“Good” people are taught they should forgive their abusers.
“Bad” people are embroiled in hate, submerged anger or depression. (*Depression is defined as “Anger turned inward”)
Using this ridiculously simple, black & white worldview, will you label yourself a “good” person or a “bad” one?
I vote for neither.
- A woman in her 50s nursed her dying stepfather in his last years…the same man who abused her and her 3 siblings often. She wanted to be a “good” person. She came up with a long list of “reasons” that justified his abuse of his new wife’s children, even while he spoiled his own natural kids.
- An elderly man is still mourning his mentally unstable mother some 20 years after her death. The same mother who often left him alone in their Bronx apartment, without adequate food or protection from the neighborhood gangs…when he was four years old until he ran away when he was 14.
- A busy working mother in her 30s still leaps to serve her parents, two miserably unhappy, alcoholic, always bickering people who were so caught up in their own misery that they ignored her and her sister entirely.
While it is likely true that forgiveness will make you feel better (many religions and some therapists ask you to consider this option) and probably even will help you move on with your life, those caught up in trying to please an unpleasable (or dead) person are locked into a cycle of misery. How long do you want to stay miserable?
Do you find yourself consumed with trying to finally get love from, soothe or mend a broken relationship with any abusive person in your life?
Have you come to a place where you can justify the abuser’s actions to anyone who asks, including yourself…and then you use that excuse to beat yourself up for not feeling more loving toward your abuser?
Did you know that the people we choose to be in relationship with as adults are often those most similar in core personality to those who hurt us? Yes, that’s because we unconsciously try to resolve the difficult prior relationship by interacting with a similar person, hoping to get a different result this time. P.S. Without third party intervention (usually therapy) and change on both your parts, this doesn’t work.
Do you suspect you are not a “good” person unless you manage to forgive the unforgivable, but fear that you might be a “bad” person for letting yourself be abused in the first place?
This is the conundrum – the mixed-up part – of having been abused. If you see the matter in black & white now that you’re a grown up, what you need is a new pair of glasses. Maybe not rose-colored, but certainly capable of seeing the situation fully. Read on…
There are two reasons you stay trapped in emotional limbo: Children are largely powerless + Hindsight is 20/20.
If the abuse happened to you when you were too young, small, defenseless, depressed, weak or impaired to protect yourself (at any age), it’s easy to look back now that you are healthier/grown up/stronger/in a better place and harshly judge the person you were at the time you were abused. Of course, now you can see options that you couldn’t see from the spot you were in then, whether that was lying on your bed at night and hoping he wouldn’t come in or cowering in a corner hoping no one would get hit this time.
It’s easy to see the options now. It always is later. You could have told someone. You could have reached out for help. You could have…lots of things. But you didn’t take those options because you couldn’t see them then. And that’s all there is to it. Not some big, complicated, dramatic mistake. Just reality.
At that time, you just didn’t know how to protect yourself. That doesn’t make you responsible for what happened. That responsibility will forever lie in the hands of your abuser.
How long will you hold yourself responsible? How long will you criticize yourself for not having had the wisdom and information you have now?
To make this simple:
Let’s say tomorrow you wake up and you are enrolled in a calculus class at a big university. What chance do you have of succeeding, of making an A even on the first quiz, much less in the class? (Not many people could!)
Or what if on Monday the president of your country calls you and says, “Look, we really need you to fly one of our most advanced fighter jet. Can you come by this afternoon?”
Of course not! This would be preposterous! We absolutely absolve ourselves for not knowing calculus or how to fly a specialized jet. So how is it logical to blame yourself for not saving yourself when you were being abused? For not being strong enough to lift the 500 lbs. dumbbells when life had only prepared you to lift 5 lbs. so far? If you could have done it, you would have done it.
If you are living your life feeling guilty that you couldn’t protect yourself or someone you love from abuse, as harsh as the facts are to face, the only responsibility you have to accept is that you did the best you could to survive at the time. Gnaw on that thought and watch it work healing magic in your soul.