Forgiveness doesn’t come without a price in ‘Live to Forgive’
Imagine becoming an orphan at the age of 12. Then imagine that you were orphaned because your step dad murdered your mom in a drunken rage with your baseball bat.
Though this scenario seems like it could have come out of a novel, it really happened to Dean Eric Smith.
His mother’s death in 1986 left him empty inside and with an intense hatred of his stepfather. He began doing drugs and drinking to hide his pain.
Eventually, Dean became a Christian, and as amazing as it seems, with God’s help he was able to put aside his pain and hatred to forgive and even love his stepfather.
Dean’s amazing story was captured in the documentary Live to Forgive.
Recently, I got a chance to sit down with Dean and discuss the movie and his ministry.
TO: Whose idea was the documentary? Why not just forgive your step dad without the cameras rolling?
DS: We were friends over the phone for over a year and talked about how powerful it would be for the others to get into our world to see what God can make possible. I was already a minister at the time. I had a vision of capturing our reconciliation.
So, I did forgive Bob years before the documentary, but the time we filmed, it was like reconciling with a friend who the world would find interesting. We knew it would bring God (not us) a lot of glory and that’s why we did it.
TO: Is it hard for you to watch the documentary?
DS: No, God had given me peace and comfort long before I travelled to Tennessee and filmed the documentary.
TO: God prompted you to forgive your dad. Can you tell us a little about that exchange? Did God tell you in a dream? A series of circumstances?
DS: I especially felt God’s prompting as my life got so bad, so low, and I was in so much misery, I realized that forgiveness was the only way out of a life spiraling downward.
TO: How has this film been received? What have other people been saying? Has anyone contacted you telling you how the film has affected them?
DS: Yes, hundreds of people around the country have contacted us about how the movie has inspired them, and motivated them to boldly choose to begin the process of forgiveness
TO: How have you changed since you forgave your step dad? How about since making the documentary?
DS: I have broken free from oppression, addiction, and loneliness. Since the documentary, I’ve been blessed to have a radical impact on others so it has been extremely fulfilling.
TO: Have you established any kind of relationship with your step dad since you made this documentary?
DS: We were friend for 1-1/2 years before the documentary and that has continued since.
TO: In your opinion, why is forgiveness important to you? To God?
DS: It has set me free in countless areas of my life (spiritual, emotional, relational). Forgiveness is essential in receiving God’s best and being in His will. The whole purpose of the life and death of Jesus Christ was around our forgiveness.
TO: Now that you have forgiven the person who you probably felt who did you the most wrong, is it easier to forgive people for the things they do?
DS: Absolutely! The more experience and practice we get with forgiveness, we more clearly see the benefits and therefore are more prone to want to do it in light of the fact that the forgiver is the one who reaps the most reward. Also, being in God’s will (by forgiving) brings God’s best into your life.
TO: What advice would you give people struggling to forgive someone who hurt them?
DS: Pray to God and say, “God, please help me to forgive.” Talk to a pastor or someone who has experience with true forgiveness and learn from them quickly. The faster you forgive the faster you can be free from the past. I’d recommend people watch Live to Forgive to get the inspiration they need.
TO: It seems as if this documentary turned into a ministry. Tell me about your ministry. Tell me a little about the resources you offer on your website.
DS: I actually founded Live to Forgive Ministries a year before even thinking about the production of the movie. This is because in 2007, I was having a phone relationship with Bob (the man who murdered my mom).
I was also a Christian minister and felt God leading me to help other people find Christ-inspired forgiveness like I had. The ministry actually turned into a movie, which thereby helped promote the ministry.