Many writers don’t address motherhood relationships for the simple and obvious reason that their own mother is still alive. It’s more than a little awkward to write something about mom/daughter relationships when you know your own mother will likely read it. My mom will probably read this, as she is very much alive and kicking. But I know she’d agree with what I’m about to say.
Today I want to encourage you in one of the hardest things Christ calls us to do. Depending on the kind of mother you had, your “mommy baggage” may be just a matching set of luggage—or an airport trolley full of pain and betrayal. My own mom was not hurtful, “toxic” or abusive. We didn’t always get along well when I was growing up and we are still very different today. But even in positive mother-daughter relationships, you have to do what Jesus says to do: Forgive.
The Greek word for “forgive” is to “leave behind.” When God forgives our sins, He leaves them behind us. He doesn’t take them along on our journey. When dealing with human relationships, forgiveness often looks like committing that person to the justice of God, “leaving behind” our right to inflict retribution. Forgiveness is a choice, something we decide to do over and over again. Even toward our mothers.
Mothers SHOULD love and care for their children. It SHOULD come naturally. But it doesn’t always play out that way. Maybe you had a mom who was deeply insecure and tried to control your entire life. Maybe she was threatened by your success or looks or education. Maybe your mom relied on you as a crutch or still manipulates you to get what she wants. Maybe she tried her best, but because she never knew God, her best sent you down the wrong path. Maybe she left you. Maybe she didn’t love you in the way you needed to be loved. Maybe she didn’t do what mothers should do.
These are grievous things, and they hurt the heart of God—our only perfect parent. But even the most grievous things can’t be justified on our own power. That’s what we’re trying to do when we refuse to forgive—we’re trying to get our own justice. Do you know what this does? It kills us from the inside out. Withholding forgiveness from your mother will only destroy you. She will carry on as before, perhaps just as insecure, angry or addicted. But you will be captive to her through unforgiveness. Worse yet—you’ll be liable to repeat those patterns.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted a boy. I didn’t think I could be a good mom to a daughter because I felt like I had never been on great terms with my own mom (that was a two-way street). We learned the baby was a girl…and I cried. Not because I was sad, but because I was scared. I knew myself. I knew my capacity to be overbearing, controlling and downright mean. I’ll push her away, I told myself. She won’t even want to be around me.
The Enemy uses lies like this to keep us from an abundant life. God’s heart for mothers and daughters is to OVERCOME the past, to reinvent the future and to create relationships that defy the norm. I had to face my own unwillingness to forgive my mom for things she’d done or not done (even unintentionally). If I refused to forgive her, and continued to hold these things over our relationship, two things would happen. First, I’d become the bitter one, never giving my mom a chance to change and blind to it when it happened. Second, I’d create a rift with my own daughter, simply because of my heart attitude toward mother-daughter relationships as a whole. If I believed the Enemy’s lie, I would indeed push my daughter away. I chose God’s way. You can too.
Forgiveness is not lack of boundaries. If your mom is an unhealthy or toxic person who has abused you, you need to have space from her. But for many women, their mother relationships aren’t at that level. They are simply strained with patterns of anger, bitterness, disappointment and an overwhelming desire to be “enough.” The truth? If you live your life seeking your mother’s approval, you’ll be captive to her disapproval. You’ll become resentful and bitter. Live your life for the approval of Christ.
I’ll leave you with this: Forgive your mama. Let your expectations go. It’s what God calls you to do: “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). But He asks you to do it because it is your freedom. You will become a better person by choosing God’s way, and you’ll start to see the good things in your mother. Let this be your first step toward heart freedom and a better relationship with the mom you have.