ABUSE AND FORGIVENESS – Marilyn Armstrong

All religions have some good points, even ones with which you don’t quite always agree.

Personally, I am very fond of the Christian concept of “forgiveness.” It is not “I forgive you, let’s go hang out.” It is closer to “God forgives you, now please go away and never come back.”

You can forgive someone and not want anything to do with them. It took me the better part of a lifetime to figure out that my version of “forgive” and the Christian concept of “forgiveness” were not the same thing. Actually, they were not even close.

Forgiveness is about handing over your burden of pain and anger to your more powerful entity or whatever you want to call it.

It’s a brilliant concept. Dumping the burden, whether you throw it into the air to be absorbed into the never-ending universe or write it into your computer’s hard drive, it doesn’t matter. Whatever gives you your freedom, do it.

Forgiveness works because it’s a process. When you understand it, it gives you a place to start and a finish that includes freedom from anger and hate. Forgiveness matters. Not just religiously, but personally. If you never let go of the pain, anger or hurt, you can’t grow. You dry up.

After all these years, I wonder how so many smart people do such incredibly stupid things even when we (they) know better. Women marrying vicious men and staying with them long years after anyone — EVERYONE — can see they are in a hopeless, dangerous situation. Ditto men with women who are awful for them and make their lives into a hell. These are choices people make. Voluntarily. It isn’t always oppression or victimization. It can also be bad personal choices. Shame and pride keep people stuck in terrible situations.

Abuse is a huge issue in my world. If I can’t understand the bad choices people make when choosing mates, how can it be that parents abuse their children? Rape them? Beat them? Torment them? And sometimes kill them?

It turns the meaning of life upside down and inside out. Where is faith to be found in this horror? I can’t answer it because faith has always eluded me. The depravity of which people are capable is literally beyond my ability to contemplate. Torture? Intentional slaughter of an entire people? Abusing a child or dog to death?

Where is God in this?

The issue of abuse was important, to me because I was abused. The more I learn about it, the more people I discover who were also abused. It is not all that rare after all. Many people were abused as children and a lifetime later, still can’t talk about it.

I don’t mean can’t talk about it much. Can’t talk about it at all. I was able to get people to talk to me, at least a bit. To the extent, they could admit something happened. The sense of shame, anger, and horror which clings to victims is hard to understand given that victimization was unsought, unwanted, and terrifying.

Yet there it is. We are shamed by the evil others committed on us.

What makes it so much more difficult is that people whose lives were untouched by abuse don’t believe it happened. Their disbelief intensifies the shame. Not only do “regular” people disbelieve us, but judges, lawyers, police officers, teachers and other family members refuse to accept it. Nor has anyone a solution to fix it. Taking kids away and handing them to a stepfamily isn’t an answer. So many of these “temporary placements” are worse than the places from which the kids came.

It’s a problem we spend a lot of time talking about — and little effort solving. It’s a weird world in which we live.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

28 thoughts on “ABUSE AND FORGIVENESS – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. You covered a lot of ground here and made some very good points. It’s got to be extremely hard for people to be forgiving after being physically and emotionally abused.

    Like

    1. It is hard, but it’s probably the most important part of getting over it. If you can’t let it go — or forgive without necessarily forgetting — you get stuck. It’s not just true for abuse victims. Also true for people coming back from war or prison or any traumatic experience. You have to let it go.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read a FB meme a long time ago that said “forgiveness is accepting that you can’t change the past.” I think there’s a good point there and it helped me “get over” my brother. That was the burden I carried, absolutely. Abuse is sinister and often very subtle. Abusers are often manipulative and capable of perpetrating mind games that obscure the victim’s ability to see reality, as with my mom and me. I am sure this is why many people who are abused don’t get out. And sometimes a victimi is dependent on the abuser — it’s extremely complicated, as you know.

    Like

    1. I agree completely. Physical abuse is hard to miss, but emotional abuse can be quite subtle, but deeply hurtful. Sometimes you get lucky and have someone who has all the bases covered ( my dad), but a lot of people were abused and don’t seem to know it. They don’t recognize what happened as abuse, but they show all the signs of having been abused.

      And yes, it is very complicated, especially for married couples where finances and children are part of the pictures AND someone doesn’t work … or they are too poor to afford a lawyer. Terrible personal choices, financial problems, complex intertwined families … it is a big balled-up mess and I don’t think we’ve gotten very far is working it out. Maybe it can’t be worked out. I just know that we talk about it more these days, but I don’t see much progress from when I was a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s as old as humanity and perpetrated through generations by those who’ve been abused. I really didn’t want kids because I knew in some little place in my mind/heart that something was wrong with me, that my model of motherhood was fucked, and I was likely to do the same. I’ve always wondered what darkness lurked in my mom’s family that made her (and many of her sisters) quietly abusive to at least one of their kids. Though my mom’s abuse of me was also physical she had the ability to make me believe it hadn’t happened. I have a theory that my grandad was a drunk, but I have no way to know whether that’s true or not.

        Like

        1. I’m pretty sure my father was abused and I had to work VERY hard to not be abusive. I learned to walk away and stay away until I regained control and eventually, I stopped hitting that red line. It’s hard to regret the son I have, but I wonder if I’d do it again in my current state of mind.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. After my mother passed away, I asked my father why he was such a bastard to her. He said she always forgave me. He used her like a doormat. Clearly forgiveness is more like -“God forgives you, now please go away and never come back.” It’s a lesson I took note of and so did my children. You could say that knowing about this situation actually saved my daughter’s life.
    Leslie

    Like

    1. Understanding that really, you are forgiving yourself as much as anything. If you are religious, you can hand to God and if not, “the universe.” It doesn’t matter, but it definitely can — will, did — save your life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can write pages here, as the vast majority of my professional work is with adults abused as children. I won’t do that now. Your points are very well taken, Marilyn, and a piece that I often find difficult for people is that they equate forgiveness with approval. No, it doesn’t mean what was done was okay, and as you say walking away and never going back is often a very healthy approach.

    Like

    1. Thank you curioussteph and Marilyn because I let go and let “god”. I can’t wrap my brain around why I lived such a tortured life and ppl talk about forgiveness. It’s beyond me. leave it to the “higher power” let him deal with it. I just want to get on and enjoy the rest of my life without daily reminders from ppl who have decided I’m not finished with it. I am! Its done. I want to enjoy the rest of my life in peace and with happiness humour and joy.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. This is where it helps to “think Christian.” And read C. S. Lewis. He wrote a lot about the difference between human and “cosmic” forgiveness. And I had a very good Christian friend who spent a lot of time explaining it to me and THAT helped, too. Once I let the anger go, life got much better.

            Like

            1. You’d probably have to pound it into my head because I seriously can’t imagine it. let go and let god, he is the reader of hearts. he knows where I’m at and the perps too. have at her/him/them

              Like

                1. I think your right about that. I’m not so much angry it happened, that is done and over. The anger I feel is at the result of telling someone and being laughed at and everything shoved under the rug as though it weren’t important didn’t happen and I wasn’t important enough to care about. That’s the part I’m struggling with. I realize they are humans and imperfect and probably incapable of dealing, didn’t know how, but to laugh as though I were a joke and the situation were funny, still irks me.

                  Like

  5. I had written a rather long reply in your comments, but there’s a nasty gremlin in my machine today and it’s eating all the ‘good’ comments I write. Still. You mentioned faith in your wondrous post here and I have to say to ME faith is one of the tools used in forgiveness. You have to have faith that the person is WORTH forgiving. There are those I know of (personally) who aren’t. But. I don’t give them room in my life or mind and so letting go of that anger towards them has freed ME. Not like that for everyone. And my therapist said, regarding someone I mentioned who is in one of those relationships where she’s abused (psychologically) and won’t allow herself to leave it…therapist said it is a certain trait some folks have. Maybe they truly think they are worthless and deserve punishment. Maybe they can’t even see a different kind of life. One thing I know is true about THAT is that until one wants to change (situations, themselves, addictions whatever) one will never change. If people force them to make changes, those changes are usually pretty transitory. This world (according to some beliefs) is a fallen world. That’s why all those bad things happen to good or innocent people. All we can do is help where we can.

    Like

    1. I think it takes time and also — you have to accept that abuse IS abuse. A lot of people don’t see what is happening to them as abuse. It is very complicated. Even when you can’t MISS the fact that you were abused, it still takes a long time to get it through your head that you can let it go, however you choose to do it.

      Like

  6. That forgiveness thing is huge. Probably the most important line in the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Say this every day and it will prevent you from generating massive amounts of bad karma.

    Like

  7. I have read this post so many times and always thought that any of my ‘inputs’ just couldn’t be worthwhile. Yet, it doesn’t leave me alone and therefore I just mention what helped me. Also, having waited until now I’m sure that not too many people come back to read this ;):
    I am a believer. I couldn’t live without God and I know that I’d probably have done real damage several times over if I hadn’t always known that my faith would help me. And it did.
    To learn to forgive is one thing. To forgive and forget is another. I clearly remember that when I was 12, my dad treated me badly…. He then, later, came to me and APOLOGIZED. I, in the grand state of my twelve mature years, said to him: I forgive you, but I’ll never forget…. Now, (and for many decades already) I only remember my foul and terrible behaviour. I never could recall the ‘wrongdoing’ of my dad, I only remember what I said to my father, he who humble enough to ask my forgiveness for a fault he committed, and I feel terrible, even now…. I then developed (without noticing it really and not consciously) the faculty to only remember the good things that happened in my life. All the soul-damaging stuff happening in my first marriage, the injustices, the lies, it’s all in the past, put aside and forgotten, to the point that I couldn’t even write about it now. I only remember the good moments.
    When I write a short ‘round robin’ at the end of the year, I always wonder how I/we managed to spend yet another year with so many difficulties, bad treatment at work, natural disasters, illnesses, accidents, incidents, and I often sigh while writing – because it all seems so unworthy of words by the end of the 12th month. I however remember fondly the smallest joys, the silliest laughter…. and I’m glad to be able to forgive and forget.
    I’ve never been abused physically. The damage done to my soul and the work to get over THAT bit made me probably (surely) a better person. For that I’m eternally thankful.

    Like

    1. That’s what I mean by complicated. I’m sure your father forgave your lack of forgiveness. Good parents do that.

      As for the rest, it’s a giant complicated knot of right, wrong, guilt, hate, and every other emotion you could name. It is NEVER simple and never easy to unknot. That’s why the “Here, God -Universe – whatever” … This is too big for me. I give it to you. Let me move on without this burden and I will be satisfied.

      Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.