Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Family, Forgiveness & Healing


Being convicted… the word forgiveness may make us shift uncomfortably in our seat, make us want to swallow down any bitter feelings with great force and plaster an unconvincing smile of "yes, I'm perfectly fine" look on our face as we try to feebly attempt to ignore any sharp pain in our heart or boiling fury in the depths of our gut resembling acidic lasagna long not fully digested. 

Yet true forgiveness is such a necessity. 

How often are we urged to forgive?

How often are we judged for not forgiving? 

We live in a society where forgiveness is viewed as a necessary accessory of the heart and if we don't have it we are deemed incomplete and half dressed. The bible clearly states we are called to forgive those who trample our hearts and lives. It can be an undoubtedly sweet victory when we do choose obedience to God.... choosing forgiveness and the feelings that follow are feelings of peace and calm after the passing of an inflicted storm. 

And so often it's incredibly difficult to get there. Our natural fleshly tendencies want to rebuke self control and obedience and go to the task of making karma happen by our own hands. We want that person to pay, to suffer as we have, blindly or obstinately believing we will feel better and perhaps momentarily we do…

We may entertain thoughts of fantasy, wishing we had a real life friend (accent and all) named Aiden Mathis off Revenge that will take care of any hurts our heart has endured and yet... 

We know without a doubt this ill advised thinking does nothing to produce fruit but instead death on top of already stinking decaying death. 

How hard is it to forgive our family members? Those closet to us? It's a little talked about issue and yet one that plagues so many people behind closed doors. 

Like children we want to do the right thing, to please God. It is natural to struggle with the much sought after idealistic fantasy of a picture perfect family (maybe to our own detriment) when the reality of much needed boundaries in the midst of chaos rears it's head... it's our family after all and not much is discussed about how to handle forgiving a family member without throwing yourself back to the wolf and saying "Here, bite me again!"


"I don't understand why you are so mad at me..." He said, standing in my kitchen, his taupe coat coordinating with the cream wall paint and granite countertops speckled in flecks of brown and gold. 

I stood at the stove stirring a bubbling pot of spaghetti. Water popped up in tiny hot bursts from the stainless steel pot and I lowered the heat slightly so it wouldn't boil over. I looked over at him with a watchful eye and replied "We've discussed this before." 

"You've been mad at me for years. Years!" He replied. "I've been a perfectly good dad. A damn good dad! Yeah! I didn't do anything wrong!" His volume increased as he spoke.... his words spilled out as if trying to convince himself of a past that didn't reflect reality. 

Seeing my father standing before me in denial, aging, broken and stubborn I felt bad for him. I felt bad for him because he had invested a perfectly good life on everything but what mattered and now stood claiming that he hadn't. I felt bad for him because I could wish to turn back time all day long, travel back in a time machine....  but once there.... there would be no victory in appeasing to him that he needed to divert from the path he was on... because it would invariably lead to heartache for him and all involved and straight to this moment where we stood in my kitchen. I had forgiven him a long time ago. And I was able to speak words of kindness that he hadn't always given me the benefit of. And yet in that I had since also kept him at arm's length out of the need for boundaries. 

The act of being put at arms length infuriated him. 

Forgiveness doesn't also include being willingly mistreated again and again. 

Our realities of the past clearly did not match up. And in that there is not a sentence I likely dislike more than: "There are two sides to every story." Perhaps undoubtedly true for some, but other times... there is the side of truth and there is the side of lies. 

In life we can choose to forgive and move on. It may seem impossible or be a struggle to forgive a parent who was undoubtedly abusive and who continually stands in denial he indeed was, hence wedging the knife in deeper.... but it's possible in honesty with God. 

In some cases the past may be able to be repaired... when parties acknowledge their failings and past inflicted abuse... honesty, self awareness and repentance...  it may lead to reconciliation, the hurts redeemed for all which is such a beautiful testimony to growth and joy. 

Family members who continually abuse always do it planted in justification... and the abuser who continually denies it ever happening doesn't feel guilt or sorrow as God intended.... they don't turn from their behavior.  

And yet the vicious cycle also continues when the grown child of an abusive parent admits to themselves, friends and their therapist their parent was abusive yet continues to place their abusive parent on a pedestal of backward sick idolatry to still gain their approval instead of knowing they already have God's. 





The truth is, it's up to the adult child to recognize this sick pattern and bring it to a halt. To realize that yes, you can love and pray for this person from afar. You can care for them at arms length. You can wish them well. You can keep your contact at minimum without guilt because loving them doesn't also mean being someone's punching bag, target or scapegoat. 

Sacrificing your own sanity, your own emotional health while catering to someone whose denying tearing you down like a house brick by brick, attempting to chisel you to their liking.... as you always attempt to quickly repair and rebuild is not healthy. You may look around one day and dismally realize you stand in a heap of crumbling bricks at your feet never making any progress. 

Close the door. 

Clean your house.

Send prayers and love their way. 

Rebuild brick by brick.

Know that forgiveness and healing are possible. 

And we have to take the chisel away from our parent so they stop chipping away at our heart. 

© ~ 2013 

this blog is dedicated to every child and every grown adult who despite the pain, despite the ugly words, despite the hurt, despite the bruises, despite the loss.... you can heal.