Forgiveness

Today’s topic is one that’s been a theme in my life; just as I’m sure it’s a theme in most people’s lives.  But it’s also a big topic of discussion and disagreement between me and my mother, and apparently me and Craig now.

To Craig, acceptance means that you’ve accepted any wrong that someone has done against you as being a fact, but that you’re not okay with it.   Whereas forgiveness means you’ve actually pardoned the wrong in such a way as to say that it was “okay” that they did it.  He also feels that you can’t really forgive someone unless they’re truly sorry for what they’ve done.

When Mom and I have discussed this topic in the past, she’s said that she feels forgiveness is only something you do if you blame someone for something s/he did.  If you simply accept their action, then there’s no need to forgive, because you never blamed them in the first place.  But the way I see it, if someone does something to you that hurts you then s/he IS responsible for that action, which could be construed as “blame,” if you want to use that label.  You are definitely responsible for how you react to them, but I believe in the “it takes two to tango” concept, so the person who did the offending act also deserves some culpability.

And as for Craig’s definition, I don’t think that forgiving someone means that you are “okay” with whatever they’ve done to you that’s hurt you.  It just means that you don’t want to carry around the anger or sorrow anymore.

Forgiveness

But I was curious that both of them had different views than me on the two concepts, so I looked both words up on Dictionary.com and found the following definitions that fit my beliefs:

Accept:  4) to tolerate or accommodate oneself to

Forgive:  4) to cease to feel resentment against

Which means, you can Accept a mean or vulgar act as fact or as having happened, but you don’t necessarily have to stop feeling angry or hurt by it (Forgive).

I’ve recently discussed something in therapy that brings these concepts up for me in a very hard way.  My therapist and I have been talking about my father and my relationship with him and how we related (or rather, didn’t) emotionally.  I realized there’s a lot of pain still inside me over his lack of what my therapist terms “emotional empathy.”  The memories of that evoke much more anguish than do memories of the molestation.  And, while I’ve forgiven my father for molesting me all those years ago, I apparently haven’t forgiven him for the emotional abandonment I felt growing up.

Though, to be honest, I don’t think I realized just how much pain there still was inside of me over that, so I guess it never occurred to me to forgive him those “wrongs.”  Now that it’s being rehashed in therapy, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get to a place where I can finally let go of the past pains and let my heart heal.  My dad’s been dead almost 20 years now, so I’ll never be able to discuss this with him and get any sort of closure, so I’ve got to find another way to do so.

Since there’s still so much pain inside of me over this, does that mean I haven’t accepted his emotional unavailability as fact?  That maybe somewhere deep inside is the little girl still hoping and wishing that her daddy would support her and love her in the way she needed?  If so, then I need to get busy accepting his faults so that I can move on to forgiving him those faults.  Because I DEFINITELY don’t want to carry around this pain for much longer.  It’s not healthy or fun in any way, shape, or form.

But I’m interested in your thoughts about the whole Acceptance vs Forgiveness debate.  Do you see a difference between the two terms?  Do you think it’s possible to do one without the other?  Or do you feel that they work in conjunction with each other?

Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kerryemckenna
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 10:20:22

    It would take some more thought for me to comment on definitions of acceptance and forgiveness (even my own), but I had a tidbit occur to me…I support the nugget you dropped that acknowledges that the anger or hurt or resentment is inside you. Inside us all when we are hurt, etc. And that the first step in acceptance of something so basic as childhood abuse is to recognize that the pain is not you. That the pain or fault or offront has effect on you, but is not something you are…if that makes sense. “It is in me now, but I am not the pain–I do not have to reenact it.” And then you can recognize and accept another’s *doing that to you* as being outside. I think children definitely internalize icky feelings as part of themselves (as they integrate everything) personally. Then to sort and sift what is “us” and what is “not us” begins the process of maturation.

    And then–as adults we can recognize the pattern in different instances of hurt, and quicker and better discern acceptance and quicker have the power to forgive, because we have learned how not to embed the seed of pain and resentment into ourselves. So forgiveness no longer “dis-intigrates” any part of our personality, does not threaten ME so much. We never integrated pain from the outside, no matter how much we are invested in the person who caused it (the better we get at this).

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jan 03, 2014 @ 10:27:01

      WOW, Kerry! I’m going to have to go back & read your comment over again a few times. You’ve got some great insights there that I don’t think I fully comprehend just yet, but I definitely felt an opening inside.

      Thanks for visiting today, & for the deep insight. Your little kernel will help me solve this puzzle. 🙂

      Reply

  2. kerryemckenna
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 11:22:58

    Thank you for sharing that you felt an opening inside. That’s amazing! Physical sensation. Part of the ball of yarn.

    Reply

  3. Terry Shames
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 11:50:13

    Love Kerry’s post, and Alyx I admire you for opening up such vulnerable material. I want to comment about two things. To me, acceptance doesn’t mean you necessarily accept the person’s action–but it can mean that you accept the person, with all his or her faults. It means, I guess, that you accept that they are the kind of person who could do something like whatever they did–but just as your hurt is not all that defines you, their action is also not all that defines them.

    The other thing is something you didn’t mention: “forgive and forget.” I think it’s really useful to forgive when someone has done something wrong to you. Not always easy, but doable. That doesn’t mean you have to forget what they did. Or even forgive what they did–but you forgive the whole person, warts and all. Hope this makes some sense.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jan 03, 2014 @ 12:03:30

      You’re right, Terry, that I didn’t mention “forgive & forget.” That was intentional. I don’t think it’s possible to forget something that happened to you (other than through the regular short term memory thing 😉 ).

      And I agree that one action doesn’t define a person. We’re all capable of hurting someone, whether intentionally or not. And I appreciate your take on not necessarily forgiving the action, but forgiving & accepting the whole person. Some very good thoughts there, Terry.

      Thanks for joining the discussion. 🙂

      Reply

  4. Kathy
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 00:24:10

    Dear Alyx, very interesting subject indeed. I believe that forgiving and forgetting go hand in hand. As the quote says it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but in order to move on and protect your own heart, and in order to live a happy life with no regrets, it’s essential to let go of of those wrongdoings. It doesn’t mean it gets erased in your mind, it means you don’t dwell on the past.

    Something that made this approach very clear was a documentary about Natasha Kampuch, who was abducted at the age of 10 and imprisoned in a secret cellar by her kidnapper for more than eight years. I just watched it two days ago, that’s why I find it interesting you’ve raised this subject on your blog. I believe it was an Austrian documentary translated into Czech. What struck me the most in her testimony was that she held onto the power of forgiveness. In order to keep sane and have a sound mind she had to forgive her abuser immediately right after each act (starving her, beating her up, etc.)

    I’m not sure what it meant for her but it truly saved her life. I believe she was pondering on the subject of forgiveness since then and I’d love to read her book and see the film to learn more.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jan 04, 2014 @ 05:29:56

      Natasha sounds like an amazing woman, Kathy. It can’t have been easy for her to be able to forgive him after each act, but it’s good she was able to, & I’m glad she was able to survive such an ordeal.

      Thanks for visiting today & telling me about her.

      Reply

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