“Forgive them.” I was brought up around people who believed a simple confession could wipe clean their slate of evil acts and therefore permit them to continue. I therefore to some level believed that to forgive them would save me of my own pain… I felt I should forgive all except myself… somehow the logic that this would spare me pain and that if I could forgive them but not myself then I’d be free and in control fuelled me. The logic, in hindsight , makes no sense and was probably fed to me. And for a long time, it worked. I felt almost no pain except guilt. Surely, this was a path to freedom…?
It would seem not.
If I am forced to take part in a horrific act and cannot forgive myself, then I equally cannot forgive the people who forced that situation upon me either. This realisation has jolted me substantially…
Something has shifted in the last few weeks. Overwhelmed with guilt and horror, I refused to dissociate from my emotions as I would normally. This was partly as a method of self-punishment but also partly with the idea that I need to start feeling if I can ever hope to be entirely safe.
What I hadn’t expected was what came with the sudden weight of emotions. First I drifted in and out of some random state of shock. I felt utterly shell-shocked and powerless to the tidal wave drowning me. I remember sitting still with tears streaming down my face for no concrete reason except that somewhere I was in pain. I struggled to find words and felt frightened by this. Time passed in such a strange way; sometimes too fast but often too slow and I felt myself drifting further and further behind somehow. My vision shifted too.. as I drifted behind and drowned in my tears, the world turned greyer. To my horror, everything was turning black.
I don’t believe in a world of simply black and white, so desperately tried to stumble forwards to catch up on Time. But this sudden great weight of emotions crushed me, and I was left almost frozen with my tears…hidden from the world…frightened by this new level of raw pain which was gradually consuming me…
Then the shock moved to despair. I felt stuck and crushed, with no way of crying for help. Somehow I blankly stumbled through meetings last week and other normal life jobs, always with a loyal cup of tea nearby to cry silently into when nobody was looking. This pain had changed its power. It was no longer a slow crushing act of shock and paralysis, but rather a fast fire spreading through me…catching in my throat when I breathed…even my tears burnt.
Inside I felt incredibly hot and outside weak and cold. I felt shifts in my blood pressure and cramps throughout my body. This despair was physical as well as emotional. It was all-consuming. I wanted to scream but couldn’t for the fire. I lost myself in a black pit of ‘whys’ and ‘how’s’.
After despair …the real killers; guilt and grief. These pair are more cunning in their ways – not obvious like shock or fast like despair. Black tendrils creep their way into me and poison my soul with grief and guilt until I’m left gasping for air and mercy as they torture me cruelly. If I fight…the tendrils grow stronger. If I give in, they just swallow me until I’m rigid and under control…but in the worst kind of hell and trapped in absolute blackness.
So much pain…so much hurt…
So to escape I cannot fight it or ignore it. I need to understand it. Someone once told me that we’re all angels but blessed in that we can’t see our wings; we cannot see if our wings touch others as we pass them. Even when I’m stumbling blindly in agony I cannot see if my wings are simultaneously touching another lost soul..maybe that touch helped them look the other, better way. Maybe my wings caught them. Maybe my wings had no effect. How am I to know? I can’t…and that’s what’s most beautiful; we can’t see our impact and can only see our pain…but to fall over entirely into darkness may stop my wings from bumping into someone who needs them…and equally I may miss the opportunity to be touched by another’s wings that I need.
So I can feel myself falling into oblivion and know I need to catch myself for the above reason, and that to do that I need to understand the purpose of this pain rather than fight or ignore it.
And whenever I try to understand, the same question pops into my head. “Do you forgive them? ”
So many advise me to forgive and I have tried but cannot…and that leaves me trapped in my own guilt; perhaps I am a monster for being unable to forgive?
But actually…just now, being firmly able to say I do not forgive my abusers, is really very liberating and freeing, even though I can feel it’s unleashed a new level of emotions. I had been holding onto their evil acts in the hope that it would help me forgive. But refusing to dissociate has allowed me to fully understand the extent of the hideous damage they cause. They rely on forgiveness for permission to continue.
I cannot forgive them for the pain they have caused me and so many others…for the fact it is I who cries in guilt for the evil they have done, whilst they laugh. I cannot forgive them. And I don’t feel any guilt due to that. I won’t allow myself to drown in bitter resentment but I won’t forgive them either.
And so can I forgive myself? Have I shown remorse? Yes I have…but no I can’t forgive myself. But I can take comfort in the fact I can see I’m not the same as them…even simply because I can choose whether to feel remorse or not…and despite the pain, I choose it.
So now I understand my pain. In battling to forgive them but rigidly refusing to forgive myself, I had put my level of worth and goodness far below that of the abusers; I had trapped myself in black.
Now, by acknowkeging that I simply cannot forgive them due to their lack of remorse and need of forgiveness for permission….and realising the difference in that I, although unable to forgive myself, am at least feeling absolute remorse and grief and not running from it….now with this difference in place and understanding of the bitter weight I was being crushed by, I am no longer trapped in black. The pain, if anything, has worsened because by refusing to forgive them I am accepting they were wrong and therefore I am more powerless and more vulnerable to the emotional upheaval of how wrong they were…
But this pain is freeing. Its not all black and it’s not frightening, it just is excruciatingly difficult. But to be able to feel how wrong everything was takes me one step further away from their hold…One step closer to freedom, gained from being in the fire…
I hurt so much.
But that will set me free…