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Trauma, Forgiveness, Healing
So, it’s been a while. Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how quickly time flies. The thing that always gets me is how long it can take for some things to take root, and for others to take flight. When you’re waiting for something to happen, it can feel like forever. When you’re hoping something will last, the days are gone in minutes. Such is the nature of life, I suppose.
One thing I’ve been feeling philosophical about lately is forgiveness. What does it really mean? How does the way that Jesus teaches forgiveness and relationships really make sense in a modern context? I know Jesus was someone who was literally mistreated to death, and yet he still said what he said. Many of his followers also faced the same fate. But does that mean that we’re called to let others hurt us to the end, as well?
What comes to mind when you think about forgiveness? Letting go? Reconciliation? Trust? Affection? Love? If I forgive, will I have to do all of these things?
Letting go is something I can definitely get behind. I have a lot of things that I’m angry about that keep me bitter and afraid. As a traumatized individual, it can be difficult to control when the replays come up, or when you get triggered and have a fear response. I can see the value of “forgiving” each time this happens, trying to let it go so that I don’t have to keep dwelling on it. There’s lots of benefits to this type of forgiving that are just for me. So that I don’t have to hold onto the past anymore. This seems easiest when something really is in the past, and I don’t have to deal with it anymore. I’d say for the most part I’ve got a pretty good handle on those types of hurts. Not perfectly, and sometimes I’ll get angry about it out of the blue still, but those aren’t the things that are occupying my mental real estate anymore. Oh, boy, did it used to, but not anymore.
No, right now the main things I struggle with are dealing with people who keep hurting me in the exact same way – sometimes on a daily basis, in one particular case. To this day, I’m still dealing with the same things that I thought we talked about and sorted through in a calm and mature way months ago. To this day, I still go through periods of feeling disrespected, disregarded, and gaslit. Yet recently – and I mean VERY recently – I think I have reached a place of forgiveness when it comes to these people, even if the incidents keep happening. In this case, I think what makes it easier is because I know they aren’t mean at heart – just thoughtless, self-absorbed, busy, and immature. Overall, they are caring and happy people who are just clueless about what they continue to do to me, even if I have spelled it out many times. Also, I won’t be in this situation much longer – this has an expiration date, and maybe part of feeling better has been finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I expect that once our relationship has shifted, I’ll feel a lot better about everything I learned during my time here.
But oh, getting to this place has taken a lot of work. Months and months of prayer, confessing my bitter hatred to some of my closest friends and getting them to pray for me, and so much journalling and ranting. And, of course, like I mentioned, I did try to sort things out with several pre-planned and collaborative meeting of minds with these people – all to no avail in the long run. Which fuelled the fire, but the point is – I tried. A lot. And I think I finally just gave up in a way. I don’t want to be bitter and angry at them, because it’s clear they’re never going to change, not really, and I have enough on my plate. So, now, forgiveness in this case means that yes, I can be friendly to them again. I feel no more malice in my heart. Right now. Who knows when it comes to the next incident, but I’m going to try to keep using my prayer strategies.
Then there’s another type of relationship – ones where there has been extreme trauma, malice, and abuse, and I am faced with the choice of whether to enter the proximity of these people again. This is something I wrestle with often. These are people that were once important to me, even if in a twisted and toxic way, and for one reason or another, I feel like I should be able to face them again. Things are in the past for now, but do I want to open that can of worms again? If I wanted to cut them out of my life completely, I could go the rest of my life without having to deal with them again, but I don’t think I’d feel very good about that decision. Yet they are not people that I can have collaborative discussions with about how they hurt me, because they refuse to admit that they did anything wrong. Attempts at such discussions would probably become new trauma events. I know they would, because I have tried in the past to have these conversations, to no avail.
So I find myself necessarily having to spend time with them, all the while being subject to their abusive tendencies, yet being unable to have a discussion with them about it, because it’s like rolling a rock up hill, and then eventually having that rock turn on me and crush me.
These are the relationships and interactions that require me to take sick days off from life to heal from. They can put me right back into a spiral that becomes so dangerous it can be life-threatening. Yet again, if I try to cut these people out, as I have in the past, all it does is it away at me.
Yes, there’s affection and even love there. But it’s shallow, because it can never go deeper, to the heart of issues that keep us from being closer, as much as I wish we could all talk it out.
But can I completely let go to the point of true love and friendship with them, the way I think Jesus advocated? I don’t know. When I think of the way he was with at least some of the people who continually tried to trip him up and attack him, I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t count them among friends. The religious leaders, the teachers of the law, and the Pharisees and Sadducees all got the sharp end of his tongue when he wasn’t in the mood for their games. He didn’t let them into his inner circle. Even though I’m sure he loved them as his children, he definitely wasn’t particularly affectionate toward them. So I think, based on that, that it’s okay to love from a distance without necessarily needing to be close friends to those who have hurt you.
All I can say is that I look forward to heaven where I can enjoy the good parts of these people without having to dance around the toxic. I’m sure they would say the same thing about me.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13