Forgiving Our Fathers cover“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” How many times have we recited these words as part of the Lord’s prayer found in the Gospel of Matthew?

But do we mean it? Am I really willing to ask God to forgive me based on my ability to forgive those who have hurt, betrayed, or harmed me?

That’s the question author Leslie Leyland Fields asks in her just released memoir/guide, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers (W Publishing Group, 2014).

“Surely that’s a slip, a scribe’s slide of the pen,” Field writes in the introduction to her 200-page book, co-written with Dr. Jill Hubbard, a clinical psychologist. “How can God’s forgiveness depend upon my forgiveness? I did not want to, but I immediately thought of my father, that inanimate bulk of a human being who kept getting in the way.”

Field’s father, the reader soon discovers, not only abandoned her and her five siblings, he also molested one of them–making this complex subject all the more challenging as she and her family navigate her failing father’s health and their response to him. Maybe your own family relationships are not so dark. Yet, childhood wounds remain, whether from loneliness or rejection or simply–as one women in this book expresses–the frequent forced consumption of frozen cubed carrots.

Maybe the person you are struggling to forgive isn’t a parent but instead a father or mother figure–someone in spiritual authority who abused his or her position over you. Or it may be another parent-like person who influenced your life. As Field masterfully describes her own wounds and leads readers on her journey of forgiveness, she and Dr. Hubbard suggest steps to help the reader release the offender from his or her “hook” and instead place them on God’s. In other words, we don’t have to carry the burden of judgment because there is an ultimate and all-holy Judge.

Using the familiar Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, who helped a man beaten and left for dead along the side of the road, Fields also reminds readers that while we are often wounded along life’s road, so are our parents. One way to forgive is to recognize the wounds our parents received.

Neither Fields nor Hubbard address the legal issues involved in abuse, which is an additional subject in need of analysis. But Fields words and story offer hope to those struggling with Christ’s command to forgive and the very real hurts we carry. Hers is an honest, brave, and inspirational tale that will bring hope and healing to many.

What do you think? Are we required to forgive everybody? And how have you managed to extend forgiveness to those who least deserve it?

For more information on the book, or to find one of Field’s upcoming forgiveness seminars, click here.