I’ve been writing a lot lately about how I’ve been working on letting go of the anger and hurt I have towards my mom. I have those posts listed above in the order in which I posted them. If you haven’t read them, I would like to suggest you take the time to read them because it will help you to better understand what it is that I will be saying in this posting. It will set the foundation for what you are about to read.
In this posting I am going to be talking about the very delicate topic of forgiveness towards my abuser, and how that has played out in my life. It’s one thing to talk about forgiveness towards someone who has hurt us deeply, which is difficult enough, but it’s completely different when talking about someone who has done the unthinkable…the seemingly unforgivable. I know for many people using forgiveness in the same sentence as abuser/rapist/killer/_________ is tantamount to survivor heresy. I have decided to write about this because I feel it is just as vitally important as my struggle to let go of my anger towards my mom. I ask that you keep in mind that this is about MY LIFE, MY journey of healing, and about what I’VE learned along the way.
I would like to start off by talking about forgiveness some more. I really feel like there are so many misconceptions that are deeply rooted in the way we as a society view forgiveness. In my view one of the biggest misconceptions is thinking forgiveness means that your’re making what was said or done ok or even deserved by forgiving. That is not the case at all! It took me, personally, a long time to realize that. I did everything I felt I needed to do to forgive my ex-step-dad, and felt that I had. In many ways I had done a lot of forgiving towards him, healing, and moving on with my life. The problem was every time I felt I was about to be fully free from my past I would hit a wall that I couldn’t get past and I didn’t know why. There was a remnant that I just couldn’t let go of no matter how hard I tried. Believe me when I say this caused problems in my life. My husband could see that I was ready to move on…that I was on the very verge of it, and, yet, there I stood. He saw me hit that wall time and time again…for years. Falling and picking myself back up. He grew frustrated with what he saw as not a lack of ability but a lack of willingness. He knew I was more than able and couldn’t understand why I didn’t move on because he knew that it was time for me to move on. I knew it was time for me to move on. And yet there I stood face to face with my wall. Unable to move it let alone tear it down. From my stand point it wasn’t a matter of willingness, but of ability. I wanted so badly to let it all go, and to be able to be completely free from it all. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried to let go, the more it seemed to be glued to me. I didn’t understand it, and didn’t understand why I couldn’t move beyond where I was at. I felt isolated, and alone. I no longer felt like I could share with my husband what I was going through…he was too overwhelmed by it. At this point my husband and I had been married about 8/9 years (we will be married 11 years this year). He’s seen me struggle and fight this for our whole marriage. He’s seen me at my lowest points and how it has changed me. I’m not the only one dealing with the affects of my abuse; he’s dealing with it too in his own way. I believe that because of his love for me, seeing me go through all that I’ve been through, has been difficult and painful for him. My husband wants to see me healed and set free from it all, and it pains him to see me struggle with it. During this time I learned what it meant for my healing journey to be just between me and God. To fully rely on God for my healing. I couldn’t look to my husband for my healing…it’s beyond what he’s capable of, unfair to him, and frankly not his responsibility. My healing is my responsibility and mine alone. God alone is the only place for me to rely on for my healing. Yes, my counselor, group counseling, and church all played an important role in my healing, but they are AVENUES that God used to bring about my healing, and I thank God for it all.
Then one day I had a breakthrough. I Examined myself, and asked “what was I afraid of”. I was somewhat shocked at the answers I gave myself because I didn’t realize I felt the way that I did. I found I was scared. I was scared to fully let go because I was afraid that if I wasn’t screaming from the mountain tops what Jon, my abuser, had done was wrong then who would; if no one is standing up saying it was wrong does that suddenly make what he did ok, and even deserved. These were my fears. I had to realize that wrong will ALWAYS be wrong whether I stand on the mountain tops or not. I also had to realize no matter what, I did not deserve for him to do all the things that he did. That it will NEVER be my fault or deserved. Once that settled in my heart, I no longer felt I had to stand and scream from the mountain tops. I could let it ALL go, be at peace, finally be healed, and move forward with my life. I finally felt FREE!!! There is such a difference between the abuse being something that was a part of my life, verses a part of my life that was RULING over me. It no longer rules over me, but I rule over it. My past is just that…my past, and what a freedom it is! When dealing with the anger I had towards my mom, I had to ask myself that same question. So, to you I ask, “What are you afraid of” when it comes to letting go of the remnant that you are holding onto…from the seemingly small things in your life to the seemingly unforgivable?
One of the hardest aspects of forgiveness is simply being willing to forgive. Being so angry and hurt you don’t even want to forgive. Holding onto self justification of anger, hurt, rage, hatred. Forgiveness is not even about whether or not we are justified in the way we feel because chances are we are more than justified. Forgiveness is about releasing the poison of unforgiveness that is within us. Releasing ourselves from our own anger, hurt, rage, hatred, and more. I’ve been in that place where I was so angry that I didn’t want to forgive. So, for me, forgiveness was about acknowledging that unforgiveness was not part of God’s plan for me and my life. I would go to God in prayer; acknowledge my feels, and ask God to help me get rid of them. I also acknowledged to God that I knew unforgiveness was not part of his plan for me, and I would ask him to help me not just to forgive but to be willing to forgive. I would go to God time and time again asking him to help me forgive Jon. In the beginning it didn’t seem like any forgiveness was going on, but over time I could tell that bit by bit I was forgiving Jon. Now, forgiveness does not necessarily mean the feelings of hurt and anger won’t come back from time to time when someone has done the seemingly unforgivable…memories can be painful and carry the hurt right along with them. When those feelings creep back in I find myself before God asking him to help me forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that we deny our feelings, but, rather, that we experience them without dwelling and wallowing in them. Once we acknowledge our emotions and feelings, forgiveness says “I choose to release those feelings, to not allow it to poison my life, and to allow God to take care of it all”. Forgiveness is a process, and I’m glad to say that I have allowed myself to go through that process. It doesn’t always happen over night, but it does happen over time.
In my last posting “Standing In The Gap” I talked about praying for those who have wronged or hurt us. I can say that in my journey to forgive Jon I have even prayed for him. It wasn’t the kind of prayer where I spoke out of anger asking God to strike him dead on the spot. Instead I acknowledged God as the only one who can change Jon, and can take the evil out of his heart. God is the only one who can change Jon, and turn him into someone who is not a threat to others (in my opinion). Now, I am in no way implying that Jon should ever be trusted around kids (especially teenagers). I know that God can absolutely change the kind of person Jon is. I also know that for me personally it would be hard for me to be able to trust Jon that the changes came from God, and not Jon trying to come off as someone who he isn’t. I’m just being completely honest here. I’ve watched Jon too many times tricking people into thinking he’s someone other than who he really is, and I’m not willing to take any bets on if a change in him is true or not. Just because I can’t trust any changes in Jon doesn’t mean that I can’t acknowledge there is a great and mighty God who can change him. While I was praying for God to help me forgive Jon; I was also praying for God to change Jon…that Jon may NEVER hurt anyone like he hurt me again.
I had to see how my anger was affecting my life. How holding onto my anger made it easy for me to be angry at others…even my own kids. When I have anger built up on the inside it doesn’t take much to push that button, and cause me to be on edge / cranky (to put it nicely) towards others. I especially had to see this when it came to letting go of the anger I had towards my mom. Forgiveness is a choice we make for ourselves because in the long run we are the ones who benefit the most from it. I know a lot of people get hung up on saying the person isn’t worthy of their forgiveness. Well, to be honest here, forgiveness really isn’t about that either. Forgiveness isn’t about whether they deserve it, are worthy of it, or even about us being justified in the way we feel. Forgiveness really is about us giving a gift to ourselves. I like a quote that Joyce Meyer said recently, “Peace was more valuable to me than my anger”. That right there is pretty much what forgiveness boils down to…having peace verses having anger. Having peace was more important to me than holding onto the anger I had towards Jon. Not a day goes by that I’m not glad I chose peace over anger.
What I would like for you to take away from all of this is, it is possible to forgive even when someone has done the seemingly unforgivable. That it is possible to live your life free from hurt and anger…you don’t have to carry it for the rest of your life. The choice is yours to make, and only you can make that choice.