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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Father Hurd Writings on Forgiveness and Abuse

I have gotten to that chapter that was meant for me.

Always, when reading advice books, I have looked to that message that speaks specifically to me and the chapter of Father's book Forgiveness, A Catholic Approach, entitled "Don't be a Doormat" should have been subtitled "Leslie, Please Pay Attention".

As a Catholic I have always struggled with the idea of when I should stand up for myself, when I should accept suffering, when I should draw a boundary and when I should tear down a wall.  As the daughter of a man who was not a good father, was physically and verbally abusive as well as narcissistic, charming, intelligent, handsome and all the other things that go into making a complicated human being, I have never been able to relate well to men.  A daughter's first love is her father and when that father is damaging, she shies away from forming relationships with other males.  We don't want to be yelled at, told we are stupid one minute and beautiful the next,  pushed to succeed and told we can't do much in the same breath.  Since that was what Daddy did, it stands to reason that's what ALL men will do.

Thus our fractured view of the world and our tendency to either pick weak men who disappoint us or strong men who abuse us.

Going through the problems we are going through in our family right now, I was determined to learn how to forgive the perpetrator without losing my humanity and without losing contact with Jesus Christ, True God and True MAN.   This is why I picked up Father Hurd's book and why I am reading it first, and then determined to pass it on to all those I know who struggle with these kinds of problems.

Father brings up an excellent point in Chapter 9 of his book.  He asserts that Jesus Christ, while suffering horribly, did so at the right time and for the right reasons - namely, to fulfill the will of the Father and to open the gates of heaven to mankind.   However,  Jesus never suffered unnecessarily - He was often threatened with death by those who rejected His Teachings and He would remove Himself from their hands.  As an infant, Father points out, He was taken to Egypt by His foster father, St Joseph, and protected from death.  Thus, He would not expect us to suffer unnecessarily and being the victims of another person's sin or mental illness.

I know that the person our family member has chosen to link their life to suffers from a very real mental problem - borderline personality disorder is nothing to sneeze at and encompasses everything from the mood swings, the volatile behavior, the abuse of alcohol and drugs to the "I hate you, don't you dare leave me" behavior the person manifests.  I understand that the person we all love has many of the same personality characteristics of my father and that makes it very difficult to deal with them - walking on egg shells all the time is not a happy way to live.

What Father writes in his book is that forgiveness is not a denial of our personal pain over the hateful and hurtful acts of others.  Neither is it telling the other person that what they are doing is ok.  Rather, he asserts, that being truly loving to someone in our life who behaves this way means putting our foot down and saying, "I love you; however, you must never treat me in that manner again.  You must not speak to me that way and you are not allowed to behave badly in my home or around me ever again.  If you cannot do that, I understand.  I wish you well and you will always be in my heart and my prayers, but you do not get to do abuse me anymore".

Oh that sounds so easy.  It has to be done with love, not with hatred and that is why I struggle.   I am still angry, I think, that we are being put through such a mess.  I must be willing to give that anger to God.  If I do not do that, I cannot forgive.

And I think I can do that by remembering the words of Our Lord on the Cross:

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do".

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