to break free. I don’t know how to forgive her for how she treated me growing up. She really hurt me. Mother’s Day is coming and I dread it. It always makes everything worse.”
How do you forgive your mom for what she did — or what she didn’t do? Maybe she was a perfectionist or a control freak. Maybe your mother cared more about what the neighbors and other people thought than your happiness or comfort. Maybe she was intentionally cruel or abusive, or simply thoughtless and distant. Your mom may not be able to tell you why she did what she did. She may not want to talk or even think about your childhood. And that’s okay, because you don’t need your mother’s permission or participation to forgive her. All you need is a willing spirit, softened heart, and open mind.
Your mom may have hurt your feelings and even ruined your childhood, but she can’t control who you are or how you feel right now. Unless, of course, you give her that power.
How do you feel about Mother’s Day? It’s a big deal every year. The commercials, advertisements, store banners, school assignments and even church messages are all focused on how great moms are. How loving, sacrificial, giving and kind. But what about the pain that Mother’s Day brings for motherless children, adults whose moms died, or children – young and old – whose moms are abusive? Not to mention women who can’t have children or lost their children to disease, accident, or a mental health issue.
Not everyone can celebrate their moms the way the television commercials and magazine advertisements suggest. I know I can’t say Happy Mother’s Day! the way other other daughters do. But I can forgive my mom for being who she is.
What to Do When You Can’t Forgive Your Mother
In 7 Tips for Dealing With Controlling Parents, I describe the pain and loneliness of growing up with a mentally ill mother. She struggled with schizophrenia my whole life. I grew up moving in and out of foster homes. I didn’t have a dad or many family members. Worse, I was emotionally and physically abused by the one person who was supposed to love and protect me: my mother. It wasn’t my mother’s fault that I had a terrible childhood. She didn’t plan to hurt me or ruin the first half of my life.
My mom was doing the best she could. Your mom is doing the best she can. This doesn’t excuse what your mother did to you. Nor does it erase the fact that there are consequences to her behavior. You still have the power to make decisions, set boundaries, and choose your own actions. But if you forgive your mom, you will have the peace and freedom you need to move forward with an open heart and light spirit.
4 steps to forgiving your mom:
- Ask: Would you have done the same if you were her?
- Accept: Your mother did the best she could
- Surrender: Your mom is who she is
- Know: You can forgive your mother for what she did
Do you want to forgive your mom for what she did? Start there. Just be willing to forgive her. Want to forgive her. Hold your desire for freedom in your cupped hands. Bow your head, close your eyes, and ask God for thee strength you need. Ask for wisdom and healing.
1. Ask: Would you have done the same if you were her?
Your first reaction may be to say, “No! I would never treat my daughter the way my mother treated me! I could never be that mean, unloving, stupid or abusive.” And you may be right. You are you, so you act and think the way you do. You’d probably make a million different choices than your mom did. You wouldn’t say what she said or do what she did. You’d never do anything to your daughter that requires forgiveness.
It took me a long time to understand this; I think you’ll learn it faster than I did. If I grew up the way my mom did, I would treat my daughter the same way my mother treated me. If I believed what my mom believed, I would say and do the same things. If I experienced what my mom experienced growing up with her own mother, I would raise my children the same way. I would have no choice.
That’s what set me free to forgive my mom. That, and knowing who I am in God. I was deliberately, lovingly created to be who I am, I was put on this earth in this family at this time. God didn’t bring me out of the painful childhood I experienced, but He did bring me through it. God created you, too. For some reason He put you in this family at this time on this earth. I don’t know why, but I know God knows what He is doing. And I am grateful that God brought you here, to these tips on how to forgive your mom.
2. Accept that your mother did the best she could
Your mom may not have given you the love or support you needed growing up, but she did the best she could. Your mother can only give you what she has in her own mind, heart, and spirit. Is she is empty, heartless, cruel or controlling? Your mom is struggling with a heart condition. Maybe she’s miserable, bitter, lonely or even mentally ill, like my own mother. Maybe her heart isn’t right with God, and it’s affecting her relationships.
I don’t know why your mom hurt you, or how long you’ve been struggling with pain and resentment.
But I do believe your mother’s actions represent what’s in her heart. If your mom is thoughtless or cruel, she has a reason. This doesn’t mean it’s okay that she did what she did, or even that you have to forgive your mother for hurting you! But, you will find yourself softening and healing if you accept that your mom can only give you what she has.
For a different perspective, read Your List of Misdemeanors – Echoes of Forgiveness.
3. Surrender: Your mom is who she is
You can’t change your mother. Look at how hard it is to change yourself! Growth and healing have to come from within, from an inner source of life, strength, love and grace. We can’t force our moms to be different any more than we can force ourselves to change. We can’t change our mothers any more than we can change the color of the leaves on the trees.
Learn is how to give yourself the love and comfort you didn’t get growing up. Your mother couldn’t be the mom you needed or wanted…but this doesn’t mean you have to live without the support, love, or advice you needed. What do you want your mom to give or tell you? Find ways to mother and care for yourself. If you don’t, who will?
Accept your mother’s actions, and allow her to be who she is. This is how you’ll forgive your mom for hurting you. Give her space to parent you the way she thinks best. This is a Mother’s Day gift that will free your heart and soul from the burden of pain and guilt. Accepting your mom will help with forgiving her. Making space for her personality, choices and behaviors will soften your heart and help you find peace in your relationship with your mother.
4. Know: You can forgive your mother for what she did
Accepting your mother for who she is is hard. Allowing your mother to parent you the way she wants – not the way you want to be parented – is painful. But, forgiving your mom for hurting you is possible! I found it helpful to talk to a counselor. I had to talk about my childhood, which was really hard. It still hurts to think about the ways my mom hurt me, and I’m 48 years old! Our childhood wounds never go away — especially if they’re caused by our mothers. We want our moms to love us, support us, take care of us and be there for us…but our mothers can’t be who we want them to be.
I also found it extremely helpful to write Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. I read my childhood diaries and remembered painful past experiences. I learned that my mother was far more abusive and damaging than I realized! And I saw my own ability to heal and forgive her, to allow her to be who she was. I found ways to be who I am, and freedom to blossom into who God created me to be.
If I can do it, so can you.
Don’t hold on to the pain of the past. You can be free from destructive emotions and toxic relationships, and you can move forward in light, hope and freedom. In order to learn how to forgive your mother for hurting you, you need to heal the wounds.
Our moms can only be who they are. If we can accept our mothers for who they are, then we can forgive them for hurting us. This doesn’t just make Mother’s Day easier to handle, it changes our lives, our relationships, and our future. Forgiveness changes us.
Help Forgiving Your Mom for Hurting You
In Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters- A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration, Karen C.L. Anderson says, “The best news on the planet is that your mother doesn’t have to change in order for you to be happy.”
Your mother doesn’t have to do, say or be anything! You get to choose how you’ll respond to her, what boundaries you set, and who you want to be. Don’t give her that power.
Are you struggling to forgive your mom for what she did? Feel your pain, anger and resentment. Bow your head, close your eyes, and ask God for the strength you need. Ask for wisdom and healing, faith and freedom. Listen. Respond to the stirrings in your spirit and soul. Jesus is calling.
If your mom is no longer alive, read Healing Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies.
How do you feel? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below! Feel free to share your experience with your mom. Writing can be a valuable way to work through your feelings and find forgiveness.