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Old 03-19-2008, 09:16 AM   #73
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,199
Re: Forgiveness

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Seems like I'm functioning as a devil's advocate. I wish to be very clear that I am not questioning nor arguing with the forgiveness that R. Wood and William have described. BUT - one of the most pernicious problems I see in the treatment and recovery from violation is the "pushing" of forgiveness. This can be due to an ideology of a particular religion or psychology (particularly "pop" psychology); discomfort on the part of the auditor at the anger or even rage of the victim; or a fantasy that forgiveness will always heal.
Well, sure. Been there, done that. The healing process has many stages, of which forgiveness is only one -- and forgiveness is not always possible. A friend once told me that in Jewish tradition, it's not considered possible to forgive someone who doesn't repent: it's not that it's hard, it's that it's impossible, like 2 and 2 equaling 5. I believe that that's true, and that forgiveness isn't something you can do all on your own.

I also agree with your point about the pushing of forgiveness, which strikes me to be a variant of the constant pushing for "closure" (a much-misused word that I would like to ban from all discourse for a period of not less than two decades). I think it arises from the reasons that you cite, which when you get right down to it are really childish. Let's forgive! Let's get closure! That'll make the bad feelings go away, right now! God forbid we should have to live with the consequences and reminders of the past; much better to stick our fingers in our ears and squeeze our eyes shut and yell "LA LA LA LA LA MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!"

<snip>So, it's been my experience that the only forgiveness that heals comes from the heart, and that is not something that is taught or even pointed out. It emerges completely unexpected, as a shock from within, like when you walk into a hospital room, look in someone's eyes, and somehow, the rage is gone, and forgiveness or compassion emerges.
It was like that with me, too (I wasn't abused, btw -- I grew up with an alcoholic parent, different issue). I had to stop trying to fix things. It's much like physical healing: you do what you can, but you also have to let go of the idea that you control it -- and (this is the real scary part) you have to accept that it might not get better. You have to find your will to live with what you have, even as you work and hope for improvement.

Most of the time, my job is to help a person become enraged, to succeed in hating both the deed and the doer, to have it burn through them like a fire burning out all the underbrush in a redwood forest. When one can clearly condemn evil, without reframing it, or finding a pablum explanation in the oppressor's past, when one can clearly say that no explanation excuses violation, then and only then can forgiveness OR indifference OR a continuation of a righteous disdain and hatred emerge, all equally valid, equally powerful, and equally true.
I think the problem -- which took me decades to understand -- is that most people have a tendency to conflate things in a way that suggests a relationship that doesn't exist. "He abused you, but he was abused himself" -- that conjunction is very problematic. Yes, there may be a connection, and it may be helpful to understand for someone, but it's got to be carefully removed from the context of stating what happened and who bears responsibility. I got to my own forgiveness by abandoning all conjunctions and dealing with each truth by itself. Now I can appreciate some of the connections between them, dismiss others as false, and accept others as true but not particularly relevant to me.
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