Sunday, January 23, 2011

Forgiveness and karma

Lately, I have had forgiveness on my mind. Mainly, forgiving others. I was reading a column about the importance to forgive in the newspaper the other day, and it really got me to thinking. Actually, this is a topic I will occasionally revisit, only because I have had a very hard time forgiving someone that did a Very Bad Thing to me long ago. I thought I had forgiven him, but because it still makes me angry, I guess I haven't.

That column I read really touched a nerve. It stressed that carrying around a grudge was unhealthy, and that even if the person who has wronged us does not ask for forgiveness, then we should still try to forgive them all the same. I know this is true, how carrying around a grudge can be unhealthy. But I just haven't been able to bring myself to forgive that person yet. He has never asked for forgiveness. In fact, he acts like he didn't do anything wrong. And even if I did forgive him, he'd laugh about it, thinking he got away with a crime.

In a way, he did....

The other day, I was thinking more on this. I always keep asking myself, "WHY did he do that to me? Why?" But I know the reason why. I KNOW it. The family he is in loves HIM more than any of the other family members, and he knows he could get away with anything because, in his mother's eyes, he could Do No Wrong. Also, he was the "special" one in the family. He was raised to believe he was superior to others. That is why he did what he did. I understand that. But I still get angry. That should NOT have happened.

But it did happen. I can't change the past. I believe that we can learn from the past and draw strength from it. But that has not happened, with this particular incident.

I also know that, because he is not remorseful, he would just do it again to somebody else. That is another reason why it's so hard for me to forgive him.

But I could write a whole book of reasons why I should not forgive him. The bottom line is, they are only excuses.

I don't need to forgive him for him. I need to forgive him for myself. It does trouble me that I have not.

All the same, this has made me think about other people out there who have had worst things visited upon them by bad people. Parents whose child was murdered. A child who was abandoned by a drug-addicted mother. I know there are people who have had worse. And I wonder, have they managed to forgive the wrongdoer?

I think if they can, then so can I.

And, you know, this isn't about vengeance. I don't want revenge. I just want closure on that part of my past. I want to stop getting angry over it. I want to heal that wound.

And as for vengeance, well, I am reminded of a quote from the Bible: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." When someone does something wrong to one person, something wrong is done to them. It's the law of karma, which I believe in. You get what you give. I have seen this in action. I have done bad things to people in the past, and I have had bad things happen to me in return. Sometimes, it's the exact same thing I did. (I was reminded of this today, in fact. Someone in my family who stiffed me ended up getting stiffed by another family member. What goes around comes around!) And, in fact, the person who did that to me has had bad things happen to him, too. You know, life has a way of balancing things out. An eye for an eye. So I have no interest in seeking vengeance.

Just...forgiveness. Peace. Closure.

I have prayed on this a lot. I will continue to pray on it. Hopefully someday, I will be able to forgive that wrongdoer. That is the one thing I must do before I can find peace. Forgive.

"When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive."-Alan Paton


Anonymous said...

Well this is a subject that is close to home for me. As you know my dad has alot of things he should be sorry for, and there is much to forgive him for. Many years ago I chose to forgive him, and I told him that I forgave him, but that I could not have him in my life if he was going to continue to hurt me. He did not understand and so I had to cut him out of my life for about 2 years. I had forgiven him but this did not mean I had to continue to subject myself to his abuse. At about the 2 year mark he began to write me again and again I explained it all to him. He sort of ignored me so I used a new tactic. This time when he would write me, I would completely ignore the abusive things, and only respond by talking about my kids and the weather and small talk. This worked for a while, but my dad is autistic, no social skill at all and he needs repeated reminders which I dont mind giving, and I dont think its terrible to kindly tell him he is stepping out of line.
He is in his 70's and my grandma died last year. I felt at the time of her funeral that he was somewhat vulnerable since he has lived with her his whole life, and I mistakenly told him I'd call him once a week to check on him.
For a while this was fine, and he really minds his p's and q's but things slip in that trigger bad memories for me, things he discusses with such joviality that its hurtful. Still I thought I could handle it. But guess what Dawn, though I say "I can handle it" my subconscious can't do it.

I have begun having nightmares about my childhood again and because of this I now have to find a way to NOT talk to him so often. Not because I don't forgive him, and not because I can't handle it, but because the real me, the subconscious me, says NO, you can't have this person in your life and be healthy.

Anonymous said...

The nightmares have led me to gain 13 lbs in 6 months, I can't sleep, I'm exhausted, can't exercise, can't be productive because my nightmares keep me up.

Now I have to just write him which worked for a long time and didnt cause nightmares (I think its the sound of his voice?) I have to live with my memories and no amount of forgiving him will make them go away. I feel that God will understand if I just write him letters and call only occasionally. He probably won't though, so I will have to lie and make up a reason I can't call. Oh sure, I could say "talking to you too often gives me nightmares" but I don't know how to say it, I just don't.
So the reason for all this is to tell you that while you can forgive someone, it will not make your painful memories go away, it will not make your thoughts of this person become nice ones. You can dislike him, but still forgive him, and for sure it is ok to protect yourself from further injury. Forgiving him also means understanding why he did such a thing.
You know my mom was an addict and chose her boyfriend over me, and I do forgive her because I know why she did that, she was perpetuating the abuse done to her and was too weak to stop the cycle. My dad, same thing only it was a different kind of weakness, his was from weakness of brain. My mother was smart and nothing wrong with her but abuse beat her to a pulp and she began to believe the horrible things done to her and her kids were ok. My dad was mentally ill and his illness caused him to not realize the harm he was doing.

Forgiveness also means one more very important thing. It means taking the hurt done to you, tossing it to the wind and never doing it to anyone else. If you can NOT perpetuate the abuse, and understand that while it may feel easy to you to not do that to someone else, realize it is not. The easy thing is to continue the cycle. The hard thing is to stop it and make a new cycle for your family to perpetuate, a good happy one. A cycle worth perpetuating.

What I see in your column here, is that you HAVE forgiven this person. You understand why he did it, and you have a great family and would never dream of hurting someone this way, and you want to forgive him. The problem is that society has some strange "rules" for forgiveness such as 'you have to be able to love that person again'.wrong. You have to be able to 'invite that person to your home'....wrong again. You have to be able to hang out with that person, no. You have to be able to smile in thought about that person, no.

None of these things is necessary for true forgiveness and memories do not equal a grudge. Dealing with what happened to you, understanding why it happened, and not letting it get you down, not perpetuating it, that is what forgiveness is.

Dawn Colclasure said...

Nancy, that is so true. There are so many "rules" and guidelines about what forgiveness is or isn't. I just KNOW I have not forgiven what this person did. And I still get angry about it. He had NO RIGHT. And it's not the abuse; I have forgiven THAT. This is something else that someone did to me when I was a teenager.

I'm really sorry to hear you are having those nightmares. That's horrible! I really, really hope that you make peace with that part of your past. I mean, you HAVE to, obviously. I have been praying for you.

The letter-writing is an interesting idea. Maybe I should try that. I just tell myself that person is not in my life anymore, he lives far away from me and he can't ever hurt me again. And this is what I focus my energy on. But even still, like I said, I carry this around. And I just don't want to anymore. Hopefully, if I write a letter, it will help me to heal. I won't mail it, but if I ever DO see him again, I will give him that letter and be done with it. I guess I just need to vent. Maybe communication will help resolve that.

And there is NOOO WAY I would ever do that to another person, even to my own children. I would never do that, because I am not a sicko like that and I know what it does to a person.

They deserve a better life than what I had. Gotta make sure they get one. :) That is another thing to focus energy on, too!

I never knew that about your mother. I am so sorry. I actually know someone who was abandoned by his drug-addicted mother. I hope that didn't open an old wound.