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Forgiveness & Building on Strengths

girl hugging a woman

Some of us had idyllic upbringings: a father who would whoosh in from work, happy to see his children, a mother who was able to stay home and loved devoting her energy to her family.

But a lot of us had less than that. Maybe criticism, yelling, or worse colors your childhood memories. Maybe there was a sense that you were in the way, or you remember being ignored.

In an article written for the Ensign, Sherrie Johnson writes, Strangely, when we probe the lives of the most successful adults, we often find that they too have had emotional scars from childhood. But instead of letting these scars fester and infect, they have forgiven their parents and gotten on with living their own lives? (59).

Forgiving your parents for things they did years ago can lift a burden. Forgiving can allow you to move on and be the parent you were meant to be. You may also find it useful to combine a willingness to forgive with building on your parents' strengths.

Stepping Stones

Seeing the way you were parented as a stepping stone to improvement means forgiving your parents for their parenting mistakes--just as we hope our children will forgive us for ours.

Their heart was in the same place as ours . . . the right place. They had the same disadvantage that we have . . . imperfect parents.

We can be the generation where many of the negative or unproductive parenting practices will be retired, permitting the generations that follow us to be more effective.


At some point most of us do need to forgive our parents for some aspects of our upbringing. Unless we do, we feel unnecessary pain and suffering and often transmit our own emotional scars to our children. Harboring bad feelings can also impede our spiritual progress? (Johnson 59).

President James E. Faust shared in a conference talk, If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being? (68).

But of you it is required to forgive all men.

   -D&C 64:10

Doing Better

Forgive your parents. The emotions tied to remembering negative elements of the past can be set aside with the simple act of forgiveness. When the hurt is gone, real learning can begin.

Forgive yourself. Making mistakes is a part of life, part of growth, and a part of parenting.

We can do something unique in our parenting. We can talk to our children about our mistakes and ask them to forgive those mistakes.

Having our children work with us as we hone our parenting skills can show them how much we care and want to do well.

Share With Your Children

Would your children find it interesting (those that can have a conversation about this) if we were to do the following:

  • commit to our children that we will improve and change?
  • explain deficiencies we see in ourselves to children and ask for their help in remembering that we want to change them?
  • emphasize that improvement might be gradual?
  • commit to being consistent?
girl and woman sitting angrily by each other

President Hinckley said in a recent general conference, "Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way"?

Sherrie Johnson writes, "Forgiving those close to us for faults in our relationships is possibly the most difficult kind of forgiveness. But it is an important key to a happy life and is absolutely essential to eternal progression"? (59).

As we forgive our parents for their shortcomings and ourselves for ours, we can break negative cycles of behavior that may have been handed down from generation to generation.

Through confronting our past and forgiving where needed, we can become the parents we are really meant to be.


Faust, James E. "The Healing Power of Forgiveness"? Ensign, May (2007): 67-69.   
Hinckley, Gordon B. "Forgiveness" Ensign, Nov (2005): 81.   
Johnson, Sherrie. "A Difficult Kind of Forgiving" Ensign, Jan. (1985): 59.