Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Thing About Forgiveness

Friday night I went to dinner with quite a few of my extended family members. Plenty of drinks and socializing, as we don't get together as often as we would like. I even had a vodka tonic, which is typically a no-no for gastroparesis patients.

When is Rome, right? Or Ria's (the name of the restraunt) rather :)

We had a jovial time, catching up, recounting events both happy and sorrowful. These are things families share with each other.

The danger happens, however, as soon as the fourth or fifth drink is consumed.

Some in my beloved family have restraint. Others do not. Others have an upper limit that seems to get higher and higher. But this is not ever addressed amongst ourselves. This is the little skeleton in the closet. Because most of us are such hard workers and so high functioning, what's wrong with a few drinks now and again?

And again and again and again

I won't got into details because there is no need. But basically I got into a HUGE argument with a close family member. Hurtful things were said. I had to get away as soon as possible, which is difficult to do when you cannot drive. And when you have an extremely difficult time regulating your emotions due to a lifetime riddled with strife, it turns the evening and night into a struggle to make it till dawn, where God's mercies are brand new. Every morning.

I was angry, and I wanted to give up completely. But I thought of the family that hurt me so. And despite the fact that one family member had done unspeakable injury, I knew I still could not leave them behind.

Today I got a phone call from the person who said all those horrible things to me. They do not remember what was said. I told this person they needed help. And they agreed.

In that moment, that anger was transformed into compassion. And it was in that instant that all that rage and hurt that had built up had shifted, and left forgiveness in its wake.

Just like that.

Yet, how many times do we face things that we consider unforgivable? I find this especially in the medical field. How dare a doctor treat me so cold, with such a lack of basic human respect? How dare a nurse ignore the fact that I am writhing in pain and still not believe me because "the tube is in the right place" (turns out that's been the problem the whole time).

When we hang on to these feelings of anger, rage, discontent, grudges...we only hurt ourselves. The people who have injured us rarely give their actions a second thought. Or they do not remember at all.

Forgiveness is not for the other person. When we choose (yes, choose) to hang on to the offense and not forgive, this gives them a power over us. We are, in essence, completely conquered and held prisoner in a cell that the offender led us to, but we willingly walked in and locked ourselves up

For some of us it feels safer not to forgive. It gives us an excuse for otherwise inexcusable behavior. Like slander, verbal abuse, or even outright harassment. It also feeds into the "poor me" attitude that most people who have been victimized get comfortable in. Well meaning friends tell the victim repeatedly that "you deserve better, no one should be allowed to do that, etc, etc, etc". While this type of support is necessary in the beginning, continued "support" in this manner only hurts the afflicted by not challenging them to move past the offense. Because if you are a powerless victim, you are powerless. About everything. Including your life and your road to recovery.

I only say this out of experience. I would not be able to type this if I hadn't been there myself. I've had to learn that the "victim" role is too easy to get comfortable in. I know this because a lot of horrible things have happened to me. What's worse, is that my family members do not believe me. And I sat in that victim mentality for a long, long time.

Until I realized that despite my struggles, I was waging a war off a lifetime. And victims do not fight back. They huddle in a corner and take the blows. When I realized that I no longer fit the victim mentality, I adopted a phrase I'd heard in PTSD counseling: "I REFUSE to be a victim"

Bad things will continue to happen in this world. Sometimes unspeakable horrors will befall us. But what do we do about it?

I hate the phrase "forgive and forget", because it is not reasonable. You cannot just readily wipe your memories away like they never happened. But you CAN forgive, and forgiveness is FOR YOU! It is for you so you can move on, and even develop kind and compassionate feelings toward those who've wronged you.

The cool thing about locking yourself into a prison cell, is that you still have the keys. And you can free yourself any time you choose to.

Forgive. And be free.

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