Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie Leyland Fields {a book review}

 
 
Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers:  Finding Freedom From Hurt and Hate, is a Christian "self-help" type of book about (as the title suggests) forgiving wrongs done to us in childhood.
 
Author Leslie Leyland Fields recounts her personal experience in a troubling relationship with her father, and takes us on her path of self discovery and eventual forgiveness towards her father. 
 
Each chapter of the book is a recounting tale of Leslie's father, or a recount of some other person's story.   Each story is then followed with an afterword by clinical psychologist, Dr. Jill Hubbard.  Each chapter ends with a set of study questions to help you work your way through your own experience.
 
 If you yourself struggle, as a Christian, to forgive the wrongs done to you by a parent, this book is not one I would recommend on your journey of healing.  I find the stories from the author fall short of biblical truths.  Leslie often takes scripture out of context, or adds her own assumptions and twists.  Such as, she seems to pick and choose verses for her own purposes, leaving out any that might convict herself.
 
Once such example is Leslie's reference to Leviticus 26:40.
"'But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors--their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me,"
 
In order to understand scripture we should reference it against itself, not our own assumptions and interpretations.  From the bible we know confessions should be done through prayer and through humility, shame and sorrow.  Not in boasting and not leaving out our own sins.  We learn that our fathers and ourselves are sinners.  Not just the fathers, but us too.  There is no gain in humiliating our brothers (or father's) in Christ.  There is no gain to your own heart by dwelling on sins done to you. 
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8 (emphasis added)
Leslie takes God's word in Leviticus and changes it to her word to dwell on.  "Forgive me Father, for my father has sinned."  (chapter 2)  She justifies herself (and recommends us to do the same) in speaking of every assumed, or otherwise, sin of her father, whether big or little.  Claiming petty "sins" such as no eye contact.  Or assumed sins, such as claiming to know his inner thoughts and reasoning's of his lack of eye contact.  She draws out another person's story of a "sinful" mother that served cubed mixed vegetables daily.  She dwells on small petty personal hurts, claiming she must confess all her father's sins - but she doesn't reciprocate to confessing anything of herself, as Leviticus 26:40 says to do. 
 
The point of Leviticus 26:40 is that we are sinful.  People are sinful.  Humans are sinful.  We.  Not Leslie's father alone.  Not your mother, alone.  We are sinful. 
 
By confessing, we are to do so in prayer.  Not by writing books or calling up friends to hash out every minor detail of every perceived fault against us.  To do so is ridiculous and harmful to our hearts.
 
 Many of the stories are assuming.  I don't want to discredit the hurt that abuse has on us.  But to assume further petty faults is damaging and should not be done or encouraged.  For example she is very assuming in her father's body language and tones, claiming that they are "proof" of his negligence.  I'm not saying they are or are not.  But we can't know the inner workings of others.  Could it rather be a social awkwardness or an inner turmoil of his own?  A severe anxiety?  We can't place assumptions on others and take it as proof of further sin against us.  What that really is, is a daughter placing her wants above another.  The want and expectation of eye contact.  To not get that is not a sin.  Later on she goes on to declare she has diagnosed her father with schizophrenia.
 
Again, we should not speculate, if we are not trained doctors.  I can, myself, go onto Google and find myself afflicted with anything I set myself out to find.  That would just be absurd and unproductive.
 
What finally set my heart fully against this being a productive book was her continued assumptions and seemingly lack of understanding and compassion.  Her father fought in a war.  That can greatly damage a person.  And finally, when she says her father eventually wrote her, saying he read the New Testament and would like to ask her forgiveness.  Her response was "I cried bitterly for two days after that letter, because I had had no part to claim in this redemption."
 
While I can understand if she wasn't in the right place to accept forgiveness yet, there is no mention of that in this chapter.  No mention that her thinking was wrong. 
 
The following chapters carry on, droning on and on of petty faults of not just Leslie's father, but of others as well.  One story has a man, Brandon, recalling the fault of his father is that the father travelled a lot.  I don't see having a travelling job as a sin.  I find this dwelling on every perceived sin, as Leslie calls us to do, not confessing for healing, but rather to be self victimizing.

In conclusion, I think this book, while well meaning, is not a productive way to go about seeking forgiveness.  It is not solid in biblical truths, and in fact seems to hold a low view of scripture and a low view of God.  I felt like I was reading a public shaming of a sinful father.  Not a helpful counsel in overcoming hurt.
 
A better reading would maybe be Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse Fitzpatrick, or better, find a biblical counselor.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers:  Finding Freedom From Hurt and Hate
Leslie Leyland Fields & Dr. Jill Hubbard
U.S.A:   W Publishing Group (an imprint of Thomas Nelson), 2014
213 pages, $15.99
 


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