When I was twelve years old, my parents got divorced because my father abused my mother so badly that a judge issued a restraining order preventing my father from coming to our house or seeing us.

About three years ago, my father contacted me saying that he wanted to talk to me and meet my children…. Our meeting was like a stranger asking me to forgive him…. The truth is that I don’t feel comfortable with him because I believe that there are still things to resolve….

… I have chosen to have no further contact with him. But I know that the Bible says that we should honor our father and our mother…. Is it my obligation to have a relationship with him?

Dear Friend,

We are so very sorry to hear of the violence that ripped your home apart when you were a child! How wonderful that you can be a better father to your children than the father that you had!

We can totally understand the mixed emotions that you feel with regard to your father. On the one hand, every child would like to have a father who loves them, so there will always be a hole in your heart that your father did not fill. On the other hand, you only know this man as an abuser and as the one who was violent and had no self-control.

Along with you, we hope that your biological father is genuinely sorry for what he did. However, just because he asked for your forgiveness does not mean that what he did is erased. It is not possible for you to erase all those memories from your mind. Nor is it possible for you to go back and have a better childhood. He cannot make everything right by just saying that he is sorry.

However, it is in your best interest to forgive him. We suggest that you search the Internet and read about all the physical and emotional symptoms that can be the result of a lack of forgiveness. Yet while forgiveness will free you from the grip of the past, it will not take away the natural consequences of your father’s actions.

We congratulate you for wanting to keep the commandment regarding honoring your father and your mother. However, it is noteworthy that the word “honor” is not accompanied by any specific actions. That is because the actions that are implied vary depending on the circumstances. For example, for a child “to honor” implies obedience, whereas for an independent adult obedience is no longer appropriate. In some circumstances, “to honor” would mean providing financial assistance, while in other cases that would not be advisable.

You have a situation in which your father, by his own actions, caused himself to be alienated from you for a number of years. He failed in his obligation to “father” you in the way that the Scriptures teach. He basically removed himself from being your father, in spite of the genetic link that there is. We believe that, in your case, honoring means to treat as kindly as you would any other stranger. We do not believe that you are obligated to restore the relationship that he destroyed. However, we urge you to pray and ask God to direct you in what specific actions you should take or not take. Since the Bible does not address your exact situation, you must ask God to show you what to do and to give you peace about your decision.

We wish you the best,