God of ceaseless new beginnings, you deliver us from death and despair.
May this be our assurance:
That you will surprise us with joy in the morning;
Struggle alongside us in the heat of noonday;
Sit with us in the evening shadows of quietness;
For you go before us always, meeting us at every corner,
Bringing new life out of all our living and dying. Amen
(from an Easter prayer)
PLEASE CONSIDER THIS QUESTION: For the survivor, what place does forgiveness have in healing our woundedness?
Talking about forgiveness deserves a much deeper conversation than what is possible here. However, I've spent years reading, thinking and praying about forgiveness, and learning from others who were able to forgive so much. So I'll share where I am with this, and hope it will lead you on to that deeper conversation .
New Year's Day 2020
I want to add that I have concerns for people who think they have to quickly forgive when someone has taken the life of a loved one, or has caused a life-changing disaster. It isn't my place to second-guess, or to judge what is happening in the hearts and minds of these wounded people; but I do think that "processing" and doing the deep, hard work of forgiving takes time. Acknowledging grief and suffering is not a sign of weakness, or of a lesser faith experience. Broken hearts are a part of our human-ness.
Doing the hard work of forgiving is important, so give yourself time, and get as far as you can...and then try to do some more.
What I Have Learned
Wherever you are in the process of forgiveness, be patient with yourself, be very kind to yourself, and give yourself time to do the deep "heart work" that needs to be done.
Unforgiveness is that last shred of an invisible connection that binds you to your abuser.
Unforgiveness festers into bitterness, and bitterness is poisonous only to the person who was abused.
I say the Lord's Prayer every day, and when I get to Jesus' words "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.." I have to remember that in forgiving the abuser, I am moving forward into a better life God wants me to have.
I was able to forgive my abuser. The places where bitterness had taken hold were replaced with far better things. It is important to note that there is no requirement to tell the abuser you have forgiven him or her. When I say the Lord's Prayer, it does not tell me to go confront the abuser with forgiveness. Forgiveness happens in your heart and belongs to you. The purpose of forgiving your abuser is NOT to make him or her feel better. The purpose is to cut that last invisible connection so that nothing binds you to him or her. When this happens, you can finally gain your emotional freedom.
The lists below differentiate between abusive and non-abusive behaviors, and between functional and dysfunctional behaviors. It is a good place to start if you are assessing your personal situation. Having a trustworthy mentor, and a highly-recommended, skillful therapist or counselor can be very helpful as you move forward.
Red Light! Stop!
Life-Destroying Abusive Behaviors
Rage, uncontrolled anger (not just being angry or upset, but being known as an angry person); explosive, bullying, aggressive, harsh, belligerent, manipulative, lying, belittling, demeaning, cursing, mean, cruel, hostile, threatening, destructive, negligent, disrespectful, name-calling, controlling; blaming others for abusive behavior; vengeful, unforgiving, retaliatory; inconsistent home vs public persona; escapism through substance abuse (drugs, alcohol), pornography; does not live by any positive values
*Note: Although some may consider pornography to be "entertainment", this mega-dollar industry portrays violence and demeaning and destructive acts and attitudes predominantly toward women. Human-trafficking, drug and alcohol addiction, criminal and abusive acts toward children and young people have been connected to the pornography industry.
Green Light! Go Forth and Prosper!
LIfe-Building Non-Abusive Behaviors
Self-control; controlled anger (can be angry or upset when appropriate, but is not known as an angry person); respectful in words and actions; protective, caring, nurturing, affirming; consistent home vs public persona; takes responsibility for personal behavior; develops interests that are life-enhancing; lives by a positive set of values
Hope for Your Journey
May you be where the cycle of abuse ends, and where a new and healthy life begins.
May your children have the best YOU they can have.
May they learn by your example to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (The Golden Rule)
With prayers that you will find courage, healing, hope, peace - and beauty.
© Shirley Myers_March 2019