Family, Work & Money

My father’s gambling almost ruined my family: How I forgave him

By Eze Seah , 12 July 2022

My father was a successful businessman.

That is, until he gambled his earnings away, embezzled his company’s funds and landed in jail.

After his release, he worked round the clock to pay off his debts  But in his free time, he gambled with my mother’s savings.

Because of this, he was not around for most of my childhood.

During his secondary school years, things at home were very rough for Eze (in red) and his family. All photos courtesy of Eze Seah.

When my father re-appeared in my life, he was constantly angry and my parents always argued. There was never any peace and quiet in the house.

He once tore up my Chinese homework because my handwriting was not up to his standard. He demanded that I redo everything. 

I was just nine years old at that time, but that incident left a deep impression on me.

It was a tiring, toxic and tumultuous time of my life.

During secondary school, I repeatedly begged my parents for a new computer. In response, my father used a hammer to destroy my old laptop.

He claimed that he destroyed it so he could buy me a new one. But this only gave him an excuse to gamble again.

It was a tiring, toxic and tumultuous time of my life. I hated my father for bringing so much pain and poverty onto the family.

This pushed my desire to finish school quickly, get a high-paying job and move out of the house.

So I started looking for ways to make money. Money seemed like my only way out.

Putting my hope in money

After my O-Levels, I signed on with the army, attracted by the promise of earning a stable income. There was also a sign-on bonus of $10,000. 

I dreamt of all the possibilities $10K could give me. I could buy a new computer, a camera, donate the money, or even bless my friends who needed help.

This money was going to change my life!

“That very night, my father lost it all at the casino.”

However, when my father heard about my windfall, he approached me.

He asked to borrow $8,000, claiming it’d be much more “useful” if he had it.

When my dad promised to return it quickly, I believed him and handed him the money.

That very night, my father lost it all at the casino. He’d gambled everything away.

Endless excuses

My dad gave me many excuses for losing the money.

But all I said after hearing them was: “It’s okay, I forgive you.”

I didn’t feel any anger – partly because I was already so tired of feeling angry for so many years. I also knew that lashing out wouldn’t make things any better.

If not for sermons at church that touched me, I would have reacted with spiteful words and deep resentment. But that would have only made our relationship worse.

So I chose to forgive him instead.

“Money had become my ‘god’ – and my obsessive thirst for it had let me down.”

Even so, I cried bitterly in the bathroom. I didn’t hate my father, but it really hurt to have all my dreams go up in smoke.

Looking back, it was really my fault for lending him the money in the first place.

At the time, I thought that money could save me, that it was my ticket out of my toxic environment.

So much so that I actually fooled myself into believing my dad could get more money for me if he gambled.

It was then that I realised how money had become my ‘god’ – and my obsessive thirst for it had let me down so painfully.

Small steps

Learning to forgive my dad was not an overnight process. It took time.

I started going to church when I was a teen, wanting to follow God wholeheartedly.

But whenever I prayed, I felt God gently urging me to forgive my own father first.

In addition to church sermons, RT Kendall’s book Total Forgiveness really challenged me and spoke to my heart too.

I discovered from reading the Bible that following God meant obeying what He calls us to do (John 14:15) – and that includes forgiving others (Matthew 5:23-24).

Eze and his mum at a camp.

So I made up my mind to forgive my father. It was a very hard process.

I’m thankful that God opened my eyes to see that my father actually cared for me, despite his gambling addiction.

For instance, when I fell sick with a fever, my father cooked for me and did many other things to show his love.

Seeing his effort made it easier for me to forgive my dad, one step at a time.

Spiralling into depression 

However, in the three years after losing most of my sign-on bonus, I spiralled into depression.

I started skipping my polytechnic classes and also stopped attending church.

To distract myself, I threw myself into the one thing that I was good at: Dance.

Eze (third from left) and his family while attending a dance performance.

Because I couldn’t focus on my studies, I failed many course modules and ended up having to retake them. This didn’t help my mental state.

In the end, my scholarship with the army was revoked. I was also on the brink of getting kicked out of poly.

However, by God’s great mercy, I passed my final exams. I found hope to keep hanging on, comforted that He had not forgotten me.

True security

During the Covid pandemic, I pondered on the meaning of life.

I decided to google the question, which led me to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

“Meaningless, meaningless!” said the narrator, who called himself the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

I saw that even though the Teacher had a lot of worldly possessions, he was not happy.

“I’d wrongly placed all my hope in money, letting greed rule me.”

In that instant, I realised that I wasn’t happy because I hadn’t put God first in my life.

Instead, I’d wrongly placed all my hope in money, letting greed rule me.

This epiphany was a turning point in my life. I resolved to turn back to God again.

I made it a point to reconnect with old friends and also went back to church after Covid-19 measures relaxed in 2020.

Since then, I’ve realised that Jesus is truly the greatest security I’ve found in life. Coming back to Him has given me much joy.

God gives my life true meaning. He is the only One who can satisfy me amid any storm.

Healing the hurt

As I drew closer to my heavenly Father, I also saw my relationship with my earthly dad improve.

I’ll be honest. Our relationship isn’t yet the best – but it’s definitely not the worst either. 

Most of all, I’m no longer afraid of my father. We talk, laugh and joke around with each other. I can even share my problems with him.

Yes, our family has been affected. But I also see how he has made it a point to be there for me to the best of his abilities.

A family portrait taken before Eze (third from left) started his Basic Military Training (BMT).

For instance, when I had late-night CCA training, he would take me to and from school. When I recently enlisted into the army, he fetched me to and from camp.

We also started talking more as we showed each other deeper respect.

I found out more about his life as we bonded over things we had in common, like joining the army at a young age or being interested in business. He’s given me lots of life and love advice too!

All these things really helped me recover from my depression, which no longer affects me.

There is always hope

Like me, you may also be struggling to love and honour your parents.

The circumstances aren’t always easy – but don’t lose hope!

As you learn to trust God, you’ll see that He truly makes all things possible. This includes reconciling with loved ones who may have hurt you.

If we want to fix our relationships with others, the first step is to build a strong relationship with our heavenly Father. Things will begin to fall into place from there.

For me, I needed to choose to forgive my dad, letting go of my natural urge to bear grudges. This is something God’s Word reminds me to do, daily.

I’ll be raw and honest: It’s been a tough journey with my dad. And it’s not over yet.

Still, I am determined to keep on loving, forgiving and honouring him, just as my heavenly Father desires me to do.

Our healing will take time – but that is time I’m willing to put in.

As told to Zenna Ker. A version of this article first appeared in

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