The Power of the Mother Wound

Dan has been the Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries since 2003, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. He grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother, and has written articles about the mother wound in the past. Although this article talks about the mother wound, it is equally applicable for the father wound. For more information, you can read Overcoming the Mother Wound and When My Mother and Father Forsake Me in the archives section of the Reconciliation Ministries website at

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
God in Isaiah 49:15 NIV


I remember hearing a song based on Isaiah 49 many years ago. I could feel some anger rising up in my heart as I heard the first sentence, “Can a woman forget her child, and have not compassion on the son of her womb?” I found myself thinking, “Of course a mother can have no compassion on her baby! My mother was able to have no compassion on me when she abused me!” I was actually relieved to hear the next sentence. God, Himself, was acknowledging that sometimes earthly mothers really do forget their kids, or treat them harshly. It brought peace to my heart as I heard Him promise that He will not forget us, and that He will have compassion on us. Verse 16 goes on to say, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” It’s hard to forget someone that you have permanently engraved on the palms of your hands.

That moment actually came a few years into my healing journey. I couldn’t have experienced God’s heart in those verses in my early days. Of course, I had “head knowledge” that God loves us and is always there for us no matter what our earthly parents were like, but it didn’t translate into every day, experiential “heart knowledge”. I couldn’t live in the reality that God was safe and that He loved me deeply. I didn’t really want to let Him get close to the fortified, self-protective areas of my heart. Mother wounds can cause us to lock up parts of our hearts deep. So deep we think that even God can’t get to them. We even try to stay far away from those parts of our own hearts. Mother wounds are powerful!

We can see just how powerful the mother wound can be in the account of a vengeful mother named Herodias, her daughter, and the daughter’s step-father, Herod. By the way, Herodias was first married to Herod’s brother, Philip. Herod and Herodias were living in adultery. You get the picture – it’s a pretty messed up, blended family. You can read the account in Mark, Chapter Six. John the Baptist rebuked Herod for marrying his sister-in-law. She got angry and wanted to kill John, but Herod had an interesting relationship with John. He felt bad when John rebuked him for living in sin, but he realized that John was a holy man and protected him. It says that he liked listening to John. Interesting… Herod didn’t like being called out for his sin, but couldn’t shake his interest in hearing what John had to say. Seems he was torn between embracing the truth and holding onto his sin.

Herodias remained bitter and finally seized her opportunity to “get even” with John. Herod threw himself a big birthday party and invited a bunch of government big shots. His step-daughter did a beautiful dance. So beautiful, that Herod offered to give her anything she requested, up to half his kingdom. This is where we see the unbelievable power of the mother wound come into effect. I don’t know about you, but if someone were to offer me half his kingdom, I think I’d be going after the expensive stuff. Instead, the girl went to her mother and asked Mom what she should ask for. The mother – who could have made sure her daughter was set for life – tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. The girl follows Mom’s instructions. Really?!! She could have had riches beyond belief, and the girl chose to get some guy’s head on a platter? That’s the power of the mother wound. The void is so deep, that it can motivate us to do things that defy logic and common sense to try to get a place in our mother’s heart. Mother wounds hurt and we’re desperate to make the pain go away.

Andrew Comiskey, author of Living Waters: Pursuing Sexual and Relational Wholeness in Christ, likens the mother wound to having a heart like a strainer, no matter how much love is poured in, there’s no capacity to retain in. No level of compromise will ever fulfill the deep pit in our hearts. I can’t imagine what the girl must have been thinking a few days down the road after her vengeful mother’s delight wore off. Was she full of regret as she was thinking about all the riches she sacrificed for a few moments of grasping for her mother’s approval? Compromise doesn’t fill the void. Compromise deepens the void. Always. Yes, always.

I doubt that any of us will ever be stuck in the position of choosing between compromising in a vain attempt to gain our broken parent’s approval and gaining half a kingdom. Sometimes compromise with a parent brings worldly riches our way. Sometimes compromise merely brings us temporary approval. In the end, we find the riches are hollow and our parent’s haven’t really changed. A broken parent’s attention can be pretty fleeting. It is never worth compromising our Biblical convictions to gain our broken parent’s approval. We are living for eternity. Only deepening our relationship with our eternal Father can fill up any voids in our hearts.

Mother wounds have other consequences. Shame is a big one. Codependency is another. They seem to feed off of each other – compromise, codependency, and shame. Sometimes the condemnation is so great that it keeps us from embracing our Heavenly Father’s precious promises in Isaiah 49 and Psalm 27:10, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” We might even tell others that the Lord loves them and will embrace them, but deep in our hearts we fully expect Him to reject us. After all… Mom did…


Don’t let anything keep you from your Heavenly Father. The truth is that Jesus Christ allowed wicked, evil men to torture and murder Him to pay for our sins. He sacrificed His life for sin stained, messy people like us; so that through His resurrection, we can experience redemption and transformation. We can see Jesus’ heart towards pretty nasty people in Luke, Chapter Seven. Here Jesus was having dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s house. Today, many of us might figure that Bible school students or pastors must be pretty holy and special since they’re Bible school students or pastors. In our hearts it’s easy to feel like Jesus would rather hang out with them than us since we’ve done some pretty awful things. In the middle of dinner at the Pharisee’s house, a sinful woman with a bad reputation came in and started anointing Jesus’ feet with some expensive perfume. Something about Jesus broke her. She wept and wiped his feet with her hair. Jesus loved her, honored her, and accepted her. This bothered the religious guy who made some wisecrack about Jesus’ supposed inability to recognize what a scuzzy woman she was. Jesus heard the comment and corrected the religious guy. Then He turned to the woman, acknowledged her love in a holy way, and told her that her sins were forgiven. He even acknowledged that she had sinned much, but that she was forgiven anyway. No matter how much we have sinned – the amount of our sin is really irrelevant because we’re all pretty disgusting in our fallen state – Jesus will always receive us as we turn to Him for help. By the way, Jesus also received the religious guy and seemed to acknowledge that his sins weren’t as bad as hers on a human scale. This just reemphasizes that horrific sin doesn’t disqualify a repentant person from receiving God’s love. Jesus said whoever is forgiven much will love much.

As we turn to the Lord and receive His forgiveness, He gives us the ability to love. As we love Him, He transforms the deep recesses of our hearts and becomes the mother – and father – we have always longed for. He truly does take us up when our mother and father have forsaken us.

Photos courtesy of Jordan Whitt and Ben White via

© 2018 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given.

Considering Your Life on the Mat? - Dan Hitz

Dan has been the Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries since 2003, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. You can read testimonies and helpful articles on recovery on the archives section of the Reconciliation Ministries website by clicking here.


I knew that growing up with a sexually abusive, paranoid schizophrenic mother would leave me with a lot of deep emotional wounds, but little did I know until years after giving my heart back to Jesus Christ as a 22-year old man how deep those wounds actually were. During the abuse, and my mom’s progressively deeper plunges into mental illness, I became an expert at turning off my emotions. Emotions hurt. Who wants to feel pain?

My excuse for not letting myself deal with the pain after I became a Christian was that I was a new creation in Christ, and the old stuff had supposedly passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). I used that verse to convince myself that I didn’t have to deal with the issues of the past anymore. The problem is that I was taking that Scripture totally out of context. It wasn’t addressing emotional brokenness. It was addressing the beautiful gift of justification that we are given when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Instantly, we are declared to have His righteousness. That part is a done deal through divine decree. Another one of my “favorite” Scriptures to throw back at the Lord when He was convicting me to deal with my emotional pain was Philippians 3:13. Paul wrote about “forgetting” what was in the past, and “straining” (NIV) toward what is ahead. Never mind that Paul was actually explaining that he didn’t base his personal value on his past accomplishments, I used that verse to give myself a “Scriptural” basis to keep trying to shut off my emotions. God wasn’t buying it. It wasn’t working. I kept trying. Strangely, we who live on a mat like the guy at the pool of Bethesda are good at “straining”.

Anyone who has ever tried stuffing their emotions and then been forced to take an honest look at their own heart, can guess how this went. Stuffing our emotions seems to work for a little while. Maybe even a long while. But then the emotional carnage catches up to us. Not just us, but those around us. Our brokenness seems to spread to those we care about the most. After a few years… a few decades… of stuffing our emotions, we lose the strength to suppress them any longer and we unravel. That’s what happened to me in my late thirties. I unraveled.

I was a lot like the guy at the pool of Bethesda in John, Chapter Five. “5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, ‘Would you like to get well?’” My first response to that question is, “Really?!! The poor guy has been lying there handicapped for 38 years and You have the audacity to ask him if he wants to be made well?” Now that I’ve walked this healing journey for many years, I have a better understanding of that question. Jesus was really asking him, “Are you willing to let Me work in your heart however I want to work in your heart to heal your brokenness?” There’s a big difference in those questions. Answering the second question affirmatively also means surrendering one powerful thing – control. Abuse survivors are not particularly good at surrendering control. We didn’t have any for so many years. In our hearts we seem to be thinking, “Now… Jesus… You’re asking me to give up the tiny amount of control that I’ve managed to grab on to?”  Jesus’ response might as well be the words of a popular daytime TV show host, “How’s that working for you?” Sooner, rather than later, I hope all of us take the risk to answer the, “How’s that working for you?” question truthfully. The answer is, “Not very well.”

It would be similar to having a long-term physical disability in the US, and Jesus asking us if we want to be made well. Our minds might start to process the cost. Sure things are tough here on this mat, but I do get a monthly disability check and a Bridge card. My housing is paid for and I do have people taking care of me. If I get better, I’ll lose my public assistance and I’ll have to take care of myself. I’ll have to get a job. I’ll have to start paying my own bills, and cooking my own food. I’m not really sure I can take care of myself. (I want to be sensitive and acknowledge that there are many people who are on public assistance with legitimate needs. I’m not disparaging them in any way. I’m just trying to highlight the vulnerability and risk that Jesus was asking the man to exercise. If you or someone you care about is on public assistance, please be at peace.)

The man’s doubts start surfacing in the next verse. “‘I can’t sir,’ the man said, ‘for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.’” (5:8) This shows the man was still looking for another human to put him into the pool, rather than looking directly to Jesus to heal him. It also shows that the man on the mat was very much aware that others were experiencing healing miracles. But not him. He’s still on his mat. For 38 years. Other people seem to catch the healing breaks. Somehow we use that as evidence that we’ll never get better. We use that pain to motivate ourselves to not even try. Trying is scary. What if we succeed? No more disability checks. No more Bridge card. We will have to start doing things for ourselves. That is frightening. Sometimes it seems easier not to even try.


I’ve read these passages many times, but just recently noticed another facet of this account that I hadn’t noticed before. It comes out in verse eight and we see the results in verse nine. “8 Jesus told him, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!’ 9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!” Obviously, Jesus is the healer and the man would not have walked unless he was supernaturally healed, but the thing that hadn’t registered before was that Jesus gave him specific instructions – commands – to receive his healing, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Following those commands takes trust. Trust takes vulnerability. It can be terrifying to trust God. In the back of our minds, we might be thinking, “But where were You back when I was being abused?” or “Why are You just now telling me to get off my mat after all these years?” Those are questions that we can talk to the Lord about in due time. He actually has answers for them. If He told us right now we might not understand – or like – the answer, but as we continue in our healing so many things begin to make sense.

Other stumbling blocks to getting off our mats include the fear that we’re so messed up that God might not be able to work through us, or we’ll screw it up somehow. Sometimes we’re actually afraid that He might heal us and then we’ll crash because He’ll want us to do things that we haven’t been able to do. We don’t actually believe that He’ll continue to equip us for life off the mat. Sometimes we’re afraid to even hope that He might heal us because He might not really come through and we’ll be even more hopeless than before.

Ultimately, Jesus asks all of us, “Do you want to be made well? Are you willing to trust me and be vulnerable to let Me heal you My way?” I pray that all of us answer that question with a yes. It may be a scared, shaky yes; but a scared, shaky yes is all He asks. It is worth it. As we trust Him, He will give us the ability to “Stand up, pick up our mat, and walk.”

As we begin to experience life off the mat, we begin to learn more about God’s heart as a redemptive, loving Father. We did experience a measure of His grace while we were living on our mat, but He has so much more for us as we step off the mat. We begin to understand how deeply He always has loved us – even in the worst moments of our lives – as He continues to restore the broken areas of our hearts. We also begin to experience the strength and abilities that Jesus died on the cross to provide for us. As we open our hearts to Him and roll up our mat, we see that He truly does work out everything – the joys and the sorrows – for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Photos courtesy of © 2018 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given.