My bee-line to end my chemical dependence put some of the needed emotional journeys on hold. I didn’t realize this until I picked up my journal and what started as a travel-log kind of entry turned into a soliloquy about the nature of and the need for forgiving. I hadn’t forgiven my mother and the anger which welled up in me whenever I spoke about her to anyone would attest I wasn’t about to forgive her. A sweet young woman spoke in church Sunday and she explained how she came to forgive her philandering and abusive father because she knew her happiness and salvation rested in the balance. She said she would never let her father back into her life again to hurt her but she had forgiven him. The spirit that glowed through the digital link was inspiring, obviously because it amounted to 7 pages of my 9 page journal entry, and it makes me want to share the transformative effect it has had on me.
Most of the entry was angry, a lot of what I put myself through for “living amends” seems ludicrous to me now. I felt I needed to serve my mother as a way to earn her forgiveness mostly for the un-Christlike thoughts I had of her. I’ve learned as a caregiver those thoughts aren’t completely unhealthy, but the guilt of not being perfect in the care of her, of not living up to the impossible expectations she set for me twisted and warped my perception of life at that time and my mother rode that donkey all the way to market. There is some anger in those words, and that is not forgiveness. I don’t know if narcissism is learned, or if its a chemical imbalance or if its a chosen avocation when one realizes it’s easier to get what one wants by undermining the people around them……I honestly don’t know but assigning an illness isn’t forgiveness. There is blame on my part for the role I played in this psycho-drama by allowing her to do this to me when I knew it was wrong, when I thought I understood the depths of the abuse and was “handling it”. (Handling it through inhuman doses of anti-drugs, copious amounts of chocolate and escapism through movies and all the sleep as I could steal in a day.) I should have called her on her behavior, I should have left her to her other children, I should have…..But blaming myself and redirecting the forgiveness towards myself isn’t forgiving [my mother] either. Those are the three major examples in the entry, to list them all would probably put you to sleep.
Christ says He will forgive whom He will forgive, but we are required to forgive all. While writing I prayed. I needed to know what it means to forgive. Don’t get me wrong, I know the definition, I know the process of repentance, and I’ve asked for and given forgiveness in the past. This level of forgiveness was a level I didn’t think I could attain let alone actually grant. I wanted to know if there was a magic bullet, or a wrapped gift, flowers, something I could do to make it happen. I wanted to forgive but I didn’t want to forgive either. I didn’t want forgiveness to erase what she did to me, yet I want to be healed and move beyond the pain and anger. In essence, I guess I didn’t want her to win. We are promised that mercy cannot rob justice and we will all stand before the holy bar of judgement where no one will win alone. Our forgiveness will be the only character witness to be called on our behalf.
At the end of the journal entry I asked three question:
- Do I forgive her? Yes
- Am I still angry with her? Yes
- Do I ever want to see her again? At this exact moment, I never want to see her again but maybe someday that will change.
So, why am I sharing this now? The anger is still there as you’ve picked up in my words, but the level of vitriol behind it has waned to something I can push against and move beyond it instead of letting it tripping me. I might still fall and skin my knees from time to time but forgiveness is a balm for all wounds.
Pruning the anger and dischord from the family tree is the next step. I am working at getting passed the feeling of abandonment from the siblings and their offspring. Those feelings are tangled in with my twisted ideals and entitled expectations from that time. Forgiving the dead is one thing but forgiving the living adds an element I don’t know I am emotionally ready for…yet.
Who do you need to forgive? A parent? A spouse? A sibling? Yourself? After this weekend I can testify to forgive and allow yourself to be forgiven. I promise the light is brighter on the path out of the void when you do.