“Mark how do you forgive someone who has sexually and mentally abused your daughter at the age of three and was your husband whom you were supposed to trust? I have forgiven a lot in my life but find it so hard to forgive this one.”
Whew! The questions aren’t getting any easier! And for that, I’m grateful. Because I get to learn more, myself, as I answer them.
The first thing I would say, is, well, you certainly don’t have to forgive this man. And why would you even want to?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Why in the world would you want to forgive someone who’s done such a thing? Because you’re a good Christian woman, and that’s what good Christians do? Or you’re a spiritual person of whatever faith, and that’s what spiritual people do? Or is it because you understand the value and significance of forgiveness, in the overall picture of your life?
Or is it maybe because you’re sick and tired of living with the ugliness of what happened? Tired of blaming yourself for what happened?
Or is it because the impact of what happened touches you so deeply, and you just don’t want to deal with all that intensity?
And the first thing I would say, is be clear on why you want to forgive him. To me, some things are not forgivable. Who among us wants to forgive Hitler, or Stalin, or the innumerable other madmen of the world who’ve caused so much unnecessary suffering? Or what about ‘The Rape Of Nanking?’ It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Your motivation matters. Because it’s going to greatly influence the success of your forgiveness efforts. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being sick and tired of dealing with the ugliness; not to mention the fact that it’s so easy to beat yourself up over this. And now you’re ready to stop beating yourself up. But all too often, here’s what happens:
“I want to find some way – any way – to put this behind me. And if forgiveness will help me, then I’ll forgive. I just don’t want to deal with the intensity inside of me. I’ve got too much hate and rage and God-knows-what-else inside of me. I don’t want to open up that door. I just want to get over this.”
There’s too much horror inside that intensity. And so people often resort to judgments so they don’t have to feel it. Judgments freeze. It’s like a frozen pond in the wintertime. You can skate right across the intensity of feeling that lies beneath the ice. Unfortunately, when you skate across, nothing ever gets resolved. Forgiveness won’t work.
Plus, judgments hurt. They always end up hurting you in the long run, because the intensity underneath the judgments is alive. The intensity is part of you.
And keep in mind here, we’re talking about one of the most heinous acts imaginable. It’s normal to be outraged. But what so often happens, judgments quickly come up to suppress the intensity, and then we’re ‘left to our own devices.’ And by ‘devices’ I’m talking about such things as righteous anger… where we feel 1% anger, and 99% righteousness. Then we’re stuck. Nothing changes. Forgiveness can’t happen.
Anyway, when you’re dealing with a situation such as this, you’re going to have to go beyond the judgments to truly forgive and heal. And that’s not easy, because of the fear we all have towards our own intensity. Which is like being afraid of ourselves…
The only reason I can even work with these types of situations is because I’ve heard so many cases of abuse, from so many different people who were victimized. It no longer rips my guts out the way it used to. I had to deal with my own intense feelings about this topic just so I could work with it.
The best way I’ve found to deal with my own intensity is one piece at a time. So let’s try to break this situation apart and see what’s here.
First, we have an innocent young girl who was abused. Three years old. Way too young to even understand what’s happening to her. Massive shame is dumped onto her by the abuser. She’ll carry that shame for the rest of her life, unless she learns how to heal it.
Well, as I’ve said before, my own daughter came to me before she was born. One night as I was lying in bed, alone. This was months before we even knew if we were having a boy or a girl. My daughter came to me and tried to explain how DNA works, how bodies are selected, how parents are selected, and a few other things.
The bottom line: she chose her parents.
Now, let’s extrapolate on that. I’m not special. If this happened to me, then it must mean it happens to everyone. Everyone chooses their parents. That’s what I believe. It’s the only thing that even makes sense to me. It’s the only way I can resolve the injustice in this world. Believing this helps me understand, and helps me deal with the intensity.
“I came here, knowing full well I would be crippled with shame at an early age, for the express purpose of overcoming it, for the glory of exalting the human spirit, and as an expression of love for my Creator.”
Or something like that. It’s the only way I can resolve in my mind what happened. And what continues to happen every single day to so many, many people. Before we’re born, we think we’re so strong… Then we come here, and we get so lost.
“I can do this! I can be the one who ends the cycle of shame in my family heritage.”
Then I get down here on earth, and forget all about my lofty goals. All of a sudden I’m in the ocean without a lifeboat, just trying to stay alive. My goal has become survival. But in that surviving, maybe I can also achieve my main goal – to end the cycle of shame.
This doesn’t excuse the abuse, but it might partially explain it.
Is it possible this little three year old girl has found herself in this situation?
I would say yes, absolutely. I’ve seen it happen with others who were abused, who went on to heal their shame and end the cycle. I’ve personally worked with women who were horribly abused as small children, but were able to heal it as grown-ups. It’s always an intense experience.
You want to know what blocks the healing? It’s almost always a fear of intensity. Which is so sad, because it’s so unnecessary. It’s like being afraid of a roller coaster ride. Hey, you’re not going to fall off. It’ll be intense. It’ll be a thrill. It’ll be real. And then it’s done. You’ll look back and say, “Wow, that was no big deal. What in the world was I afraid of?”
Such is the nature of intensity.
And you’re dealing with an intense situation here. Not just the child, but the mother goes through perhaps just as much. Did the mother know before she was born, that she would have a daughter who would be abused by her own husband – the very man who helped bring the child into this world?
No one can say for sure. We can only try to make sense of the situation as best we can, and try to heal. My best guess is the mother did know. Again, for some luminous intent; some lofty goal; some reason that’s hard to fathom down here while we’re bobbing up and down on the waves, trying to keep our heads above water. Trying not to drown.
Why would I believe such things?
Because it gives me something to forgive.
Look, if you married a guy who then abused the daughter the two of you brought into this world, do you think you’re only going to blame him? Not likely. Blame usually ends in self-blame. Hate usually ends in self-hate.
As I’ve said many times, it’s much more important to forgive yourself first. Even in a case like this. Am I saying it’s your fault? Of course not! I’m saying you need to deal with your own intensity.
Any woman who marries a man who then molests the child they have together; that woman has a lot to forgive herself for. NOT because it’s her fault. This is not about fault. This is about healing. It’s about healing the pain and the damage done. It’s about ending the fault.
When you forgive yourself first, then you’ll have the strength and the clarity to forgive the offender. Maybe not for what they did, but for why they did it. If you don’t forgive yourself first, then you’ll always be skating right over the intensity, and the forgiveness won’t work.
The problem is we think it’ll be worse if we dig into the intensity, and that’s not true.all the best,
Mark Ivar Myhre
The Emotional Healing Coach
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