I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. Without God's intervention in my life I wouldn't be here - NOW is the time for me to tell MY story by speaking the TRUTH about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being restored. This blog has helped me begin to get my voice back and documents the journey God is taking me on to heal me from the trauma and damage caused by that most appalling abuse.

Friday, 29 October 2010

FORGIVENESS - Some of my conclusions

Given the unique situation I find myself in I’ve been grappling with issues of forgiveness when you’re met with a wall of sheer defiance, denial, lies, no confession, no repentance and no admittance of fault.

As I’ve grappled with this subject, I’ve realised how abused, misused and badly represented the issue of forgiveness has been throughout years of church teaching and comments/judgement/bad counsel from other Christians. I’ve realised too that in order to forgive one must define what forgiveness is and what forgiveness isn’t.

When I’ve spoken to Christians about being abused, tortured and disowned by my family many have responded with “have you forgiven them, you must forgive them”. Thus inferring that if I’d forgiven them then I wouldn’t need to talk about them or talk about what they did and how it’s affected my life.

Other Christians have pressed upon me that if only I forgave then magically all the hurt and pain would go away, impressing upon me that you cannot be a real Christian if you’ve not truly forgiven from your heart and sought all paths towards reconciliation. This infers that you cannot forgive and not want to be reconciled to the people who so hurt you. Many Christians told me that as they’re your family you have to forgive and forget and act like it never happened because they are your family and as a Christian I was sinning greatly to not do that or to not want to do that.

Some Christians have forced me into praying prayers of forgiveness towards my abusers which weren’t so much about me forgiving but more about them feeling they’d done their Christian duty in making me forgive and the rest was up to me complying.

Much of what was said to me implied that all the hurt and damage would just vanish from my life if only I could forgive and because I was so hurt and obviously damaged then I could not have really forgiven even if I thought I had. The hurt and confusion such comments caused me was immense.

There were so many different definitions and understanding about forgiveness in the many things said to me. But none of them worked because each of them was a phoney forgiveness. A forgiveness that forgives, forgets, acts as if the wrong never happened, ignores the hurt and pain, pushes it all under the carpet. That is not real true forgiveness.

My understanding of true forgiveness in the context of Christian understanding is that it always happens within a framework of confession, repentance, admittance of fault, apologies, and so on. A making things right with the person wronged in some way – either through reconciliation or making good in some meaningful way.

Many Christians have said to me well if Jesus could forgive HIS tormentors and murderers from the cross then you should too. I’m not all that sure I agree with that. I don’t agree with that because I am not Jesus, I can only be ME grappling with the hurt and damage in my life. I do not have the totally secure relationship with HIS Father (my Safe Daddy) that HE had. Also I do not agree that Jesus did forgive in the words that HE uttered. Jesus could have chosen to say “I forgive them” but HE didn’t. It is recorded that HE actually said from the cross was – “Father forgive them..."

That prayer Jesus uttered from the cross is something I keep coming back to over and over again.

There is something very profound in those 3 words and something to learn from them.

There is a reason why Jesus did not say “I forgive them” but rather “Father forgive them” - it's as if Jesus Himself really grappled with forgiving the people who were doing such dreadful things to HIM and actually struggled with it Himself and in HIS love and compassion in the end Jesus passed it on to HIS Father to do the forgiving because in HIS humanity it was too big and too hard for HIM to deal with.

In grappling with this subject I’ve had to redefine forgiveness for myself.

As I’ve been in this process of understanding and redefining what true forgiveness really means for me it was interesting to read this article about forgiving on Overcoming Sexual Abuse’s website, along with comments readers made in response to it. http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2010/10/28/what-about-forgiveness/.

At the same time I also read this blog post approaching the subject from a different angle - http://emergingfrombroken.com/forgive-the-abusers-a-bit-of-a-rant/

Both those articles helped me define better for myself what I was thinking and feeling about the subject and have informed the conclusions I’ve come to.

My understanding of true forgiveness in the context of Christian understanding is that it always happens within a framework of confession, repentance, admittance of fault, apologies, and so on. A making things right with the person wronged in some way – either through reconciliation or making good in some meaningful way.

I do not believe that outside of that framework true meaningful forgiveness can occur; only partial forgiveness.

True forgiveness involves laying the blame where it lies – on the shoulders of the wrongdoer – which involves confrontation but does not necessarily have to lead to reconciliation. Reconciliation should never be the aim of forgiveness.

Reconciliation may be a by-product of forgiveness but is not and cannot be the main reason for seeking confrontation in order for forgiveness to occur.

I’ve never sought nor wanted reconciliation with my abusers despite many Christians trying to convince me that I could not be a real Christian and not want a relationship with them. This to me is a crazy viewpoint.

Who would want to be in a relationship with people who deliberately and systematically tortured, humiliated and abused you? It seems crazy to even suggest that. But so many Christians have done just that – reminding me that if you forgive you forget and so should re-establish a relationship regardless of what had happened. How can anyone forget 20 years of abuse and torture? To do that would be to deny me a history. That is total madness.

I may not have had a childhood but I still had 20 years of memories and history which all inform and helped create the person I am today. So many times I’ve wanted to be able to say “yes I have a family, yes I am/was loved, yes I am/was accepted by my parents/family. So many times I’ve wished it possible to change history. But it isn’t possible to do that, you can only learn to live with the truth!

Only admittance from the person who wronged you enables true forgiveness. A person who will never confess or repent, but continue to deny, defy, lie, refuse to admit any wrong cannot be truly forgiven nor is deserving of forgiveness.

Forgiveness in itself does not heal a person. However, it may be a catalyst that kick starts the process of healing.

In redefining forgiveness for myself I’ve come to see that forgiveness is not a one-time event but rather a process of letting go your hands from around the neck of the person who wronged you and keeping them by your side.

I’ve had to get go my dream that my abusers would one acknowledge something was wrong, which they’ve never done. All my life there’s been this great pretence of normality and nothing is wrong. Any acknowledgement of wrong would have made a huge difference to me but it never came.

When confronted with the legal consequences of their behaviour a wall of defiance, denials and lies prevented their exposure and caused me immense anguish. Letting that dream go was immensely agonising for me. As I let dream go I let go any other hopes I’d ever had of them ever apologising. I also had to let go my hopes that one day they’d relent and recognise my existence as their daughter.

By accepting that it was possible to move on to no longer expecting, wanting for hoping for anything from them. I moved from being totally overwhelmed by pain to a place where I can begin to believe there is a way through to healing.

I don’t claim to have ‘nailed’ an understanding of forgiveness, but rather I’ve come to understand that for me forgiveness is a process of letting go day by day.

As I do that the door is opened to allowing healing and soothing to come into my wounds so I can have hope and a vision for a future that is no longer captive to my past.

By understanding forgiveness in this way I’m able to take my life back and free myself of those invisible ties to my abusers. I know I will continue to over the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Each time I speak out the truth of what happened I take a little bit of my life back.

Every bit of my life I take back the more I win and the more my abusers lose.

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