Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Anger and Forgiveness

Anger is a normal, healthy, response to abuse, hurt, and injustice --
and it’s a vital part of the healing journey.

We need to feel and experience our anger in order to set
boundaries and protect ourselves, and in order to acknowledge
that we were hurt and to allow space for healing.  
For some people this process can take months or years.
Some people wish they can skip the process of embracing anger, and attempt to skip it.
But in reality anger can not be skipped over. We need to go through
it in order to come to the next stage, which is acceptance, followed by forgiveness.

I am not talking about forgiving our abusers.
I’m talking about forgiveness toward oneself.
Learning to forgive ourselves is a key stage in the process of healing.

Certainly it’s possible that in some cases forgiveness of others
is a natural progression of self forgiveness and self compassion.
But forgiveness of an abuser when it happens, is for us
not for the person we are forgiving.
Forgiveness releases their power over us and sets us free mentally.
Forgiveness does NOT mean absolving ourselves or anyone else
of accountability or responsibility for their actions. Quite the opposite.
When we truly love someone, we hold them accountable.

True forgiveness of ourselves takes humility, courage, and love.
 It means admitting that we are imperfect, limited human beings
and that we make mistakes.  It means recognizing, accepting
and validating our negative feelings, and loving and accepting
ourselves anyway,with all of our humanity, limitations, and struggles.
It means allowing ourselves to be human.

We cannot grow, change, or heal if we judge ourselves as bad
or shameful people, or allow others to judge us this way.
The truth is that anyone who judges victims of abuse as a bad
or shameful, is telling you something powerful about themselves,
NOT about the victim. They are letting you know that they have
not forgiven themselves completely. They do not love and accept
themselves unconditionally. They are suffering and confused.
Perhaps they too have been a vicitm or a perpertrator
and Instead of introspection and taking personal responsibility, they apply
blame and shame to others. This defensive response perpetuates
emotional abuse and enabling.

Forgiveness means letting go of black and white certainties.  
It means allowing God, or your Higher Power to be in charge
and admitting that although we can know our own intent, we really can
not know where anyone elses intent lies, unless they share it with us.  

When we are ready to let go of anger, there are ways to do it. We can
begin to let go of anger and resentment toward others by having faith
that God has a plan and that justice will eventually prevail, even if we
can’t see it happening just yet. We can let go of anger by focusing on
self acceptance, love and compassion.  We can let go of anger by
acknowledging how we are confronting the most difficult moments in our lives,
and instead of allowing them to destroy us we used them to transform us heroically.

I have been able to forgive my father and grandfather for raping
and molesting me. I still hold them responsible, but I know that their evil actions
had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them and
their own limitations and choices.  Their actions were likely the result of
abuse they suffered and never questioned, and of denial,
shame, and ignorance. I don’t think they wanted to cause the deep long term
damage that they did to me. I don’t think they intended to destroy my family.
I know they will have to face what they have done, and take full responsibility
at some point, whether in this world or the next. Forgiveness means that I don’t
walk around carrying anger or resentment toward them.

I have been able to forgive my mother for ignoring and enabling the abuse.
I realize that her choices which hurt me so badly were her own limitations,
her own need to survive, and had nothing to do with me.  I believe that she
did the best she could at the time, and that she still is.

I have been able to forgive my siblings and relatives for cutting me off.
I cannot judge each of their abilities, and responsibility toward me. I choose to
believe that each one is doing what they believe is the right thing for them at this time.
I have no idea what they have been told about me, and what they believe.
I choose not to judge. I do not need them to be any different.
I choose to stay connected in my heart.

I noticed some time ago, and with some amazement, that I have even been
able to forgive my family's rabbi, who I was most enraged with, and most
hurt by, who advised my family to cut me off if I don’t keep the abuse a secret.
 I did not need or expect myself to forgive what he did. That was not in the equation.
What he did was horrific. He knew that my family would take his advice as the word of God. Accountability is between him and God as I have let go of needing him to be
or do anything different. I do not harbor resentment toward him. I accept the reality,
and believe that God allowed this to happen for a good reason.

I have been able to forgive God as I understand Him. I trust that God allowed
all of the above people to do what they did to me only because in his infinite
wisdom He knew that in the long term the outcome
would be positive. God knew that I would come away from the agony
and suffering a stronger, wiser, more compassionate and loving human being.
 And that I would use my experience as a gift to help others who are still struggling.
He was right.

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