By Bernadette A. Moyer
“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” The Lord’s Prayer says it all. So many of us have a hard time with forgiveness and most of it seems to stem from our inability to forgive ourselves.
When we really look into abusive relationships, anger, addictions, pain and suffering we see that so much of it is self-inflicted. What are we trying to cover up and to medicate, and when we look really closely we can ascertain that most often we blame ourselves and we can’t forgive ourselves and let it go. Whatever "it" was or is ...
We are attracted to that abusive relationship when we don’t feel that we deserve any better and in our belief, that we don't deserve better is so often about our self- esteem our inability to forgive ourselves.
"When we know better, we do better.” Maya Angelou One of the greatest gifts of aging is learning more and knowing better. The words to say to yourself are, “You did the best you could with what you had and what you knew at that time.” And then forgive yourself and let go of it.
No one wants to see child abuse and child molesters prosecuted and held accountable more than I do. It is a disgrace the way many institutions have handled child sexual abuse. My own Church should take a good hard look at themselves just like Penn State was forced to do. There is no excuse for any cover up in this day and age. Today we all know better. The problem though that I see is we want to hold them accountable to today’s standards, to what we know and believe today.
For whatever reason, many victims often blame themselves; it is NEVER, ever a child’s fault!
Decades ago, when much of this happened and was so poorly handled, (and it wasn’t ever right) the norm for handling it was to cover it up. It was covered up to protect the abuser but also as an attempt to shield the victim from further humiliation and shame. Until we can fully DE stigmatize sexual abuse just like any other victimization and crime, sadly it will continue. With it will come many mental health issues that have been driven into darkness rather than faced and brought into the light and wellness.
This is what I would want to hear my Church say, “We really didn’t know any better, we didn’t fully understand the degree of harm and the damage the Church cover up contributed to the abuse. This was something that was never talked about. Today we know better and we are doing better. We are sorry”
Sexual abuse was a taboo subject that was never discussed and when it finally was it was where law enforcement came down on one side and mental health care providers on another side.
Today we want to hold thirty year old abuse acts to the standards of what we know today. We are so much more evolved and better educated today and yet we still have a population of victims that have not received the care and the treatment necessary for them to forgive. Without forgiveness they are so often stuck there, in victim mode.
Like Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
In the poor handling of the sexual abuse cases, we can point back to ignorance and then, it was the lawyers and the insurance companies. Who live by the mantra, “do not accept blame, or fault.” They know they will pay if they do.
Victims often blame themselves, and then start a never ending cycle of more abuse. Like a magnet drawing in even more abuse and a destructive never ending cycle of abuse, keeping it alive in their inability to forgive.
Forgiveness is defined as the cessation of resentment, indignation, or anger as a result of a perceived or real offense, disagreement, or mistake, ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.
When we can’t or won’t forgive we hang onto our anger.” Anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Carrie Fisher
The only person who dies inside is the person who holds onto their anger and who is unable to forgive. Think about it? Who can’t you forgive and let go of, and why? Anger keeps us connected in negative and in destructive and unhealthy ways. What is in it for you to stay connected in that way?
“The obstacle is the path.” Zen Proverb When we are stuck we are unable to move forward, we must deal with the obstacle to do so. Holding anger is the surest way to stay stuck there. Forgiveness is the best way to let go and to move ahead. Letting it go frees us.
“Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.” Dalia Lama
I believe that forgiveness is a sign of strength and of character and it is what you do for yourself. It is the gift that you give to yourself so that you are free to love. The angry person and the unforgiving person seldom if ever attract love. Only love attracts love, anger attracts more anger.
And so we pray, Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...
Forgive yourself and then go about forgiving everyone else…. it is the greatest, most loving act of kindness that you can gift to yourself.