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Guilt? Dear Stepparent, Let it Go!

“At the end of the day, I’m exhausted and still worried I’m not doing it right or even good enough,” said my stepmom friend, Cindy. “I struggle with guilt constantly and don’t know how to change that.”

It’s easy to assume feelings of guilt surrounding our stepparenting journey. We struggle to accept we’re imperfect. We insist we must do everything right or our stepchildren will never love or accept us.

Perhaps society dictates perfection, particularly for stepmoms. We don’t have to accept that attitude. Striving for perfection sets us up to experience guilt—a powerful emotion.

As long as you choose to feel guilty for the things you’ve done wrong, God cannot use the things you’ve done right for His glory.

Gayla Grace on Letting Go of Guilt

In his book, Boundaries with TeensDr. John Townsend offers some wise words on guilt-centered parenting: “Guilt is a feeling of self-condemnation over doing something that hurts your child. However, guilt is not a helpful emotion. Guilt is more about the parent because guilt centers on the parent’s failures and badness rather than on the teen’s difficulty and hurt. Guilt does nothing to help the teen’s situation.”

Townsend goes on to say that we should learn to experience remorse instead. “Remorse, the healthy alternative to guilt, centers on the other person,” he says. “It is solution oriented. When you feel remorse toward your teen, you free yourself to be sad about what you have done and to repair the effects.”

Sometimes, we don’t get it right.

We let our sinful nature take over. We don’t work hard enough to love our stepchildren and overlook their annoying tendencies. We highlight their mistakes instead of praising their successes. And then we feel bad for our behavior.

We can face our feelings of guilt and accept that we will sometimes let our stepchildren down. But we shouldn’t stop there. If we do something that hurts our stepchild, we can change our focus from guilt to remorse—an attitude of how our behavior affected them. Then we can take action to make it right. Perhaps we need to offer an apology. Maybe we need to claim God’s help to change our behavior next time. We likely need to accept God’s grace and His mercy to move past our guilt.

We won’t always get it right as a stepparent.

But we don’t need to get stuck wallowing in guilt.

God wants to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

But we must do our part also. Let go of your guilt, experience remorse, ask for forgiveness, and then accept God’s grace to start again.

 

Where do you struggle with guilt and how have you overcome it? Will you share it with us?

God's Amazing Grace Show Up in Stepfamilies

God’s Amazing Grace Shows Up in Stepfamilies

As stepparents, we often feel defeated in our circumstances. We play out our role the best we can, but it doesn’t seem good enough.

Relationships stagnate.

Disharmony rules.

Tempers flare.

Guilt follows.

Grace God's Amazing Gift Shows Up in Stepfamilies by Gayla Grace

We beat ourselves up for the discord in our home.

We allow Satan to bombard our minds with negativity.

We convince ourselves that, as stepparents, it’s all our fault when our stepchildren don’t love (or even like) us.

Perhaps we do contribute to the strife. The role of a stepparent is hard.

We don’t always get it right. But we can’t wallow in our mistakes. God offers grace to try again.

We don’t deserve the grace God offers us—nor can we earn it—but He wants us to receive it anyway.

Ephesians 2:8–9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We find examples of grace throughout the Old and the New Testament.

Adam and Eve deserved eternal separation from God after disobeying His commands but experienced God’s grace instead.

King David committed adultery and murder yet earned the label of a “man after God’s own heart.”

Peter denied Jesus three times but experienced grace and redemption afterward.

God showed me the beauty of His grace years ago in a way I’ll always cherish. Married for eleven years with two young girls, I chose to walk away from my vows. Addiction had overtaken our home despite the recovery efforts of my then-husband. Following my divorce, I experienced feelings of defeat, failure, and guilt. My Christian beliefs and parents’ long-term marriage had taught me that marriage was forever. How could I go down the road of divorce? Yet I did.

I never saw God’s grace more clearly, however, than when He brought a new husband into my life with the last name of Grace. Randy graciously accepted my daughters as part of the package when we joined families with Randy’s two kids. Humbled, and forever thankful, my last name is a constant reminder of what God offers His children.

Grace. Second chances. New beginnings. An opportunity for a better ending.

 

Where have you experienced God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Will you share it with us in the comments?

 

 

 

 

Gayla Grace on the price of forgiveness

The Price of Forgiveness

Gayla Grace on the price of forgiveness

After my first marriage ended, I held onto unforgiveness. I had been mistreated and I justified my actions from a wounded soul. I didn’t want to consider how my unforgiveness contributed to my lack of peace and affected my daily walk with others and with the Lord.

Communication with my ex-husband was strained. Co-parenting seemed impossible. One day I realized how I contributed to the difficulty with my unforgiveness.

Wounded from hurtful words from our stepchild or misunderstood by our spouse, we hang onto unforgiveness, hindering our relationships. We feel justified because we’ve been wronged. As a result, tension in our home co-exists with every interaction.

The price of unforgiveness is a burden of resentment, a poison of bitterness, and strained relationships. The price of forgiveness is love, freedom, and peace.

Why do we choose poison over freedom?

Because when we’ve been wronged, forgiveness is hard. It doesn’t happen naturally. We have to seek the Lord’s help and make an intentional choice to go against our human nature and forgive.

Christ paid a huge price so we could experience forgiveness. His death on the cross is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice He offered us. But even Christ struggled with doing what the Father asked of him. Matthew 26:39 says, “He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Some days we’d rather say, “Not your will but mine.” My will includes justifying my hurt and wallowing in my wound. My will seeks to take care of myself instead of considering others’ needs. Unfortunately, my will also leads to a life of heartache and disappointment.

Our pastor’s words recently spoke to my heart, “Unforgiveness is demanding that other people be perfect, and that’s a standard You can’t meet!” If I fail to forgive my stepson for an imperfect action, I’m expecting he’ll never have to forgive me for a wrong. I make imperfect choices every day. Why, then, do I hold onto unforgiveness?

Forgiveness provides the key to unlock the tension in stepfamily relationships. We’re called to forgive, even when it’s not our fault.

It’s not easy, but

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Have you held onto unforgiveness or experienced the peace that comes from forgiving? Let’s talk in the comments.

Forgiveness and Your Stepfamily

As we head into the Easter week-end, I can’t help but think about forgiveness. I’m forever grateful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that offers forgiveness of sin.

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But sometimes forgiveness and how to apply forgiveness in our stepfamilies can be misunderstood.  At our stepmom retreat this past week-end, Laura Petherbridge spoke on forgiveness and gave some wonderful nuggets on what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.  These bullets are taken from her handout.

What forgiveness is:

  • A choice
  • An ongoing process
  • Admitting “I was wounded”
  • Getting healing, help and support
  • Giving the person over to God
  • Refusing to dredge up the past
  • Choosing not to seek revenge
  • Freedom from the pain

What forgiveness isn’t:

  • A feeling
  • A one-time event
  • Denying the event
  • Saying it wasn’t wrong
  • Trusting the person again
  • Excusing from the responsibility
  • Intentional punishment
  • Forgetting the offender

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It must be done repeatedly, perhaps even several times a day.

Forgiveness means we let the offense go and give it to God. But if we’ve been badly wounded, it’s not likely we will forget it. I believe God gave us a memory for a purpose–to protect ourselves and not fall prey to a vulnerable situation again.

If we choose to forgive our ex-spouse because we know it’s the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean we automatically trust him. Trust must be earned with someone’s who’s repentant about what they’ve done.

Forgiveness allows us to be honest with our feelings. If we’ve been hurt by our stepchild, we don’t act as if nothing’s happened. We acknowledge our feelings and work through our wounds as part of the forgiveness process.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we excuse a person from their part of the interaction, but it does mean we choose to put it in the past and leave it in the past.

There’s a price to pay for the choices we make. The price of unforgiveness is a burden of resentment, a poison of bitterness, and strained relationships. The price of forgiveness is love, freedom, and peace.

Christ paid a huge price so we could experience forgiveness. His death on the cross is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice He offered us. But even Christ struggled with doing what the Father asked of him. Matthew 26:39 says, “He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Some days we’d rather say, “Not your will but mine.” My will includes justifying my hurt and wallowing in my wound. My will seeks to take care of myself instead of considering others’ needs. Unfortunately, my will also leads to a life of heartache and disappointment.

Our pastor’s words recently spoke to my heart, “Unforgiveness is demanding that other people be perfect, and that’s a standard You can’t meet!” If I fail to forgive my stepson for an imperfect action, I’m expecting he’ll never have to forgive me for a wrong. I make imperfect choices every day. Why, then, do I hold onto unforgiveness?

Forgiveness provides the key to unlock the tension in stepfamily relationships. We’re called to forgive, even when it’s not our fault. It’s not easy, but when we choose to be obedient to the call,we experience peace and joy in our relationships.

If you’re struggling with forgiveness, I encourage you to purchase Laura’s DVD on forgiveness. It can be found at her bookstore here.

What have you learned about forgiveness in your stepfamily? Can you share how you’ve seen your stepfamily changed through the act of forgiveness? I’d love to hear your comments.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, divorce prevention, divorce recovery and stepfamilies. She is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series and the co-author of The Smart Stepmom and  When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce. She has a new book to be released May 1st, 101 Tips for the  Smart Stepmom.   Laura’s website is www.The SmartStepmom.com.

Picture By africa

 

 

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