Forgivesness? What’s That Mean?

I have always struggled to figure out what forgiveness is. I never thought about the subject until I went to a workshop on forgiveness when the presenter said she loved herself. She wouldn’t be the person she was today unless those awful things had been done to her as a child, and therefore, rather than being angry and resentful toward the person who had hurt her so badly, she was grateful to him. That didn’t sit right with me, not at all.

I was recently asked to write a couple of sentences for the back cover of the second edition of Forgiveness and Child Abuse: Would YOU Forgive?, edited by Lois Einhorn. I was honored, having read and loved the first edition. It’s a collection of accounts of child abuse and thoughts on forgiveness by about fifty people, both famous and ordinary. Some of those chapters have stayed in my mind since 2006. I haven’t gotten a copy of the second edition yet, but its publication has started me ruminating on forgiveness.

Firefox kindly offers me about a dozen fascinating new articles a day to tempt me to procrastinate and expand my mind rather than do something productive. Today it was: “How to Forgive Someone Who Isn’t Sorry” by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.

I chose mind expansion. The article is written from interviews with Robert Enright, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who does research on the process of forgiving.and Laura Davis, co-author of The Courage to Heal. Enright has recently publishef a self-help workbook, Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.

As I understand what Enright and Davis are saying, forgiveness has nothing to do with your relationship with the other person. It’s an internal process, like learning to live with a ritual abuse past in a different way. 

I resonate with what Laura Davis says, “I think that forgiveness is something that comes at the end of a long process of healing, In my personal experience, it was a gift. I didn’t see it as the end goal of resolving an injury. I did my own work, and naturally, feelings of forgiveness arose.”

For me, a shift occurred after a long period of trying to figure out what happened in my family. I found a photograph of one of my primary abusers holding my father, as a child, in exactly the same position he held me in a later photograph. It dawned on me that my father had, in all probability, been subjected to the same treatment I had. I could then see his actions as connected to sexual and ritual abuse, and they felt less personal. It was his unconscious struggling to be heard. He wouldn’t have acted that way if he hadn’t been raised in a Satanic cult. 

It wasn’t long after that realization that I started to see how hard he had struggled to figure out what was wrong with him. I wish that he could have had the advantages I have – a growing societal awareness of trauma and its aftereffects, therapy for PTSD and trauma, and, perhaps most important, a social environment with survivors able to meet and talk to each other.

My rage melted, and I was filled with sadness and compassion. In my heart, my father had become just one more little boy who had been horribly hurt and whose life had been stunted and twisted by the experience. I figured that was the closest to forgiveness I could come.

Back to the article.

Enright sees four stages in the development of forgiveness.

1) The uncovering phase. Figuring out how being harmed has affected your life, what has worked to handle it, what hasn’t.

2) The decision phase. Do you want to forgive? Is this the right time? Are you being pressured? If you are willing to work toward forgiveness, try not to harm the person who wronged you. Don’t seek revenge, don’t talk badly about them.

3) The work phase. Try to see that person in context – this takes time, but empathy and compassion come with understanding. Don’t try to get rid of the pain. Sit with it, feel it, and it will naturally lessen.

4) The discovery phase. Have you changed? Are you more aware of how others are struggling? Are you more patient, less judgmental? 

In this framework, forgiveness isn’t acting as if nothing happened. It isn’t excusing the behavior. It isn’t seeking an apology or acknowledgement that you were hurt. It isn’t demanding accountability. It isn’t reconciliation. 

It’s an internal process; all the changes happen inside your mind and heart. And they benefit *you.* It’s not done for somebody else, not done out of a sense of obligation or duty, not done to achieve a goal. Most of it isn’t “done” at all; it just happens as a result of what you have already done. Just think…my process was kicked off by wanting to know more about my family. And then the hurt, rage, and pain softened and melted into sadness and compassion without any conscious effory. 

It seems that I only today recognized that I understood what forgiveness was all along. I was just struggling to fit it into somebody else’s definition.


Upcoming Holidays

3/20 Spring Equinox

4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/10 Palm Sunday
4/14 Maundy Thursday (commemoration of the Last Supper)
4/15 Good Friday
4/16 Holy Saturday
4/16 Full Moon
4/17 Easter Sunday
4/26 Grand Climax/De Meur
4/30 Partial solar eclipse visible in west South America and Antarctica.
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve

5/1 Beltane
5/8 Mothers’ Day
5/15 Full Moon
5/15 – 5/16 Total lunar eclipse visible in south and west Europe, south and west Asia, Africa, much North America, South America, and Antarctica.
5/21 (?) Armed Forces Day
5/26 (?) Ascension Day
5/30 Memorial Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups

3/17-18 Purim (Deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman in Persia)
4/15-4/23 Passover/Pesach (Celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark andlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)


You can find more information on the following holidays at:

Candlemas –
Valentine’s Day –
Spring Equinox –
Easter: personal (for background, see Spring Equinox) –
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve –
Beltane –
Mothers’ Day –
Fathers’ Day –
Summer Solstice (corrected text) –
Lammas –
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 –
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 –
Fall Equinox –
Halloween (personal) – 
Halloween (background) –
Thanksgiving –
Yule/Winter Solstice – 

My Father’s Birthday

My father’s birthday is tomorrow. If he were alive he would be 108 years old. I simply cannot imagine that. I don’t think that’s odd; I doubt if anybody can imagine a parent living to 108.

I had a consistently unhappy relationship with my father.

For the first few years of my life, I hardly knew what he looked like, even though we all lived in the same apartment. He had not wanted children, and when my brother or I entered a room he was in, he was, he would get up and walk out. He just couldn’t bear to see us.

Years later, I understood. He had been abused like I was, and by many of the same people. Although he wasn’t aware of this, unconsciously he didn’t want to pass on the abuse. And I give him a lot a credit for that. But my mother yearned for children, and so my brother and I were born despite his wishes.

When he returned after the war, he showed interest in me. He thought I was bright and talented and that it was his position to correct the mistakes my teachers were making. If he saw something I wrote, he covered the page with dense red annotations. I had to rewrite it including all his corrections.

He also did intrusive sexual things to me. Dancing with me (and dancing too close). He instituted a formal kiss when we said hello or goodbye to either parent and held me really close when kissing me. Kisses on the cheek turned into kisses on the mouth and then to French kisses. As I got older, he did things like ask me to go to “Deep Throat” with him. He had never before suggested we go to a movie together.

That was the day life. Night life was, to say the least, not as delicate.

A the end of his life, he called me to him and said I was the only one he could trust to follow his wishes. He did not want extraordinary measures taken to prolong his life. However, he felt I needed to know that if I did what he wanted, it would be considered murder in the State we lived in. So I was given the choice of murdering him or of torturing him on his death-bed. Thanks, Dad! I did nothing, and he died shortly afterwards.

For many years I was enraged and wished he would die. When he actually did, I panicked. It felt like the world was about to end. I was afraid to go to his funeral, but my cousin gave me some tracks and I managed to get through it. I was a wreck for about two years afterwards.

Later, I figured out that he had wanted me to take over his role in the cult and that I needed to kill him to do so. No wonder I was such a mess.

As the years passed and I got more and more information about the hidden part of my life, I came to a different understanding of his behavior. In my mind, he changed from my persecutor to just another person who had been horribly harmed from childhood by the cult. Just another victim. My hatred diminished as my understanding grew.

Today, I feel really sad that he did not have the chance to remember and change his life. He tried, I know he tried, but he could not break the amnesia. There was no knowledge of the effects of childhood trauma, even severe trauma, in his life time. Nobody talked about it, nobody was aware of it. Nobody was a “survivor” — e.g., aware of their abuse. Nobody could meet another survivor and realize that they weren’t the only one.

I am so very grateful that ritual abuse is talked about today, even though it is often mocked and denigrated. If it were not for the influence of twelve-step programs and the women’s movement, nobody would have permission to talk about taboo personal experiences. They fostered an openness, a willingness to speak about previously unspeakable things.

And so, when my first memories came crashing over me, others were already talking about ritual abuse and multiplicity. On television, even. That gave me permission to take my memories seriously and gave me, instantly, a welcoming community. If my parents had lived to experience a community of ritual abuse survivors, who knows, they might have been able to renounce the cult and become survivors themselves.

If my father’s spirit is in a better place, I only hope he now knows he is no longer alone, has forgiven himself, and knows that my feelings toward him have changed completely.