From Tracie: -Forgiveness Questions

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

-Forgiveness Questions

Today is a day for thinking about forgiveness. I saw a video about it today on my friend's facebook (I would share it, but I have no idea how to get it from there to here, so instead I will just tease you with it) and it got me thinking. Depending on who you ask, you will get all kinds of answers to questions about forgiveness - who should I forgive, why should I forgive, what does forgiveness mean. On the video I saw there was a quote from one of the victims from the Virginia Tech shooting, Mary Karen Read, it was from her last journal entry, "When deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive. Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future."

I agree with that.

I think I agree with that. 

In all honesty, I know that it sounds good, but I am not sure that I know what it means.  I am sure about the first part.  Forgiveness is an essential part of the healing process.  It is the second part I am a little hung up on.  Obviously forgiveness can't change the past, but does it enlarge the future?  What does that mean?

I think the problem could be my view of forgiveness.  I have worked hard to forgive.  I've done it because I understand the Biblical principle of forgiveness, I see all that the Lord has forgiven me and I know that I should forgive also.  I've done it as part of the healing process - amid lots of advice about being able to move on.  I've participated in what feels like hundreds of discussions about "forgive doesn't equal forget" and similar issues. I've felt firsthand the peace that can come with forgiveness.

After all of this, lately, I have been wondering.....what comes next?  When I think about my father, it has been almost five years since we have talked.  Now, as a side note I should explain that forgiveness or not, there will not even be a question of a relationship with him unless certain expectations have been met.  They are not big things, and he knows exactly what they are, but still he doesn't do them.  I think that is where my problem is coming in.  I went into the big confrontation conversation with him after years of thinking about what I would say.  I prayed and did a lot of work before that conversation.  I forgave him before I even set it up.  I made sure that I was walking into that conversation for all of the "right reasons".  I was sure of my position and ready to hear him out in an effort to move forward. Even after all of that I wasn't prepared for his response, although I should have been.  Looking back at it, the reaction he had really was exactly what I should have expected, but at the time I was hoping for better from him.  I was hoping that for once he would be honest and open and maybe put someone else's feelings before his own.  I thought that he would want that relationship with me (and not just me, but also his granddaughter).  But instead he evaded and yelled and beat on the table and ran away (I mean, he literally ran from the bench we were sitting on to get to his car)

When it was over I walked away secure in the fact that I had given him a chance, and I had left a door open for him to be able to spend his own time thinking things through and hopefully come back and ask for another conversation with me.  I was sad, but I was also at peace.  I started working towards moving my life forward, to gaining a new level of healing.  I had a marriage and a child and life and eventually homeschooling just to name a few things that I was doing, but in the back of my mind there was this thought......why doesn't he love me.  I mean, all of the abuse aside and everything that happened while I was a child (the things that were his fault and the things that weren't) I always told myself that he loved me.  But now, it is coming up on five years.  Five years and no phone call, no letter, not even a smoke signal. 

I cope with this.  Usually I don't even think about it.  But a week or so ago, I got back in touch with a cousin I had not seen or heard from in ten years.  He writes me an email, and in the note asks about my parents.  Such a simple question with such a complicated response.  So I tell him truthfully that my mom is great and that I haven't been in touch with my dad for five years.  His response...I'm still waiting, and obsessing over what he is thinking as he reads that.  And all of that obsessing has brought my father right up to the forefront of my mind and that question, why doesn't he love me is right there nagging at me.  All of my coping techniques and positive thoughts and the self-esteem that I have gained seems lost in this one question.  And I begin to doubt myself, I begin to wonder did I ever forgive him?  And I think about this quote and wonder, has my future been enlarged?  Is that what was supposed to happen, because if it is I have to admit that right now I can't even concentrate on my future (even when lots of stuff is up in the air for us right now and it is exactly the thing I should be concentrating on) because I am left wondering....was there a time when he ever did love me?


  1. Gah---that's a hard question to ponder, and one that just might eat you alive if you let it. :-(

    When my dad killed himself, I spent a lot of time wondering the same thing---if he truly loved us, loved me, how could he do such a terrible, irrevocable thing?

    Took a lot of years to come to peace with it and him. Hang in there, don't let it overwhelm you.


  2. Hi Tracie,

    Well forgiveness is the biggie, alright. I don't know if any of us totally get it.

    I ended my relationship with my mother about 7 years ago after finally realizing she was never going to hold herself accountable for anything. Not only would she not tell the truth about the past, she was still (verbally and emotionally) abusing me. I used to think that as a Christian I was obligated to let her be a part of my life. I don't believe that anymore.

    I had no control as a child over who was in my life, and what they did to me. As an adult I do have a say in these matters. My mother is toxic. Forgiving her is one thing (and I'm working on it), but how can I have a relationship with someone whose whole life is based on lies and greed?

    The book of Proverbs says a lot about the importance of not hanging out with fools or the godless, etc. Why should my mother be an exception? She's chosen the wide path to destruction; the only way I could have a relationship with her would be to be totally false. In fact I feel that if I tried having her back in my life it would amount to enabling her life of denial. She would take our renewed relationship as evidence or proof that there is nothing wrong with her.

    There can be no true peace between us until she humbles herself and takes responsibility for abusing her children. She doesn't need to do this in order for me to forgive her, but she would need to do so in order for us to even begin to work on a reconciliation.

    I don't know if forgiveness enlarges our future. I imagine it's one of those things that happens gradually and we're unaware of it at the time. Some things, such as child abuse, take a lifetime to forgive. Don't be hard on yourself because this is all so confusing. I don't think it comes easy to any of us. (The abuse wasn't easy, why should the forgiveness be a snap?)

  3. Wow - I think Beautifuldreamer expressed my opinion so very well. All that I can add is that you need to focus on the people who you know love you and move on from those who you wish did.