Forgiveness : a high price?

I am reflecting a lot on forgiveness lately.  Part of us when hurt wants to exact a retribution of kinds or at least block love from flowing back to the source of the hurt because perhaps we feel this is the only way we can hold onto a boundary and escape the pain of more hurt.  And by all means consciousness demands we find out who is hurtful to us most often from their own unconscious pain and wounded.

I always loved the saying “hurt people, hurt people”.

I shared earlier in a blog that I was so angry when I learned of something intensely hurtful my brother did to his daughter yesterday.  I felt anger burning through me like wild fire.  Maybe it triggered my own wounds, I am not sure but I was so impressed by my niece’s reaction.  She clearly owned the damage and lack of love in both parent’s as well as the unresolved hurt.

Maybe it might help more of us if we saw this kind of unfeeling narcissistic abuse as the outgrowth of an evolutionary pathway in which older generations were not allowed to feel hurt or pain or were humiliated or emotionally abandoned by a parent stunting permanently their own empathy.

In his excellent book on narcissism therapist Alexander Lowen shares his insight into how much early humiliation in childhood can lead people to develop a narcissistic defence, blocking feelings of vulnerability and deep anger at violation which then being disallowed may often permanently disable the person turning them into a rationaliser or someone who avoids further emotional pain by becoming a people pleaser or adopting a false self, or alternatively shutting them down emotionally and leading them to project rejected vulnerability towards others, most often children who act it out then get shamed, exiled or scapegoated all over again.

The way out of this dilemma involves owning the anger, to re-engage the assertive impulse for self care and self protection and end the shaming that can be internalised.  Holding onto the anger helps keep the defence in place, turning too soon towards forgiveness may mean being open to more abuse.  But in the long run some letting go of intense anger may need to take place as anger that hardens into resentment can become corrosive and lead to physical and emotional problems.

The next step often lays in realising the damage in the person that caused the pain.  Seeing they were once a vulnerable child defenceless against a parent’s inner conflicts or aggression or splitting of and hardening of feeling.  In my brother’s case I see why he may have had to shut down his sensitivity early on.  I know some of the things my Dad did to him in the late 1940s that were punishing and over the top. Last year he also revealed a bit about the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Christian brothers.

I asked my Mum if she was aware of this abuse and she said that no, my brother just came home and hung his school coat on the wall and quietly went off saying nothing.  I felt so sad for him when he told me that story in June last year I wrote a blog about it.

When I felt the anger to my brother I wondered at my right to judge someone who was acting out of buried pain.  I almost considered that I never want to have contact with him again on the other side and then questioned that.  Then today I read this on forgiveness :

Forgiveness is a selective remembering of what someone did right, at a time when the ego mind is shrieking about what someone did wrong  We always have a choice about where to focus – whether to blame someone or to bless someone.  I can concentrate my attention on what you did wrong, or I can seek to remember a moment when you tried to do right.  Although the ego insists that you don’t deserve it, the spirit absolutely know that you do.  And my ego has an ulterior motive, in seeking to attack you, it is seeking secretly to attack me.  Only when I remember who you really are (an innocent child of God, regardless of your mistakes) can I remember who I am (an innocent child of God, regardless of mine.)

Condemning another person, while it might give us a few moments of temporary relief, will always boomerang and make us feel worse.  If I attack you, you will attack me back – or at least I’ll think you did.  In terms of how consciousness operates it doesn’t matter who attacked first, who ever attacks feels attacked.

Forgiveness takes us off the wheel of suffering. It delivers us to quantum realms beyond time and space, when thoughts of guilt have marred neither your innocence nor mine.  This is summed up by Rumi “Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  There, in this space of no-thing the universe miraculously self corrects.  In the presence of love, things automatically return to divine right order.  That which the ego has made imperfect is returned to the track of divine perfection, releasing possibilities for healing that would not other wise exist :

I’m sorry

I’m sorry, too.

Simple worlds, and how much better those words are than the ego’s alternative.

Mmm, but what of the person who when you say sorry, uses that as an opening to deny or as a weapon to beat you over the head with?  I was warned of this in my last relationship with a narcissist, to be aware that apologising to someone such as he may be used against me and it was.  In this case it was his ego that had shut down and locked the door and I could do nothing about it but walk away, knowing I was powerless and in time knowing that the price of holding onto the outrage was too much to bear, that in the end letting go and allowing the person to be shut down was the only way to become free, knowing I deserved something else.

Forgiveness, it most certainly is a thorny issue.  There are times I was slighted and could only see the wrong and the hurt and anger eclipsed other things that were right, so I do agree with some of what Marianne Williamson writes in that quote above but I still have some reservations and I wondered what others think of it?  Maybe you might like to comment below.  If we are repeatedly hurt and other refuse to own up, surely its in our best interests to keep a wide berth.

11 thoughts on “Forgiveness : a high price?

  1. I have a strong opinion on forgiveness and those who say you have to forgive your perpetrators to heal. I believe that healing begins when we learn to forgive ourselves for believing the lies our abusers told our souls. Thats where healing begins.
    Im talking about our abusers in this comment, not the “normal-stuff” we may have with others in life.

    1. Yes as there is a difference between those two things, Alexis. I think all my problems have come from not setting boudaries with abusers and being too compassionate because they are damaged. Thank you for your thoughts. Deborah

  2. I agree, give perpetrators a wide berth, stop playing their game, or if they’re family, have as much distance from them as possible. We are not obligated to forgive perpetrators, we are however, responsible for ourselves. Forgiving our own soul for naivety, for helplessness at being too small, etc… it releases a great deal of poison and pain and allows a healthy bridge to form, between the inner child and your soul. Learning to trust your own inner voice is far more important than obsessing about whether it is morally right and just, to forgive a perpetrator. Only your soul can make that judgement, and it will, when it is ready. Self compassion is by far, the best healing method – when you’ve been starved of any emotional comforts, self compassion is soooo soothing!

  3. This is a tough one, for sure. I’ve been wrestling with forgiveness vs standing up for myself vs letting things go vs anger vs peace….so hard!

  4. I certainly have felt compassion for my siblings, my mother and father. I’ve also felt sorry for my father, knowing the difficulty he had growing up with a father who favored my uncle.

    But it’s clear my uncle was damaged and in fact seemed to be more damaged from what I know and what I’ve seen. It is sad how this is all passed down. I think about my brother and how I bullied him when we were kids. That is likely because how my father was treating me. I often wonder if I’d have been more loving toward him back then if my father had not been so emotionally abusive.

    I get the same way about my mother. Her upbringing was different than my father’s but she had an abusive father as well. He was also a player who cheated on my grandmother.

    It’s my sister I have little compassion for because she seems to be the most narcissistic and I call her the ring leader. So that may allow for more compassion for my brother and mother maybe a little but really only because she’s ‘worse’ than them. Not because I don’t see them as responsible for their own behaviors as adults.

    I go with the wide berth option. But that’s me.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing all of that. I do think our compassion depends a lot on how much true remorse is shown as some abuse seems to be less deliberate than others.
      And its great to hear a take that seems to be more open minded. I was starting to feel a bit alone in that place.
      Really appreciate you sharing ST. ❤

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