Catholic Conventions or Not?

"The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is done,
we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change.
So that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger, but in wisdom, understanding and love.
"

Jennifer Edwards

I was taught the concept of forgiveness by largely Irish Catholics. This meant confession, hellfire, brimstone, shame, guilt, being BORN a sinner, doing good for others, thinking of yourself and your needs was selfish and wrong.  In summary, I was lead to believe that I must forgive others to make THEM feel better.  To not forgive someone was, well, selfish.

You wrong me.
You feel bad (maybe).
You apologize. (maybe)
I forgive you.

Right?

Wrong.

Least for me. Because what if that wrong still eats at me? Goody for you that you walk away feeling all yummy inside since I forgave you but I am still being bothered by it. Guess I stink at forgiveness?  What if it hurts me so much that your apology doesn’t make me feel any better. Why should I forgive you? How could I? Is my forgiveness then telling your behavior was okay?

Over the years my approach to forgiveness has been turned around. I look at it much like the Buddhists do. I forgive you for ME not for YOU. I forgive you because I choose not to carry this negative energy around. You can still be a little shit. Your behavior is still wrong. But I choose to release it. That doesn’t mean I condone it. It just means I don’t want it eating me up inside.  You might do it again and you know what? Then I decide I don’t want you in my life. You aren’t safe. 

Who is hurt by me being all angry at you? Chances are you don’t even care. You aren’t being hurt. While I walk around with a big lump in my throat, anxiety coursing through my veins, and lose sleep, you go on all fat and happy. Who is being served by this lack of forgiveness?  Surely not me. I want to hurt you yet I continue to hurt myself. Say what?

So yeah, I release it. Again, like a Buddhist, it is about ME.

“In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful emotions from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being.[2] Buddhism recognizes that feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma and instead encourages the cultivation of emotions which leave a wholesome effect. "In contemplating the law of kamma, we realize that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practicing metta and forgiveness, for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.[3] When resentments have already arisen, the Buddhist view is to calmly proceed to release them by going back to their roots. Buddhism centers on release from delusion and suffering through meditation and receiving insight into the nature of reality. Buddhism questions the reality of the passions that make forgiveness necessary as well as the reality of the objects of those passions.[4] "If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers”

When I ponder my “forgiveness” of my Dad, daughters father, others related to my adoptoin trauma, I can confidently say I  have let it go. They were wrong. They failed me. They contributed to the rape of my soul.

But did they do it on purpose? I don’t think so. (But I do believe the agency and their minions did.)

Will being all mean and nasty and bitter towards them really change anything? Will it get my daughter back? No.

So, why stay wrapped up in it? How would it serve me?

Its this very concept that I have applied so easily to others that I am working to apply to myself.

I need to let it go.

I need to stop punishing myself for my ignorance, my youth, my lack of action.

I cannot change what happened. If anything, I have done all I can to effect change. I found her. I let her know I love her, I want her in my life, I would help her, I am there. I respect her boundaries. I educate myself on what she might be feeling. I am respectful. That’s about all I can do.

So, why continue to hang on to all this crap? Will she like me or love me better if I am all twisted up? Wont I then run the risk of making HER feel responsible for my pain?

The only thing it is doing is negatively affecting my daily life and other relationships. It is holding me back. It is squashing my True Self. I am hanging onto a False Self.

I spend hours, days, nights alone wrapped up in this negative self talk . I tell myself how horrible I am. How a good mother would never have done that to her child. How I can never be forgiven for the wound adoption has caused to my daughters soul. I deserve to be punished. Mothers are not supposed to wound their children. Certainly not as deeply as I have wounded mine. I tell myself I deserve this distance she puts between us. I tell myself she has a right to be angry and rude to me.  I feel she is punishing me and I feel I deserve it. I accept it. Please sir, can you whip me again? I don’t think that one cut deeply enough. I am waiting – anxiously, excitedly, and honeslty waiting – for the day when she unleashes her fury on me.  It cannot come soon enough. 

Who the hell (other than me) sits and WAITS to be emotionally beaten? Masochistic much? Is beating myself up going to make HER feel better? No. Whats the value in it? Where is the payoff? Is there one?

THIS. IS. WRONG.

First, I have no proof that my daughter feels any of this. I am just assuming. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t.But while I sit here and throw emotional barbs at myself (and oh so anxious for hers), parts of my life are passing me by. I am less engaged with my other children, I distracted at work. I am not sleeping.

All that energy I am using to mentally flaggelate myself could be used for other things. Better things. It could even make me a better, happier, more desirable mother to my daughter. I think that sounds grand.

It has nothing to do with the jokers in Vatican City. It has nothing do with their beliefs. I am not supporting them.

I am supporting me. 

11 Thoughts.

  1. Suz! Again you are exciting me! The stirrings of revelations. You are doing GREAT work.
    Excuse me in this enthusiastism, but I want to ASK you to consider spending “hours, days, nights alone wrapped up in” positive self talk.
    Or at least fifteen minutes a day for three months.
    What do you think?
    Write me if you want.
    ((((HUGS))))

  2. Suz…great post. It isn’t about your daughter, your parents or siblings or really the adoption agency. It really is only about YOU right now. You can control YOU and the decisions you make. Your daughter knows where you are, how to contact you, and she knows how you feel. There is nothing more you can possibly do than what you have done. What she decides to do with that is really up to her.
    And I agree with you. Don’t be waiting around for an emotional beating. No one can punish you more than YOU…and by the sounds of it, you have beaten yourself into emotional pulp. You are right to think: Did your daughter care or even know…and would you even want her to know? Did you feel better for doing it? Did that change anything…translated: Did it change you and if so, how?
    If all the answers are no, then forgiving oneself is all that is left. And then if your daughter decides to make contact, go from there. That is what I read in your post and I, for one, think that is healthy.

  3. I am dealing with a lot of forgiveness issues myself towards people, circumstances and ultimately trauma that led to my eating disorder and the health issues I now face. This gave me a lot to think about. Thank you.
    Kate

  4. I’ve been told continuing to hate or hold onto one’s anger after being hurt is like carrying battery acid. It burns through you and destroys you before it can ever reach the other person. I think that is one reason Jesus was so big on forgiveness. He knew it as love for the wounded one first of all. Not that the church understands that… organized religion messes up a lot of what Jesus was talking about.
    Kudos to you for working on this for your own peace and joy and health! Blessings on you.

  5. I’ve never forgiven myself. Going to a priest for forgiveness only left me feeling worse and even MORE guilty (if THAT is even possible!!). It’s a daily struggle. No wonder I can’t connect with my daughter, we are both so damaged. I love your writing.

  6. Okay, Suz, I’m working hard to grasp what is to me a new and intriguing concept of forgiveness done for oneself and not others. I really like the idea, but it’s like a foreign language that I can only partly understand, probably because I’m a major lapsed Catholic and have so internalized that sort of forgiveness. Will do some extra reading and see if I can eventually “get it.” That said, I totally support anything that will give you more peace.

  7. Nina – I completely, utterly, totally understand. As a Catholic in Recovery myself, I really do get it. You can take the girl out of the church but not the church out of the girl…at least not with alot of hard work. I am literally telling myself daily that buddhist approach. Forgiveness is all about me. My health. My life. My joy. Not theirs.

  8. Being a first mother and dealing with the christian religion is trying to say the very least. forgiveness for me, has been a long process. it takes years. in 6 years, i have tried to forgive those who wronged my daughter and i. not the industry, but the women who essentially befriended me only to take the child. i try to picture how much more messed up she is, to need to steal a child.i am still angry. i am still suffering. i found out she was an adoptee. it is all very complicated. the hardest forgiveness for me to come by, is forgiving myself.i think it’s optional, not mandatory.

  9. The doctrine of forgiveness was shoved down my throat repeatedly by someone who never forgave me. I always got a kick out of that.
    For the past few years I’ve been a fan of forgiveness for my own sake. Just trying to see the background and then perhaps the source of someone else’s actions. Sometimes it helps, other times not, but it’s a start, right?

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