I have bitterness in my heart toward my stepfather and toward my mother, and this weighs on my conscience. Since I was a child, I grew up believing that my mother paid more attention, and gave more care and love, to my stepfather than to my sister and me. I truly believe that she neglected us a lot and that she mistreated me many times. For when I was about seven years old, she would send me out into the street to sell candies…. I didn’t want to do it, but she would make me….

Even though my stepfather never hurt us… he is a very angry person who yells and wounds my mother with words. This has made me very resentful…. I definitely want to forgive and be forgiven by them, forget about it, and have my heart healed. I have lived many years with this weighing on me.

Dear Friend,

Bringing a step‑parent into a family is almost always difficult. The new marriage demands a great deal of effort in order to succeed, and the children often feel that they have been pushed to one side. I remember being resentful of my stepfather. I felt that my mother owed her primary allegiance to her children, since we came into her life first. I felt that my stepfather was interfering in our family and he didn’t belong. And when my mother married the third time, even though I was already an adult, I felt that the new husband was an intrusion.

Now that I am older, I understand that my mother was the kind of woman who didn’t know how to survive without a man in her life. She wasn’t emotionally strong enough. Other women may want to marry again partially because they don’t make enough money to support their children by themselves. It would be good for you to try and put yourself in your mother’s place and think about why she remarried a man who didn’t even treat her well. What weakness in her caused her to make this man a higher priority than her children?

Once you realize that your mother was weak, you can begin to forgive her. As for your stepfather, if you think about his background, you will probably realize that his anger came from bad experiences in his life. In no way does this justify his behavior, but it will make it easier to forgive him.

You are right to want to forgive. Bitterness and resentment hurts you much more than it hurts them. Jesus told the apostle Peter that he should be willing to forgive over, and over, and over again.(1) It doesn’t mean that we can ever forget or be happy about what was done to us. And it doesn’t mean that we should ever allow it to happen again. But it does mean that we should give up the emotional baggage that is weighing us down.

So, as an act of your will, I encourage you to say the following words out loud in prayer: “God, I forgive my mother. I forgive my stepfather. And I give up the right to hold this bitterness against them.” Every time you think about it, pray the words again. Imagine yourself handing the weight over to God. Then ask God to help you mean what you are saying.

You can trust God to help you,

1 Mt 18:22