Apr 012017


Dear Janet,

My mother and I have not talked in about 3 years.  I stopped talking to her, because she told several friends and family members many lies about my husband and me.  I’m not sure why she did this.  But, I know she is someone that has always needed a lot of attention and sympathy from people.  This is not the first time she has done this with me or others.

It took me about a year to completely forgive her this time.  I can say I wish her the best, and I hold no anger or resentment in my heart today.  But, I have not wanted to let her back in my life, because I do not want to give her the opportunity to hurt my family again.  I have let it all go and have closure.  I sincerely wish her nothing but the best in her life.

About a week ago, I received a letter in the mail from her apologizing for the things she had done.  I responded with a letter simply telling her I accepted her apology and wished her the best.

I believe she is looking to reestablish a relationship with me from her letter.  I do not want to do this.  Do you believe it is necessary to do so to ‘honor your mother and father’ command from God?  Or, can I honor her with forgiveness but keep my physical distance?

Cindy in Los Angeles

Dear Cindy,

You referenced Exodus 20:12 about “Honor thy Father and Mother.”  Many people forget that is not the whole verse.  This is the only commandment with a promise of blessing attached.  The New Living Translation of this verse says:

“Honor your father and mother.  Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Some parents are hard to honor.  For some, it is not safe to be in a relationship with their parents.  What do we do then?

I think in this context, honor could be defined as respectful.  We can treat people respectfully even if we don’t respect them.  What exactly would that look like?  Well, it would mean you won’t do or say anything that would cause harm.

Safety always comes first – so if they are not safe, keeping a distance would be wise.  You could still send a Mother’s day card and acknowledge whatever is true for you.  Do you wish her happiness even if you won’t see her?  Tell her what you can while being true to yourself.

If you feel you could handle a phone call and keep control of the topics, then call when you feel strong enough.  At Christmas, you could send a card with pictures which would mean the world to her.

For 15 years, even though our relationship was not good, I sent my mother money each month.  I knew she needed financial help.  Social security is her only income and does not cover necessities.  And, I will be honest; it totally transformed our relationship into something that is now very special.  I guess that was my blessing.

The letter of apology may be a sign your mother has regrets and hopefully insight into what she has done.  It will be up to you to decide if you can take baby steps toward a relationship that works.

I wish you the best,


Janet Schlegel is the Owner and Founder of Soul Work Counseling in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She specializes in trauma and relationship issues.WebsiteFacebookLinkedIn

Photo Credit – DZeeShah