Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Reader Asks...Should I Stay in College?

Hi Jen,

I am wondering if I can get your take on a simple yet very important question I have. I am a college student in the wake of my parents divorce and I am having great difficulty forgiving them and avoiding resentment and anger towards my mother especially. Do you think it would be wise for me to take a year off from university to work on all of this and work to have a relationship with my parents again? Or, should I stick it out and finish my degree (I only have one year left)? What is better and what has worked better for previous adult children of divorce?

I want to do the right thing and I am looking for your expert opinion. Thank you very much.

- Jeremy


Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for writing. First of all, I'm so sorry you are going through this. Divorce is hard at any age. My mom and stepdad divorced at the end of my senior year of high school (after 12 years) and it was very difficult when leaving home meant the end of home.

I can understand your reasons for wanting to stop everything and focus on repairing your relationship with your parents--it's a good thing to be on good terms with your mom and dad! But, my advice would be to keep working on your degree. Something I have used throughout my life to help me with decisions like this is to ask myself, "If my parents were together, what would I do in this situation?" In other words, if your parents were still together, the right and appropriate thing for you to be doing at this point in your life is pursuing your degree and starting on your career. Divorce tends to disrupt our normal, healthy patterns of maturity. We have to overcome our tendency toward reverting backwards.

It is right for you to want to repair your relationship with your parents, but keep in mind that it is normal and natural (and necessary) at this point in your life to also create some independence. Mind you, I'm not talking about the total separation that often occurs when parents divorce at this age, but more, becoming comfortable and confident in who you are as an individual, and learning to relate to your parents as the adult you have become. It's possible that the physical distance that's part of being on your own, at school, will give you the emotional distance to start the hard work of forgiving and reconciling with your parents.

As you move ahead, here are a few thoughts on forgiveness to consider. (from Chapter 2 of Generation Ex)

  • Forgiveness is a choice. We can’t choose our past, but we can choose how to respond to past events. Forgiveness is the way we choose to move on.
  • Forgiveness is between you and God, not you and the offender. Some make the offender’s request for forgiveness a condition to their granting it. Because sin by its very nature is an offense against God, He is the One who is responsible for exacting the consequences of that sin. When we forgive, we pass our hurt to Him.
  • Forgiveness is a response, not an approval. You may be thinking, “How can I let go? When we condone something, we are saying it is okay. When we forgive, we choose not to hold a grudge. We extend forgiveness in response to our grasp of grace in our own lives.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean the offense never happened. The offender will still have consequences, either here or hereafter, but that is between the offender and God.
  • Forgiveness reveals the character of one’s heart. As believers, we are the recipients of God’s undeserved favor and love. As we grow in our faith, we grow in our ability to submit our will to God’s and our character better mirrors His.
  • Forgiveness is unconditional. You cannot accept God’s grace and not share it with others. Once you forgive, you cannot take it back.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t define the other by their offense. You forfeit the right to associate the offense with the offender. You are not the same person you were a year ago. You have made errors in moments of passion. You have learned from your mistakes. If you want to grow, you must allow others the same freedom.
  • Forgiveness isn’t fair. Forgiveness is about grace, not justice.
  • Forgiveness is a partnership with God in grace. We might think we need to be able to forgive fully before we can extend grace, but we need only to be willing to let go. God will do the rest. It will take time for our feelings to follow, but we can remind ourselves that feelings are not fact. In faith, make the decision to forgive with the acknowledgment that it is the first, most difficult step.
  • Forgiveness is a way of life. We will continue to be hurt and to hurt others for the rest of our lives. When we embrace grace, we better bear the image of the Christ we claim.
Peace to your heart,

1 comment:

Utah Divorce said...

It's really nice post. I love to read it more. By the way you have shared your experience with us. Thank you.