Well, it’s come up because of my recent post on eating disorders. Could I forgive my father for what he did to me?
Let me say that my father abused me and my older sister, who had to deal with a lot more for far too many years. Such abuse leaves emotional scars that can sometimes never be corrected. It sets you back on the path of life, if nothing else, taking one much longer to achieve what emotionally happy people can. If there’s one thing I’ve learned very strongly over the years: what you give your children will be what they give back in years to come. If they are abused in any way, chances are they won’t succeed in some area, that they’ll be petty, mean, abusive, unstable, wounded, or worse. Some will become criminals. We’re lucky in my family that none of us strayed too far down that path.
Forgiveness is something I can grant many people who have done me wrong. I’ve been betrayed a couple of times in the last few years. Betrayal is one of the worst things a person can do to me. It hits at a fundamental level of trust. These betrayals caused such distress for me that I no longer do many things in the arenas where those people are. I lost the love to do so. I’m probably ready to return to some events, but others, it will never be the same.
Still, such betrayals are forgiveable. On one level I know that one person did what she thought was right, no matter that she was influenced by someone else. The other person, well, she had always been self-serving and I should have been wary. In each case I thought I was friends with these people but friendship means different things to different people. I can forgive them that they had a different viewpoint and that they probably didn’t think they were betraying me. It doesn’t mean they’re friends anymore or that I like them (I may or may not in the individual cases.) but I can forgive their actions as not having meshed with mine.
I cannot and not sure I ever will be able to, forgive my father. He abused and betrayed a fundamental role as father. He never showed remorse and never tried to communicate. When I went into art college, he told my older brother he would pay my way through college. I said, “I can’t be bought and if this means he wants to see me, then he needs to stop drinking and see an counsellor. Then I’ll accept and see him.” I never heard anything else on that front and I paid my way through college.
Someone who knowingly and repeatedly does harm to another is, to me, beyond forgiveness. Sure they may have been shaped by their childhoods but they know what’s right and wrong. Should I forgive the sociopaths that kidnap, torture and murder someone? Forgive them because they know not what they do? Unfortunately they know very well what they do. They hide it because it is wrong and they get off on it. How should I forgive that?
Some day, like I said, perhaps someone will explain forgiveness in a way that I can grant it. But to me, to forgive is to accept. I can’t accept the self-serving heinous actions of people who murder and rape. My father is dead and that’s a blessing. I’ve done a fair amount of work to get myself to a stable and contented space. Sure I still have anger to deal with and I’m working on it. But some people aren’t so lucky in their lives.
Like I said above, nurture your children well. Love them. For the foundations you give them today will help them succeed tomorrow.