Fifteen years ago I got a woman pregnant who loved me. I was married but separated from my wife at that time. Someone told me some gossip about the woman, and it seemed convenient for me at the time to leave her and get back with my wife. I never tried to contact the woman or my daughter, but that caused a pain in my heart…. I never offered to help at least with the finances.

After all this time, I went looking for my daughter. Her mother has forgiven me, but my daughter doesn’t want to have anything to do with me…. I understand that there are consequences for everything we do, but the truth is that this is very painful. Please, what should I do?

Dear Friend,

You say that you understand that there are consequences for our actions, but we think you really don’t understand. It is incredible that you seem to think that this girl (who is your biological daughter but not your real daughter) should not only understand what you have done to her, but should also forgive you! Have you really thought about and taken responsibility for your actions? It does not sound like it.

First, you had intimate relations with a woman who was not your wife. Nothing good can ever come from this kind of irresponsible and immoral behavior. You say that she loved you, but you don’t say you loved her. So you took advantage of her emotions and had a sexual relationship that meant nothing to you.

Then, when that relationship was no longer convenient, you abandoned the pregnant woman and went back to your wife. Did you tell your wife that you had been unfaithful? Were you honest with her, or did you use your wife the way you used the woman, without ever having to be open and honest? We don’t know if you are still married, but it would not be surprising if your marriage were finally over and now it is once again convenient for you to begin thinking about your biological daughter and how your actions have affected her entire life.

Have you thought about what it is like to not know who your father is, and what it is like to grow up knowing that your biological father took advantage of your mother and then left her to struggle on her own as a single parent? Don’t you think that a girl would grow up with anger and bitterness in her heart toward such a man? Isn’t it obvious that a man who would do these things is not the kind of man that a girl would want for a father?

God is willing to forgive us no matter what despicable things we have done.(1) But don’t expect this girl to forgive you anytime soon. Perhaps someday she will come to have a personal relationship with God and will then have His help to deal with the anger and bitterness. If so, she would eventually be able to forgive you. That is probably your only hope.

In the meantime, does your wife know about your daughter? If you are still married, then you need to be completely honest with your wife. Don’t expect anyone to forgive you until you have truly accepted responsibility for your actions. Being dishonest and hiding your actions is not taking responsibility for them.

You say that the girl’s mother has forgiven you. We certainly hope that you did not lead her to believe that you now care about her. Did she say that she would forgive you, secretly hoping that you would begin a new relationship with her? If so, your daughter will have new reasons to resent you and want you out of her life.

Although we do not believe that you can buy love, we do know that you are responsible financially for all the years that you abandoned your daughter. Together with your wife (if she is still with you), you should decide to contribute financially toward their household expenses. If there are repairs that need to be made, you should pay to have them made. (But do not go there yourself trying to impress your daughter with the work you are doing. This will only lead to more emotional entanglement.)

Do not buy your daughter things. This is obvious manipulation. Instead, contribute to the household on a regular basis, as you should have been doing for the past fifteen years. If, as a result, the girl’s mother has more resources to provide for her, then don’t try to take the credit. This is your responsibility, not a gift.

However, anything you contribute financially cannot have strings attached. You should pay, whether or not your daughter ever forgives you. And you should do it consistently, month after month, year after year. If you begin, and then quit, you will confirm in your daughter’s heart that you are no better than she thought you were. It is better to just walk away now than to repeat your past abandonment.

Our actions do have consequences. And it is true that the consequences in this case are very painful. Perhaps you could tell your story to other men so that they can learn from your mistakes. If you can help prevent this same thing from happening to another child, then your words will have been worth it.

God gave us a commandment about adultery(2) because He wanted to prevent the hurt that you have caused. You have hurt the girl, her mother, and yourself. When we break one of God’s laws, it almost always seems right at the moment. But in many cases, we will continue to feel the pain many years later.

We wish we had better news for you,

Linda and Charles
1 1Jn 1:9
2 Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18