"I guess all my life I longed for my dad's approval," Cheryl said. "I never felt like I had it. He never hugged or kissed me or told me he loved me.” Often I hoped for a word of commendation when I did something good, but I never received one."
Cheryl was in her 30s when she wrote a letter to her father telling him how she felt. “The most important question she asked in her letter was, ‘What do I have to do to get your approval?’" After reading it over, she dropped it off at her parents' home.
About an hour later she heard the doorbell chime in her apartment. When she went to answer, she found her father standing there. For the first time in his life he hugged his daughter tightly and kissed her. "I do love you, honey," he said shakily. "I really do love you!"
According to Cheryl, that was the beginning of a new life, not only for her and her father, but for her mother, brother, and sister as well.
Relationships that need healing
How many parents and children are estranged because they don't understand one another? Unfortunately, many people seem unable to express their feelings and may be misunderstood by those closest to them. So for years an artificial barrier can stand between family members.
People with broken family relationships have different burdens: some, like Cheryl, long for and wait for the love and approval of a family member; others are estranged due to a past offense; still others for some reason cannot adequately show their love and affection.
Just as Cheryl's letter opened doors to love, freedom of expression, and closer relationships to loved ones and to God, you may accomplish the same thing in your family by writing a letter.
It may be a letter to a husband, mother, sister, son, or friend, expressing sorrow over a rift and asking forgiveness for anything you might have said or done that contributed to the breach. I know one woman who would give anything if she could go back in time and write such a letter to her sister, who died while they were estranged.
Here are some suggestions for writing a reconciliation letter:
- Pray first. When we have been hurting for years because of a seemingly estranged relationship, we may get bogged down in self-pity. We definitely need the Lord's guidance in writing a letter like this. Pray that the Lord will lay on your heart just what you should say and what you should not say.
- Pray also for the one to whom you write. Ask God to work in his or her heart and will use that letter for His purpose and glory.
- Ask God to help you to write in love. You are going to have to be explicit about some things, perhaps mentioning particular areas of estrangement or misunderstanding. Whatever is written must be done in a spirit of love and humility, along with a willingness to confess where you may have erred.
- After writing the letter, put it aside for the night. Then prayerfully read it over the next day. If anything you have written troubles you, consider whether you really want to include it. Make any needed edits. Remember, you don't want to hurt; you want to heal.
Psalm 34:14 says, "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." If you have a broken relationship, don't put off seeking peace. Often, it's the hardest conversations that bear the most fruit. Procrastination will rob you of the peace and joy you might have through forgiveness and reconciliation. If there is something you can do to bring healing, why live estranged from a loved one for even another day? If we have done all we can to repair a relationship, then we can rest in God's peace, which God has promised to those who trust Him and seek to do His will.