Thursday, January 24, 2008

A weight lifted

About four years ago, maybe three, I wrote a letter to my stepfather asking him to tell me why he had sexually abused me for 10 years of my life. I told him that I was suffering through depression and absolute hell because of what I went through. He wrote back and said that he was very sick during that period of time, to please let him die in peace (not tell family -- i.e. please continue the lie), God had forgiven him he hoped that I could too. Not long after that, I made the decision to cut contact with him in order to "take care of myself." During these period of years, I have seen him at a few family occassions and talked to him now and then, but overall the contact has been minimal. Still, I have lived with this underlying guilt and frustration that cutting contact with him made me feel even further abnormal than I already was, and that I was a bad daughter and I was causing friction in the family. (All of these were feelings I had, by the way, about my abuse. That I had to lie about it in order not to cause discord and separation in my family, that I was always the "bad" daughter who held a secret that could hurt my family so badly.) I have always felt "less than" to the point that I think sometimes I should have worn (and sometimes still should put it on) a t-shirt with a big < on it. Now having a father (he raised me from 9 months) who was alive, but dying, who I didn't talk to and had not resolved past issues with just compounded my feelings about myself in the family and in the world around me.

Fast forward to Tuesday night when the leader of the Al-Anon meeting I attend read from Courage to Change, March 15 -- a passage which says forgiveness is not something to be used for power or as a weapon, forgiveness is something that allows me to see that I am on equal footing with all children of God. "We all do good and noble things at times; on other occassions we may offend. I have no right to judge punish or absolve anyone. When I behave self-righteously, I'm the one who suffers -- I separate myself from my fellow human beings, focus on others, and keep busy with hateful and negative thoughts. By taking this attitude, I tell myself that I am a victim, and I remain a victim. The most forgiving thing I can do is to remember that my job is not to judge others, but to think and behave in a way that makes me feel good." In the thought for today it goes on to say, "I don't know the motives or circumstances that cause another's behavior, I do know that when I hold on to resentments and blame, I occupy my spirit with bitterness. I will find a more nurturing way to fill myself up."

This reading hit me so completely, lifting the burden of forgiveness off my shoulders. Forgiveness really only means acceptance of my stepfather as a human being, a child of God, who was also a sex addict (with the mental disease of pedophilia), whose behavior, motives I don't know. And it's not mine to know. He has a Higher Power who is ultimately the one who offers true forgiveness. I don't have to carry around that burden any longer. Leave it to God. Wow, what a relief. In working my fourth step, I have learned that as long as I hold on to the resentment -- blaming him for my disease and overall dysfunction -- I separate myself from my own Higher Power and for my own accountability. Certainly there are those who would say... "You have every right to blame him." Yes, I have every right, but blaming him for my life today, only keeps me stuck in the past, and I want so desparately to move forward.

Does that mean that I renew the relationship with my stepfather? I don't know. But I feel some release in my heart, hopefully enough to let go of him, give him to his Higher Power, and focus all that energy that has consumed me in my resentments and worry and hurt and anger, on the soul that still has a chance to live, free of ties to the disease of yet another addict.


vicariousrising said...

I've gone through something similar with my mother, although it wasn't sexual abuse. I'm not sure I would call it forgiveness, although that is the best name I can come up with. I know a huge burden has lifted from me. I am working on some sort of relationship with my mother, but it really isn't a mother/daughter one. It has a lot of boundaries that I have for my own protection, and yet, I don't feel like I am being mean or hurtful. Just cautious.

Whatever you decide to do with your stepfather, it should be what feels comfortable and right to you. I know I felt alot of internal and external guilt about having a relationship with my mom, and that ultimately could not be the basis of establishing a relationship with her. It put me back in a bad place.

I'm really glad that you've been able to relieve yourself of some of the burden.

p.s. I'll get to the tag aaap. I'm still kinda swamped, but it'll be good to have a focus for a post so thanks

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Rae, that's huge. And so much of what you wrote speaks to me right now and helps me work through a few things of my own. Thanks for sharing.

LAOE said...

Wow Rae, you know one of my resentments was that of my grandfather molesting my mother. I wasn't ready to let that resentment go. Perhaps I can let it go finally. I'm still going to stay away from him but at least I may have some freedom from the hatred I have for him. I may just be able to ignore him.