My father was a violent alcoholic.

Some men get mellow when they drink. For some the alcohol releases the anger and violence pent up inside. My father was a violent alcoholic.

I have two memories of him. Both occurred when I was around 4 years old. In one, with guns drawn the police were searching for him in a field at night. In the other, I was hidden in a tool shed and told to keep quiet because he was hunting me with a rifle intending to kill me.

Obviously marrying him was not a wise choice but after the divorce my mom did make a very wise decision. She never once spoke to us negatively about him. By controlling her tongue she did not plant seeds of anger, resentment and bitterness in my brother or me.

Bitterness is a root that grows in a heart that fails to forgive. It will take over and choke out the soul of the one who allows it to take root. (Hebrews 12:15)

“I don’t get mad. I get even” may be a clever saying but it’s a torturous way to live and certainly not a standard we want to pass on to our children.

Jesus told a parable about a man who refused to forgive so he was imprisoned with “the tormentors.” Unforgiveness locks us in a prison of torment. Forgiveness is the only way of escape. (Matthew 18:34)

Even if you’ve not suffered the pain of divorce we’ve all had things happen that could justify unforgiveness – bitterness against the church, anger toward the government or unfair treatment at work, resentment over injustices we’ve suffered at the hands of family members, friends or total strangers.

For your own sake you need to forgive, give it to the Lord and move on but, while in that process, be careful that you don’t plant bitter seeds in your children’s hearts. God will give you grace to forgive but it will be much harder for them to do so.

For example, don’t speak badly about authorities in your lives – employers, police, government officials, church leaders, school officials.

Don’t be critical of your children’s teachers. If there are things that happen that you don’t understand, expect the best and go ask for details. Remember, your children see things from a different perspective.

When I was a school principal I made a deal with parents. “If you won’t believe everything your children tell you about us, we promise we won’t believe everything they tell us about you.”

Some parents regularly criticize their pastor and people in their church. Then they can’t understand why their kids bail on church as soon as they’re old enough to choose to not be around such a huge group of losers.

Let’s believe the best and speak well of our children, our spouse, our pastor, our church, people in the church, our government, its leaders, everyone.

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone   – Colossians 4:6

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