Another Side of Forgiveness

30 03 2014

The calls started back in the mid 70s when I had left home, married and moved to another state.  The individual on the other end of the line would be very distraught, almost uncontrollable during one of these fits of anger.  At the momenImaget of these emotional meltdowns I would hear some of the most heinous stories of pain and cruelty this person suffered at the hands of another, a man who seemed to draw strength and enjoyment and causing others, particularly the one now on the phone who sometimes was yelling, and sometimes in tears from the anguish she had just received at the hands of this ogre of life. But it only took just a few times before I could recognize where this person was heading when they called, and I would listen to allowing them time to vent before saying the same thing, over and over again; “He died years back, he can’t hurt you anymore, you have to let go of this.  Please, I’m begging you; stop thinking about him before it drives you crazy!  I’m here, and I love you, Mom.

That’s the life mom and I led in my early years, scared we would do something to bring the wrath of my great-aunt’s husband down on either of us.  We lived with them because mom didn’t make enough money to support us and as bad as this man was, Great-Aunt Pearl had been a 2nd mom to my mom since she was young when her real mom died of cancer.  I believe Sweet Pearl’s greatest concern back then was seeing that mom and I had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.  Her “beloved” hubby, on the other hand, had a different outlook on us to the point I believed he woke up every morning thinking how he could make our lives a living hell. The last beating came after he got upset with me and swung his hand to hit me in the head.  It wouldn’t have been too bad of a shot; except he had a hammer in his hand (which truthfully I think he forgot about in his anger).  The blood quickly flowed down my head and into my shirt.  When mom saw the damage she instantly went off on him, which in turn caused her to get a beating not worth reliving here in thought or word.  Like I said, as bad as that day was, he never laid a hand on us again.  He had grown older and more feeble from health problems and the next time he went to hurt her, well lets just say she put a scare in him, with a certain sharp kitchen instrument and a promise of a certain demise that would come to him in his sleep if he ever touched her or me again.  Years later she would say, “I would have done that sooner had I known he was such a coward” because from that point on he never touched either of us again.  During his last year of life he was bed stricken from cancer and I very seldom saw him since I refused to go in his room.  When he passed away, I did not go to his viewing nor his funeral; my thinking was he was gone and it shouldn’t have been a time of mourning, but rather declared a national holiday!  The only remorse I felt was for my Aunt Pearl; she knew how he was, but in her own way loved the man.  Other than that I saw his passing as the world finally being rid of a hate monger on the same level as a Hitler, he was gone and soon to be forgotten.  Sorry, didn’t work that way.

My mother was a wonderful woman, wouldn’t have traded her for anyone.  But truthfully speaking she had issues she suffered from, physically, emotionally, and even mentally to some extent.  Because of those issues her mind would drift back into her past, some on the good moments of life, but more often on the darker moments, particularly the abuse she suffered at the hands of this man.  It would only take a instant where someone or something would remind her of those terrible days, and like a time machine she would be whisked back to that moment, reliving every hateful word and every violent blow.  When that happened her only escape was to get on the phone and call me, talk it out and then allow me to ease her heart and mind that he could no longer hurt her, only that wasn’t true.  Because the memory was so sharp and vivid of all that occurred, you could say he was still punishing her from the grave; but to tell the full story, she wasn’t alone.  After one of our conversations where I tried to persuade her everything was alright now, I would spend the next few days battling my own demons, reliving it just as she did.  The only difference was I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, didn’t think anyone would understand.  After all, how could you tell someone you were still tortured by a person five, ten, twenty years after they passed away?  No one would understand what I thought; it just wasn’t natural to hold on to animosity and bitterness toward a person who couldn’t hurt you any more, right?

The day finally came when I realized I couldn’t handle the situation and what it was doing to me let alone my mom.  Going to a pastor friend of mine, I opened up and told him the whole story of hurt and shame from my past, the first time I had ever spoken to anyone other than my Lady.  He listened intently until I finished, then there was a long moment of silence before he began.  In a soft, rather reserved voice, he told me his own story of hurt at the hands of another, the only difference was this was at the hands of an individual he had come to know and love like a big brother.  His story was every bit as terrible as mine, even worse in some situations and I listened sometimes with eyes clinched tightly shut at what he related to me. “So you and me, we’re part of this minority of silent sufferers,” I said.  He quickly shot back, “Minority nothing!  John, you have no idea how many there are just like you and me, except you said the anger pops up from time to time; I know ones who fight this demon everyday of their lives.” “Well then, since there are so many of us, I guess there’s no real way to rid yourself of it,” I answered, “Just toughen up and deal with it the best you can.”  Smiling my friend answered back, “Now did I ever say that?” and he picked a well worn Bible and read these words; “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  “John, I know what you and your mom are experiencing because I talk to people regularly that are in the same boat, many though have this problem with someone that’s still alive and causing hardship to them, that’s even a harder situation.  With each situation, I’ve seen that healing, real healing only happens when forgiveness is given, no strings attached.  No expecting the abuser to come and ask for it first, no expecting them to suddenly change; for you see it’s really not about them, it’s about you healing from the hurt just as you received healing from God when he forgave you through Christ.  Do you have to trust them after that?  I know I wouldn’t!  But then again I’ve found it was the only way to finally be released from the hurt, and the hate.”

When I left his office I spoke these words for the first time, “By the power in the name of Jesus Christ, I forgive Arthur Chester Price for all the hurt he did to me.” And then I did it again, and again, over the next week I probably did it a hundred times.  Over the course of my life since that day I’ve done it many times more but none in the last ten years I think.  If a hateful word of his popped into my mind (and it did often); I’d say, “Price I forgive you!”  If a momentary vision of how he hurt me materialized, I said, “Price, I forgive you!”  And then there was the hardest, dealing with how much he hurt my mom, that was the hardest, but when I did what I had to do it was like being cleansed from inside out; “PRICE, I FORGIVE YOU!!!”

Often I’m reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis that sums it up like this; “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Personally, if I’m to call myself a Christian, where do I have an argument against this?

I’m not going to close thinking I’ve convinced anyone that I have the answer to healing a terrible hurt; I only ask that you give it some thought and then at least try.  What do you have to lose?  You just may gain more than you ever realize you could.  It took my mother years to come to that point, and to also stop praying, “God, I guess if you want me to, then I forgive the no good rotten *^%$($#@!!  Oh well, like I said it takes a while, some longer than others.

Fellow Travelers of the Rock Road, I beseech you, I beg you, if you’re dealing with unforgiveness, give consideration to what I’ve written.  Do not let one more day go by robbing you of joy, and even more, life!

Let me leave you with a quote from the book, The Shack, which I recommend to any and all who are dealing with this problem;

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting.  It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship.  Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone, you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.  And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”  Blessed Healing to All!!


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