Thursday, March 13, 2008

how do you forgive?

reading blogs today i came across this post by mom to the screaming masses about forgiveness and forgiving. the poor lady has to read this in her comments section (yes, i wrote the incoherent babbling you are about to read below).
"i don't even know what to say. i mean, i think that forgiveness
is SO important because it truly only affects US when we don't forgive. we sit
there, harboring so much anger and resentment, and it's not like the person you
haven't forgiven is living with those feelings. only you are.
in the situation with my dad, i'm not angry anymore about what he's done. i feel truly indifferent and i just have nothing to say to him, so i don't speak to him. does
that mean i haven't forgiven? i'm not sure. i'm not holding onto anger or
bitterness or rage or anything like that- but how do you define true
forgiveness? are you supposed to act as if nothing was done wrong and carry on
like before the event occurred? i can't believe that to be true. so i'm trying
to find balance for myself. because i believe that he did not and does not care
about my feelings, so i have to be the one who does (dur)...... so i search
for what is right for me.
i don't want to hold on to anything negative, but i'm not sure i've let it all go yet either.
i am making no sense, but i do love to ramble."
so i've been thinking about what i wrote. and what she said. and the other posts i read as well. and i'm trying to think about this whole situation with my father. and how he cheated on my mom, left her, didn't talk to me for well over a year, didn't attend my wedding, etc. even when i write that, i have no anger. the anger has faded. all the anger that existed at the beginning has slowly, but surely, faded with time. is there hurt and sadness? yes. but do i loathe or hate my father? i do not. i don't feel those feelings towards him. but there is indifference. a whole hell of a lot of indifference. and just not really feeling much of anything (isn't that indifference jackass?). so what does that mean? does that mean i'm still angry? because i don't feel angry. if any emotion stems from the indifference, it's sadness. there are so many other things too that go into the complexity of this relationship. like the loss of respect. feeling like you don't know who they are as a person at all really. finding it difficult to have a conversation with them because you can "see through" the things they say. i think indifference is a sign i still haven't truly dealt with the situation (no shit sherlock).

i think it would all be so much easier if my dad apologized (instead of blamed) and maybe tried to offer solutions (instead of putting the "ball in my court" all the time) or actually attempted to mend bridges. he's always saying it's a 2 way street, and while i'm sure it is, when i'm not the one who did the wrong doings, why should i be the one going out of my way to right them? i don't think i should. so i don't. and either does he. and so here we are. with a damaged relationship that definitely affects me and hangs over my head... and heart. i don't know where you go from here when you're not sure what you want.

and then even more confusing is what seems to be the "requirement" for forgiveness- forgetting. but how can you truly forget? and are you never truly forgiving someone, if you aren't forgetting what they've done? it's all so confusing. and overwhelming. and lord knows i do not want to carry these karmic bullshit ties with me in the next life, so i had better get it together in this one! i just don't see how it's mentally possible to ever forget. i mean, unless it was something petty and stupid. but when it's something major, do you forget? maybe you just aren't supposed to not bring it up again- or throw it in the person's face- or use it against them. obviously, you're not going to wipe it from your memory. have i forgiven my father if i don't choose to better the relationship? does forgiveness have requirements? and how can you require certain things of each individual and each instance?

good lord. talk to me about forgiveness people and how it has positively or negatively affected your life. thank you mtsm for inspiring this post today- sorry it rides on your post but obviously it struck a nerve.


Alison said...

I have forgiven my dad for what he did. I think forgiving him came when I saw that my mom was herself again. When she was hurting, it was impossible to forgive him. I haven't forgotten what he did and I never will, but I don't let that stand in the way of our relationship any more. Things aren't the same as they used to be, but I've realized that life is short and I don't want this to be a regret when I (or he) leave this world. We have a special relationship and I can't hold a grudge against someone I love that much.

denise said...

Forgiveness does not always mean that the relationship continues, forgiveness is for healing yourself. forgetting is impossible and I don't think remembering the bad stuff means you haven't forgiven, wounds heal but the scars are still left behind reminding us of the original wound whether we want them to or not. I have family that I refuse to have contact with, I don't feel bad about it because the only love lost was one sided, my sided. You have to do what is right in your heart, for you and your family's health and happiness because that's all that really matters. In my humble opinion that is.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm thrilled that you babbled! Thanks so much for responding to my OWN ravings.

I have no help for you - I'm a mixed up mess all on my own self.

And this dumb form won't let me sign in, but it's Carmen from Mom to the Screaming Masses.

Theresa said...

Jen, I often think about you and this situation you seem to come back to. I haven't been in your position so I can't even imagine how hurt you are. I do understand about unconditional love though and showing it as an example to my children. If you ever did anything so hurtful to your son, how would you want him to react? He is learning by watching you. He is learning about being horribly hurt, watching you heal from this hurt and watching your next step. I think you have done a fanastic job with what has happened. The next step is probably a big one now that the pain is gone. Forgiveness is not forgetting everything, it's truly a gift we give ourselves and our family. No matter what my children do, even if, lets say, they committed murder, it will never change my relationship with them. I might not like what they do, but I love them unconditionally, like you love your son. They know that and I believe it is one of the most important-est lessons I have ever showed them. I had my former husband do what your dad did and my kids watched me almost die from the pain. But a few years later I could see him and not even care about what he did back then, I felt so free and have grown so much. Forgiveness is a choice. It's as simple as that. And difficult.

McMama said...

I don't know your whole story but it sounds a lot like mine - My father left my mom when she was pregnant with me. I contacted him when I was 12 and found out he had promptly knocked up another woman after leaving my mom (I had a half brother I'd never met). He left her, too but remained a part of my brother's life. But I digress. I lived with him for 6 months my freshman year and hardly saw him. I always felt my stepmother's daughter was "his little girl" like I had never gotten to be and held a lot of bitterness about that. Since then he's been in and out of my life, mostly out.

Theresa made the point about your kids, and that's exactly what I'm struggling with - I don't care much to bring my father back into my life because I don't want my kids going through with their grandfather the (repeated) heartbreak I went through with my father. They hae four grandparents already who adore them and are actually a part of their lives. They don't know my father exists, don't know what I've suffered, or the lingering sadness I feel for never having had a father. I don't want them to watch me struggle and be hurt by him, either.

So what does forgiveness mean? A renewal of trust? I forgave my father at age 12 and brought him back into my life, trusting he wouldn't abandon me again. But he did, just as you said, by "putting the ball in my court" (I think those were his exact words) and not bothering to contact me and try to be a part of my life. Why would I open myself and MY KIDS up to that again? If that's what forgiveness is, you can count me out.

(and now YOU have the giant comment - from a stranger, no less - and maybe I have a post to write)

Becky said...

i think its way impossible to forget. you totally know my situation with a certain close family member and how i still struggle with forgiving her and letting it all go. its so hard to do. and i relate s much with that balance of forgiveness and forgetting and all that. sorry youre going through this. if you figure it out tell me how cuz i still am way lost on it all.

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Christina said...

Wow, this post really speaks to me. I'm in the process of making what could be the decision to finally walk away from any relationship from my father, and the idea of forgiveness has been on my mind, too.

My father was barely in my life as a child and teen, although it was always my fault somehow and it was always up to me to take the first step in anything.

He disowned me right before my wedding because my mom was walking me down the aisle, then two years later appeared out of nowhere the day my first daughter was born, as if nothing had happened. I've had an uneasy relationship with him, not able to forget the past, but trying to move on and give him a chance - until he found my blog last month and went off the deep end.

Now I'm starting to wonder if it's better to not forgive and write him off instead. I don't feel angry or hurt about the situation - just numb and indifferent. And I think that numbness tells me its not worth trying anymore.

Thanks for this post. It feels reassuring to know I'm not the only one dealing with issues like this.

Gidge said...

Regardless of how "unhealthy" it might be, sometimes I neither forgive or forget. I just shelve it.
Can't fix it, can't undo it...and well....I just move on.
Surprisingly I find that if I don't think about stuff, eventually it loses its meaning to me.
Totally unhealthy I'm sure. Remember this comment when I climb a bell tower......