Forgiveness, or the lack of it, is a roadblock to a peaceful life, unforgiveness impacts the victim’s life more than it does the abuser’s. The abuser does not deserve to be forgiven and probably doesn’t even care about having it one way or the other.
There is a full spectrum of emotions to be had as a result of holding on to hurt. At one end – I hate him and will never forgive him (or her,) at the other end – I know I need to forgive and I want to but I keep taking it back. The level of peace or distress we have depends on which end of the spectrum we fall on.
Unforgiveness can act like a cancer. The harder we hang on to it the more it takes over our life. Bitterness and a host of other emotions can take root and grow to gigantic proportions. There is no peace to be had if that happens.
I guess if we have been severely abused and feel dispassionate about everything we don’t have raging emotions to deal with and we can live what appears to be a normal happy life. But sooner or later something will trigger a reaction, maybe even something gigantic. That’s me and my life.
It has taken many decades but I have forgiven my dad.
His abuse took on many forms. It started a few weeks after conception, rage at imminent and unwanted fatherhood. All of the years long abuse was fueled by rage, addictions, and immaturity. He wasn’t my only abuser, he allowed others access when it suited him. I can figure out about 6 of them, including a pedophile, but there is a knowing that I can’t escape, even though I want to, there were more, maybe even many more. You can see why all my memories have been repressed. There are a few vague memories, puzzling thought patterns, and many triggers, all leaving clues. And then a brother who insisted I admit I was abused.
You can also understand why, when I was 18 and he was found dead, I was glad, relieved.
After many decades I have forgiven my dad and the changes in my emotional well being have been dramatic. I’m grateful.
There were other significant abusers though and the forgiveness process for them is still ongoing, with no end in sight. I haven’t been able to forgive yet but at the same time I choose not to hate. That in itself has made life a better place for me.
They say that the abused often choose a spouse similar to their abuser. In my case he was nothing like my dad and I thought I had done well.
Dad’s abuse loomed large and took over the whole conversation. It took decades to figure out what was going on with these other two relationships. Emotional abuse is difficult to identify even though the damage is greater.
Emotionally unavailable was the problem. It manifests itself in a number of different ways, all of them hurtful. Physical abuse, I could have said I’m done. But in this case I couldn’t see any workable way to deal with the problem.
Inability to name the issues responsible added a whole new layer of hurt, in both relationships.
Eventually I knew I had to take the bull by the horns and force some sort of decision. We’ve been living apart for nearly two decades. The most distressing and ongoing issue was I still couldn’t figure out why. I needed to understand.
I’ve been praying about forgiveness toward him for years and gotten nowhere.
The other morning was a breakthrough moment for me. In a moment of clarity I suddenly recognized that the parent I patterned a spouse after was not my dad but my mother.
I married a man like my mother.
That thought made so much sense, it was like chains falling off. It’s that simple and I don’t need to figure anything else out.
There is still a long way to go but I don’t think it will take decades now. There is freedom in forgiveness and that will be enough when it comes.
I’m still praying though, because I still need help.
What I wish I could have had.