A Lesson in Forgiveness

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In his somewhat less than fully coherent email earlier in the week, Ed attempted to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.  In a brief note of follow up yesterday, he again reiterated his belief that forgiveness is necessary for healing.

There are a few key things about forgiveness Ed doesn’t seem to understand, for example: There are people who should not be forgiven – namely those who would take forgiveness as a sign that they weren’t so bad after all; this way of thinking opens the door to rationalization of their past, and future, behavior.  Ed has never understood the breadth or depth of what he has done; forgiving him before he fully comprehends would be downright self-destructive for me.

The problem inherent to forgiveness is that the power resides in the transgressor’s hands. The psychological impact of forgiveness on the forgiver is determined by whether or not the transgressor has made amends.  Forgiveness without amends leaves the forgiver with diminished feelings of self-worth.  To date, Ed has not sought to make anything right, he has sought only to move on.

Pain is deeper and longer lasting when the transgressor intentionally caused it – repeatedly.  This cannot be overstated; when you repeat a destructive behavior time without number, you did not make a mistake – you demonstrated something real and lasting about who you are.  Forgiveness for this [child abuse] is a process, and it is dependent wholly and entirely upon the transgressor’s sincere acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for ALL wrongdoing, and their  forthright desire to make amends for what their behavior caused.

Despite Ed’s belief in forgiveness as a panacea, it isn’t simple.  I am not simple.  My self-respect, peace of mind, and understanding are not based in my forgiveness of my father; and to forgive now would leave me despondent because he has not earned it.  Any benefit I could derive from forgiving him would come through his personal growth and desire to make right what he destroyed.

The kind of forgiveness I’m speaking of takes time and concerted effort to earn.  You don’t close the cycle and end the abuse quickly or easily, and those you have harmed need to know they are valued, treasured, cherished and loved now as they always should have been; they need to know it is safe to forgive.

Forgiveness is sobering, and honest.  And while we embrace the sentiment, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” it cannot be universally applied.  We cannot reap the benefits of forgiveness alone, we need the full and complete cooperation of our transgressor, and therein lies the quandary; those with the capacity to destroy the lives of their children seldom, if ever, see the need to repair.

So you see Ed, the ball is most definitely NOT in my court.

Last Week

Again I write in the middle of the night …

It was an emotional week, a seriously emotional week.  I didn’t sleep much – there were several reasons for this, none of which include insomnia due to Depression or Bipolar Mania.  My state of mental health has never been better – and in a week where my emotions were constantly tested it feels really good to be able to say that.

My cousin’s disclosure was shocking, and my concern for her well being occupies my thoughts almost constantly.  That the abuse and resulting mental illness wasn’t confined only to my immediate family, but extends to my father’s siblings and their children as well, leaves me feeling a bit lost.  I had gotten a grip on my own situation, but this casts a far wider net; who knows where it began, or where it will end.

When I started this blog I had no idea where it might take me, but even if I had had a clue then, the revelations of this last week would have been filed under Never Gonna Happen.  Tommy, an abuser?  No way in hell.  His daughter suffering from depression because he beat her?  Absolutely not.  Ed writing me a heartfelt letter taking responsibility for everything he did and everything it caused?  Dream on …

But that was my week.

I’m blaming Tempest’s Blog Genie for the last shock;  when she nominated me for a Liebster Award, one of her questions was:  “If a blogging genie came to you and offered you three blogging-related wishes, what would you wish?”   My answer included, “To know how my blog impacts Pat and Ed on an emotional level.”  I don’t didn’t believe in the Blog Genie, but I now have a bit of respect for him; he granted half a wish – a whole wish and I’m sure my respect would be more complete, but half a wish is better than no wish at all …

Ed’s letter of late yesterday afternoon was sincere, and it came from his heart …

The thing is, child abuse is unforgivable.  It is just that simple for me.  I’ve built my entire life on a sense of well-defined integrity and honor.  A code of morality that is rooted in doing what is right simply because it is right – no fear of consequences or damnation for wrongdoing; no hope of reward, eternal or otherwise, for doing what is noble. And …

I believe in very few absolutes; I don’t see many things in terms of Black and White, but child abuse is absolutely wrong and there can be no forgiveness here.

However, when someone takes responsibility for what they did and what it caused, and is willing to work to make it right in any way they can now, I’m inclined toward a New Beginning.  It’s too late for second chances, and with forgiveness out of the question, it has to be Start Over.

I’m doing this simply because I believe it is the right thing to do … and that’s what I do, what is right.

I knew I was owed an apology, knew I needed to hear what I heard yesterday – firmly believed I was owed at least those things.  And I knew getting them, if I ever got them, would have an emotional impact on me, but I didn’t know how completely his admission of guilt and assumption of responsibility would disarm me.  I  just didn’t know how angry I was at Ed until all of a sudden I wasn’t angry anymore.  I am understandably guarded and cautious, but today I don’t see him as the enemy.

He didn’t offer excuses, there were no ‘buts’ … he didn’t tell me how badly abused he was as a child – didn’t even mention it.   It didn’t matter to me before, but it does now.  He can tell me now because he is no longer offering it as justification for what he did to me.  He can tell me now because it probably does matter, somehow.

I don’t know why I think he finally understands, but I think he does.

I have no immediate plans to see him,  I still need to process and digest.  I Need to rest and make peace with the emotional week I’ve had.