The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Self-Forgiveness

One aspect of abuse we often overlook is that of forgiving ourselves. It is quite common for families and communities to blame the victim. Abuse victims and survivors in turn, often internalize this blame. We often believe that we are responsible for our own abuse. Alternatively, maybe we feel responsible for the abuse of our siblings, or the turmoil we caused by speaking the truth.

Self-forgiveness was difficult for me to achieve because, even though I knew on an intellectual level that my/our abuse was not my responsibility, on an emotional level it took many years for me to completely free myself from this responsibility.

In order to forgive myself, I needed to undo the defining moment in my life when I began to internalize the blame. It happened one evening, when I was twelve years old, and my stepfather invented “The Paddle Game.” The basic premise of the game was that my brothers and I would beat one another while he “refereed” the contest.

I refused to play the game, burst into tears and fled to my room.

My mother and stepfather decided to divorce during the “heat of the moment” situation that followed. Moments later, my mother prodded me to ask him to stay. Wanting desperately to please my mother, I did as she instructed. My stepfather did stay and he escalated his violence towards my brothers and me. From that moment on, my mother, one of my brothers, and anyone they told this story too, blamed me for my mother’s marriage, and every beating we received.

As a child, I felt crushed under the weight of my responsibility for our abuse. Even as an adult, my mother continued to remind me that I was responsible for our abuse. It took me a long time to realize that only Mom had the power to decide whether or not she would remain married to my stepfather. Mom handed the power and responsibility of her marital status and the protection of her family over to a twelve-year-old child incapable of adult thoughts and actions.

My self-forgiveness was a huge step in my recovery.

To understand is to forgive, even oneself.
-Alexander Chase


2 comments:

Marj aka Thriver said...

This is HUGE! Thanks for sharing this.

I wanted to let you know that I've got the Feb. edition of THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE up at my blog. Thanks for participating...and won't you come by and "take a ride?"

healandforgive said...

I'd love to!