Forgiveness and Other Silly Ideas

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For the last week, I’ve been hanging. Just sitting. Sometimes the excitement bumps over so I thought I’d share.

I’ve read other blogs and commented lightly, kept up with emails, done a little work for a new friend. At the moment, I’m eating eggs and spinach. If envy hasn’t swamped your boat just yet, give it a minute.

*pause and think calmly whilst I finish eggs*

Thoughts go running by, most of which are not the least bit naughty. I killed several spiders but did not think badly of them for hiding in my covers preparing to nibble my flesh.  I took a few cleansing breaths before sending them on to spider heaven. I did not hold their wicked ways against them for, you see, that’s how spiders are. The very nature of spiderhood involves skulking and nibbling. You can’t fault a spider for acting like an arachnid.

I took several walks of a tranquil and peaceful nature and was sniffed inappropriately by a dog. This is not funny. In fact, it’s quite invasive. My thoughts remained all peaceful and stuff for, after all, dogs sniff. They tend to like aromas of a personal nature. They lick their backsides for goodness sake. I hold no grudge against this or any other pup for sniffing inconveniently. I did, however, glare at the owner who should  have used a regular leash instead of a twenty foot retractable line particularly with a dog prone to olfactory mishaps. After a few moments of near-naughtiness, I moved on with my life.

Ida Mae (you may be asking)—this is way cool but why-oh-why are you tormenting  us with the minutia of your serene and peaceful ordinariness?

*pause and discuss amongst yourselves whilst I get tea*

 

The Part Where The Accuser of the Brethren Shifts Blame. We are all Quite Shocked Really.

When I left the beast, I was accused of many things. Most are not appropriate for a PG-13 blog such as this, however two of the most common (and least interesting) come to mind.

  • I was told the anti-husband was not angry, no sir. Indeed, I was the one with anger issues. I even received a book in the mail on just this subject from one of his helpful new friends.
  • I was accused of the sin of unforgiveness and informed that I would not have my own sins forgiven. (The beast is quite helpful with it comes to scriptural interpretations and such, especially as applied to my flawed and deficient selfhood.)

Because I really do care, these accusations bother me. I do not want to be a bitter, angry woman going through life biting the heads off small animals. So what’s a girl to do?

This one prays a bunch. I ask the Father to reveal those things hidden in my heart He doesn’t much like. Through long years of association, I know He’s faithful to do just that. Most recently, He released me from this fear that I’m carrying about  a root of bitterness inside a heart too hard to know any different.

Let’s Be Clear

For decades now, I’ve taught the kids we are not responsible for someone else’s behavior. We are only responsible for our reaction to that behavior.

Be angry– sin not.

Anger in its purest form is not a sin. It is neutral, like any other emotion in a range the Lord provided. God gets plenty angry. Just like everything else, anger has a purpose.

We all know anger can be  mishandled. “Do not let the sun go down on  your wrath.” Right?  Anger dwelt upon, buried deep, allowed to ferment below the surface can lead to sin. The scripture describes this as a root of bitterness, springing up, defiling many. Pretty accurate description all around.

So am I angry? Not really. In fact, I had to *become* angry before I could find the motivation to finally leave.

I needed the energy, the force, the strength within the emotion to propel me to righteousness—to doing right actions. The fancy term for this is righteous indignation. I had to stop making excuses for inexcusable behavior, force my eyes wide-open to see the wrong done to my children. I had to get up and walk out, knowing I was right to remove them from the reach of someone who continually and purposefully harmed them at every opportunity.

But I do not live in a state of perpetual rage. I’ve got my moments sure but anger is not my go-to emotion. When I see injustice I feel sorrow. When I hear another victim’s story, I feel their pain within my own. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I figure their mommy didn’t teach them any better.

And when I recall abusive events, I bleed. I am not an angry person.

Unforgiveness?

Forgiveness is another matter.  I firmly believe half the reason I couldn’t  get free of abuse? Too much forgiveness.

*lets pause and think calmly on this whilst you put away your stones*

Our definition of forgiveness is much too squishy. My definition of forgiveness followed the typical party line:

  • Make Excuses
  • Find a Rational (rotten childhood, poor upbringing)
  • Forget (pretentious really but most of us are pretty good at faking)
  • Wipe the Slate Clean
  • Move on and Keep Quiet (never mention it again)

Forgiveness doesn’t broadly encompass all topics. We need to make finer distinctions. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation nor is it co-joined with a case of self-induced amnesia.

We do not become suddenly stupid.

I forgave on a regular and continual basis. I did not hold a record of accounts nor did I demand repayment. In fact, with every infraction, we started all over. The problem here is the beast never actually repented nor did he *ask* for forgiveness. How could he when he believed he did no wrong? He was sorry all right—sorry he got caught, sorry I was upset, sorry I was rocking his boat with my feelings. He wanted me to shut up and move on so he could go back to doing the exact same thing, over and over and over.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Reconciling with someone who has not changed, nor has the slightest inclination to do so
  • Pretending nothing ever happened
  • Giving someone a free pass to start all over with no account for past behavior

Forgiveness means we do not pursue our own course of vengeance but turn the matter over to the Heavenly Court. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Sometimes we forget that second part.

Our Father has promised to repay our enemies. When we forgive, we let go and let God be Who He is– Righteous King and Judge. We can do this because we believe and acknowledge His position, power and authority and we trust His wisdom and timing.

This whole subject of forgiveness came to a screeching crescendo in my mind and heart when a dear friend of mine stepped way outside her comfort zone and shared her agonizing story. Right now, she  is going through her own version of hell. In fact, she endured yet another slapdown just this morning.

Years ago, she found herself in a tight spot and took something that belonged to another. In time, she was caught and sentenced. She spent years faithfully repaying her debt. There is no doubt she repented and has offered her heartfelt apology again and again. The aggrieved party,  however, will not let go. This person hounds and pursues,  intent on destroying her life, livelihood, and peace of mind.

The former victim has become the abuser.

That’s unforgiveness.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

I have forgiven the beast but this time around, my eyes remained wide open. I recognize he has never repented. He has never acknowledged the sin of abusing, berating, and bullying his own family on a broad scale, much less apologized for the hundreds and hundreds of incidents he created along the way to punish us for our many sins against him. He fully believes that everything is the fault of one person and one person only (and that would be me.) Even now, when no one from his immediate family will have a thing to do with him, he refuses to accept any responsibility.

That’s fine. It’s now between him and his Maker. Someday, he will answer for what he’s done.

Perhaps with time, he’ll actually repent. That’s fine too, but I’m not counting on it.

After all, what can you expect? Like spiders and dogs, he just did what came natural.

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16 responses »

  1. Ida Mae – why is this simple concept of forgiveness so hard to understand? Why are there all of these unbiblical traditions being foisted on us by fellow Christians and pastors and…. abusers? I think it makes them feel touchy feeley and mushy warm inside (not the abuser – he’s just out to pervert and control). And I think it strokes their egos. That is, until it is they themselves or someone very close to them who suddenly is on the receiving end of abuse. When a little girl was sexually abused in our circle of friends, pious and eminent pillars of the faith were quick to start preaching to the parents about their unforgivenss of the perpetrator and giving lectures to them about how IF IT HAD BEEN THEIR OWN CHILD….the would have…. Right. You bet.

    • The current teaching on forgiveness is horribly damaging. The real deal is hard enough, but folks want to heap a burden right on top making it impossible to walk out.

    • You are absolutely right about that~ Sometimes just getting the poison out, makes things better. Sometimes the support of good friends helps. In this case, I’m thinking its both 🙂

  2. I found the following paragraph from your blog eye opening. What could possibly be any better than offering up the offender, in your case the beast, to God’s wrath? Wow! If I found myself on the receiving end, it would strike fear in my heart.

    “Forgiveness means we do not pursue our own course of vengeance but turn the matter over to the Heavenly Court. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Sometimes we forget that second part.

    I

    • Mine too, but that’s because I fear God (in a healthy way I hope. Matthew 10:28).

      There’s no way I could properly judge the situation I find myself in. Too many words, too much confusion, an overabundance of high flying emotions.

      Repeatedly throughout this ordeal, I find myself saying, The Lord judge between me and thee while we are apart from one another. I can rest, knowing my Father’s taking care of things.

  3. Thank you, Ida Mae. This subject of forgiveness is EXACTLY what I have been wrestling through these days. I have thought that if I forgive, I have to return. Or that my unwillingness to return proves I have not forgiven him. Or the fact that I cannot trust him means I have not forgiven him. After reading your post and a few over on Jeff’s blog, I’m beginning to see things a little more clearly. Thank you.

    • That’s what you’d call the typical double-bind– damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Abusive people are masters at putting their victims inside that cage. It’s a classic example– “You must forgive, God says so. If you forgive, you must return. If you do not return, you haven’t forgiven.” And the hamster wheel goes round and round and. . .

      I think Christians have allowed abusive people to define the terms for years now. (If folks don’t realize that pastors, elders, teachers, etc. can be abusive, I’ve got a list of former pastor’s wives they need to talk to pronto.) How convenient to combine forgiveness with reconciliation, trust and forgetfulness!

      Its almost always the abusive person *demanding* forgiveness and reconciliation on their own terms. Their recruits will parrot the same stuff (lay people, followers, blind following the blind, new wives or girlfriends in delusion).But boy! Can those voices get inside our head and work us over

  4. Sheer perfection.

    I think this piece may be THE very best and clearest explanation of what forgiveness is – and isn’t – that I’ve ever read. Powerful, real, honest – and grounded in truth.

    You captured it.

    Bravo!

    Cindy

  5. Ida Mae, once again you express my thoughts, and then some.

    I’m still at the very simple response — when he lectures me about forgiveness — that I can’t forgive him faster than he can keep sinning against me.

  6. Ida Mae, I laughed uproariously at your spider and dog stories. You are a gem. A one off. You got my endorphins flowing again, with that little preface. *Hugs!*

    On a more topic-related note, readers may like to check out the article on my website by Bob Kerrey called “Forgiveness: What it is, and what it is not”
    http://www.notunderbondage.com/pdfs/BobKerreyForgivenessSermon.html

    I know I’m way late reading and commenting here, but thanks everyone for all your comments.

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