Abuse and Forgiveness


The most important piece of equipment we start with is what we learned from our parents as we grew up. And if what they taught us was flawed or even destructive, then it was a burden, which may take the rest of our lives to learn how to let go of. It generally takes years to get past the destructive influences we grew up with. Learning what it means to forgive, and and what to forgive and how to grant that forgiveness, both within ourselves and to the other people involved, is a series of tough lessons, especially when it involves learning to forget.
William Blake, known for his spiritual insights, wrote a poem about anger and forgiveness and wrongs:

A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

Here we expect to see the usual homily on letting go of our anger, learning to speak in ways that are healing for both the person who did the wrong and the person who was hurt, so that the two of them may move on with their lives. It involves twisting our desires for revenge into non destructive channels. His advice in this verse is to communicate why we are upset to the person who hurt us, so that understanding on both sides can be reached.

But, the way he describes treating his foe, is a different story altogether:

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

When we consider what we are usually taught concerning desire and wrongs that have been done to us, we would expect Blake to describe his own downfall before the poem ends. However:

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

The poem is about sweet revenge. Of course he does not speak of what may have happened next. Did he ever feel a sense of contrition over having so thoroughly trounced his foe? The poem does not speak of that. It speaks instead of the joy of revenge.

And revenge is something we should dearly love to take out on our dysfunctional parents. The joy of taking the upper hand just once, so that we can rub their faces in the hurt they caused us, would be so satisfying. It is easier to forgive them after such a showdown. Forgiving and forgetting, before we have taught them the lessons we believe they have earned, seems so mealy mouthed. After all, we would like them to tell us that they were sorry for what they did — before we forgive them. And it is most satisfying of all when they know, without a shadow of doubt — the pain they caused us, and what they did to cause it. Hmm … outstretched beneath the tree … totally vanquished …

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About Genevieve

Genevieve is a ghostwriter, specializing in memoirs, biographies and novels for her clients, since 2002. She loves her work, Her blog is a hodge podge of whatever happens to be on her mind when she sits down to write. Her essays may be about anything from family life, to politics, to good grammar. Come read it at http://thebestword.net/wordpress/ and leave a message.
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8 Responses to Abuse and Forgiveness

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  5. Keythy says:

    I feel the same about myself Colette… I think I am too hard on myself and I try to remind myself that it is a learning experience for me and my son. Pure love forgives anything. But guilt pours in me when I know I screwed up and I can’t take back my mistakes. On the other hand, we’re only human and we’re bound to make mistakes, right (huffing and puffing)?!?!

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