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. https://www.vox.com/22967752/how-to-forgive-someone-who-isnt-sorry-wont-apologize?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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.

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Upcoming Holidays

March
3/20 Spring Equinox

April
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.  https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/solar/2022-april-30
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve

May
4
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. https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2022-may-16
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.)

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You can find more information on the following holidays at:

Candlemas – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: personal (for background, see Spring Equinox) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/ 
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ 
Halloween (background) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/ 

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness

I came across this quote by Alec Nove, who I had never heard of, “To understand is not to forgive. It is simply better than the alternative, which is not to understand.”

My first reaction was, “Yeah, that’s true!” and my second was, “I don’t get it.”

I know that when I understand a situation, my feelings about it shift. For example, when I realized that my parents were treated, as children, the same way they treated me, I stopped hating and blaming them and started viewing them with compassion. Then my feelings toward myself shifted. I relaxed inside and stopped looking for danger, stopped being on high alert all the time. It was a tremendous relief!

Figuring out that they had been abused as children didn’t occur until after they both were dead and I had remembered my own abuse. I was as if I saw them in a mirror, and the mirror was me, if that makes any sense.

I often wonder how our relationship would have changed if I could have stopped walking on eggshells around them and simply watched their behavior and approached them with curiosity. I know I would have been more interested in their lives and asked more questions. It probably would have been a spiral: the more I learned, the more I would have understood, and the more I would have relaxed around them.

Of course, I might have learned something that would have sent me running out of the room screaming. I will never know!

But where does forgiveness come in? I have never quite understood the concept of forgiveness. Do other people think understanding automatically includes forgiveness? What is forgiveness, anyway?

Does it mean admitting the other person is right after all?
Does it mean forgetting what happened?
Does it mean deciding the action was okay?
Or that you love the person just as much, even though they did something that hurt you?
Or that you “get” where they are coming from?

Often, when I am confused, I look a word up in the dictionary. This definition is from The Free Dictionary at https://www.thefreedictionary.com/forgive.

“to forgive: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender): to give up resentment of or claim to requital: to grant relief from payment or forgive a debt

  1. To give up resentment against or stop wanting to punish (someone) for an offense or fault; pardon.
  2. To relent in being angry or in wishing to exact punishment for (an offense or fault).
  3. To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example).”

This dictionary goes on to define synonyms for forgive:
Synonyms: forgive, pardon, excuse, condone
These verbs mean to refrain from imposing punishment on an offender or demanding satisfaction for an offense. The first three can be used as conventional ways of offering apology. More strictly, to forgive is to grant pardon without harboring resentment: “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them” (Oscar Wilde).
Pardon more strongly implies release from the liability for or penalty entailed by an offense: After the revolution all political prisoners were pardoned.
To excuse is to pass over a mistake or fault without demanding punishment or redress: “Valencia was incredibly generous to these deadbeats. She memorized their poetry and excused their bad behavior” (David Sedaris).
To condone is to overlook an offense, usually a serious one, and often suggests tacit forgiveness: Failure to protest the policy may imply a willingness to condone it.

I’m still not satisfied.

I’m happy to give up my anger or resentment, but I want offenders to be accountable for their actions. I don’t desire punishment, or retribution, but I do desire a sincere apology and reparations, when possible, plus a change in behavior. Without seeking accountability, I would be saying, “Oh, don’t worry, that’s okay by me.” Ritual abuse, academic/government mind control experimentation, and child pornography is not okay by me, and it never will be.

“Excuse” and “condone” mean, to me at least, that I’ll go along with the behavior. Or that, under the circumstances, the behavior is reasonable or moral. I can never, under any circumstances, excuse or condone the rape or torture of any living being.

Killing – well, that’s a little different. I don’t like to kill ants, but I will do it if they enter my house. Bedbugs and cockroaches, too. Other insects I carefully scoop up and take outside. And I have no qualms taking antibiotics to kill bacteria that are making me sick.

I also eat meat, poultry, and fish, even though I feel guilty for doing so. I therefore condone the killing of these living things. I can’t say I excuse my actions, for if I did, I wouldn’t feel guilty. And I don’t pardon myself, because I didn’t break a law or do anything wrong by my society’s standards.

I’m not sure if I ever forgive myself for anything, since I’m not sure what forgiveness really means. My gut feeling is that I reserve forgiveness for things stemming from distortions caused by the abuse. I tell myself, “I forgive myself for feeling dirty, or stupid, or not human. These are lies they told me. It was not my fault I believed them, because I was only a little kid. I have always been clean, smart, and fully human.”

I guess I do understand the meaning of forgiveness after all. I see that I define it by the heart’s actions, not by the logic the mind offers. I just know, deep down, what it is.

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Upcoming Holidays

December
Sundays of advent: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
12/14 New moon
12/14 Total solar eclipse. Totality will be visible in Chile and parts of Argentina. Partial eclipse will be visible in southern South America and south-east Africa. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-december-14
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/29 Full moon
12/31 New Year’s Eve

January
1/1 New Year’s Day
1/6 (?) Epiphany/Three Kings’ Day
1/7 St Winebald’s Day
1/13 New Moon
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/18 (?) Martin Luther King Jr. Day
1/20 (?) St. Agnes’ Eve
1/28 Full moon

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
11/29 -12/16 Chanukah/Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)

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* You can find more information on the following holidays at: 
Thanksgiving https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/ 
Candlemas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: (personal) For background, see Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/

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* How to add a comment after a post This blog’s design makes it hard to figure out how to comment. Go down to the bottom of the post (after the calendar) You will see in light grey type: “RATE THIS” tagged (a list of the tags) (the number of) comments” Click on the word “comments” to open all posted comments.

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