Saturday, December 23, 2017

After Another Year of Banned, Some Personal Food for Thought

Forgiveness is such a difficult topic to deal with and has so many complicated dynamics. Either it is almost an impossibility for people to grasp, or maybe it is so simple, we simply don't get it. It's probably both.

Most of the time we focus on either being forgiven by others, which has it's own dynamics, or trying to figure out how to forgive those that hurt or offended us. Everyone has both kinds forgiveness going on and so it can get complicated at times. We often are motivated by the idea of "well, I guess I have to forgive them because they said they forgave dare them, damn it." Even the Bible encourages Christians to forgive simply because they were forgiven by God,through Jesus. It even says that God forgave us, not for our sake, but for Jesus sake, which seems a bit like missing the intended mark. I want to be forgiven for my sake for Jesus sake!

Frankly, most don't really forgive but rather let it go to a point of trying not to think about it and yet it simmers on the stove, always available to continue in some form of drama or painful memories to throw back and forth like lawn darts trying to hit the ring right in the middle and claim points over.

I have people in my life who I hope in time would forgive me and I have issues with some for which I need to keep growing toward a more complete and genuine forgiveness. I am at a stage where I am able to look back and see that sometimes what seems such an insult is really an opportunity to grow past something where things can work out better than it ever could have without the push. It is not always this way, of course, but can be if we look for the good in the "bad," which often lurks there grinning at us.

I'd like to talk a bit about the one kind of forgiveness that seems the most difficult of all. That would be forgiving YOURSELF. Forgiving yourself is something that is the final issue to be resolved when offenses have occurred for which forgiving or being forgiven has run it's course. We either can forgive others, and we do it over time and in degrees, or we can't. We are either forgiven, again over time and to various degrees, or we are not. We can control the pace of the one, forgiving others, but not when, if or how others forgive us. That is their issue, not ours, even though we wish it could be given in such a ways as to feel genuine and perhaps open some new doors to reconciliation in any way.

I have lots of topics in my own story to forgive myself for.  Getting involved with WCG might be one. Letting Church Administration move me all over creation without one protest on my part.  Not demanding they put in print their promise for retirement.  Signing off on Social Security as a mere kid because they said it all would be fine.  Divorce, broken relationships, relationships and the assorted crazies that go with reckless change and recognition that , yes, I should have been a geologist or paleontologist.  We all have lots to forgive ourselves for.

But forgiving yourself feels almost impossible. Why? First of all, there is that funky part of our nature that feels our forgiving ourself is contingent on being forgiven FIRST by others for our offenses. Once they do that, then MAYBE, one can think of forgiving themselves. The problem is you might wait until hell freezes over before you are given permission of this kind to forgive yourself. If you forgive yourself without being forgiven by others, there tends to be a voice in your head that says, "How dare you forgive yourself. We have not forgiven you yet. What are you thinking!" It is followed by, "when we get around to forgiving you, we will let you know and then you can play at forgiving yourself, you jerk."

You see , forgiving oneself seems to others a some form of denial or that you don't take what has happened very seriously. To forgive yourself is to send a message that you are rather shallow or oblivious to the pain caused, when in fact, only you know that it is the depth of the pain that makes you want to be able to forgive yourself and move on.

NO ONE can be harder on me than me. That is my own experience. I am the monkey on my own back when I cause pain to others. Perhaps others don't know this, believe this or even want to think this as it might take away some of the sting they can inflict if they choose to, but it is true. Most sensitive people, who even care about this topic are way ahead of their accusers in self condemnation and knowing the pain they have caused that they seek forgiveness for. There are flippant types who hurt others and seem oblivious to it. I do not speak of this type of person, nor is that who I am.

Secondly, as mentioned, we feel that if we forgive ourselves, even if there is no forgiveness extended to us, we are not taking the drama seriously enough. I felt and can feel guilty if not careful for even enjoying life as that might prove I don't take things seriously enough on this topic of forgiveness. "No I won't forgive you. You don't seem miserable enough yet." So often, being forgiven includes requirements and proof you are really sorry for the offense and prove it day and night, over and over by being miserable, practically forever...amen.

Sometimes the requirements that one must meet to be forgiven are just impossible to comply with. Sometimes there is a temptation to comply just to feel forgiven, but it won't last as the two really can't be connected. Forgiveness is a clean experience that allows everyone to be who they really are and think as they really think, no apologies. Anything less is mere compliance for a time and then of course, on go the masks until the next time they fall off. Messy forgiveness is the obligatory kind usually enforced by a fear that if we don't, then Jesus or God or some Deity might just not forgive us of our picky little sins, that we really have very few of.

So in order to forgive ones self, one has to not connect the forgiveness with performance as proof. I can only speak for myself, and I am sure this would be a point of contention, but when I cause the need to be forgiven, I was doing the best I could at the time of the perceived problem. We always do our best at any particular moment which is different from doing better as others might wish us to do to come up to standards they feel are more correct, in their view. But doing better is a future thing.

Doing our best is what we always do at any moment we do what we do, or we would do better!

Finally, it is hard to forgive ourselves because we tie being able to do that with fixing that which we are needing to be forgiven for. I am a fixer and caretaker by nature. That is how I am wired. ENFP according to Meyers and Briggs. That is Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive. People like me become ministers, counselors, negotiators and of all things, massage therapists. So I have not strayed far from how I was wired at birth. We are negotiators because we tend to see both sides of all stories and the points that both sides make for their views. But the downside to this is that we can get stuck in views and not make decisions. If we can't fix it, we can't move on. If we can't fix it, then we don't mean it. If we can't fix it, then we are shallow and gutless. The fact is that some things just don't fix. That is painful but true. All things broken cannot be fixed and if forgiveness of the self is based on first fixing that which is broken, or different, or changed or one sided, then you can't forgive yourself and never will. And so you spin. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Stuck between rocks and hard places, heaven and earth, the devil and the deep blue sea.

But, fixing is not a criteria for forgiving yourself. It can't be because we can't always fix that which is broken but we must forgive ourselves as a part of real living.

So examine how things came to be.

Know that you probably were doing the best you could under the circumstances at that time and that is not the same as doing better.  These are two different things.

Don't base your need to forgive yourself on whether anyone else on the planet forgives you for what you have done, not done or said you wished you could do.

Realize that, of course, you have taken this all very seriously. This might be proven by, oh say, the tears, the anxiety, the doubt, the head banging against the wall, the depression, which is anger turned inwards. It might be the shame you feel which is a perception that you have not lived up to tribal or religious expectations, as if most do, or the guilt over breaking the taboos of the group. Only you need to know how seriously you take that which happens in life and do not let your forgiving yourself depend on whether others give you permission to do so

And finally, some things don't fix. Just getting back into some box that doesn't work is not a fix. Patching is not fixing and trying to be what others expect as the only way to fix is patching and masking. Often things don't fix because one is not accepted for what they are, how they think or what they believe. This is why many with marital problems separate for six months, return, separate for three months, return and then separate for one week , return for their socks and can't fix it.

Forgiveness is not something to take for granted, but a healthy life includes the ability to see through this topic in practical ways and forgive YOURSELF as well, and maybe even first of all.


W said...

Many good points made from experience and reflective thought.

Your statement; "It might be the shame you feel which is a perception that you have not lived up to tribal or religious expectations, as if most do, or the guilt over breaking the taboos of the group. Only you need to know how seriously you take that which happens in life and do not let your forgiving yourself depend on whether others give you permission to do so" should be a banner in front of those who have just left or are considering leaving one of the COGs. Many with the fear of the edicts of the church freeze their thinking to a point that a correct decision can't be made regardless of the situation. If there are any second or third thoughts, most likely they are not forgiving themselves and fear are involved. For those that believe, a day of judgment is coming and what will the answers be? Will there be a lot of "I was just following orders (church)" or "I didn't believe everything they said but I stayed not saying anything (Hypocrisy)" or will it be "I through council and prayer and the Spirit in me made a decision - a tough decision.

Byker Bob said...

I believe that forgiveness is one topic (the basic theme of what Dennis has presented once again validates the oft-repeated precept that our exercise of forgiveness is largely something which benefits ourselves). A separate but related topic is that of basic management or control over factors or conditions which can impact each of us. There are certain people to whom we could either never relate, or who are simply not good for us, or not edifying. They tend to take us down. They are sometimes control freaks, in other cases immoral or unethical, criminal, profane, scammers or trixters, manipulative, hostile individuals or bullies, insatiably and deliberately needy, practicing addiction, violent, paranoid, abusive, dangerously careless, racist, and a laundry list of a whole bunch of undesirable things which tend to make any relationship you could have with them co-dependent. Forgiveness is all well and good. You can and should forgive these people, and yourself as well for the mistakes you make in your relationships and interactions with them. But common sense, the desire for a successful life, and your own stability and ability to remain strong so that you can help others who are not going to consume 100% of your attention or co-opt your life dictates that you cannot and must not get too close to such people.

Successful people constantly attempt to grow, and to fix certain detriments or negatives which they see in themselves. Unfortunately, in many cases, this process becomes like the old adage of the self-lawyering individual having a fool for a client. Still, in order for the process to even start, there must be a recognition that something is wrong, and a desire to improve or change. Not everybody has the introspective perception to even realize that something is wrong, or the desire to seek a better path. Unfortunately, this means that there are some people who cannot be helped, until something happens to destroy their immunity to help. These are people who will exhaust and grieve anyone close to them who desires something better for them. They cannot be fixed until they recognize the need for repair, and are motivated towards fixing.

There are collecting places from which close relationships are generally born: family, the workplace, school, the neighborhood, church, associations, hobby groups, etc. These appear to be great equalizers, places where similar people assemble and participate. But, that is often an illusion. It is not a millennial or transcendental setting. Masked as they are by "the group", unusual, unstable, or unreasonably needy people can just as easily glom on to other members, as can stable people who simply share a common interest. It is not wrong to identify people who always have or cause an unusual amount of problems, and to erect protective walls or barriers distancing oneself from them. I'm not talking about avoiding to help another with a sudden problem that you can resolve. That is not being co-opted and used. I'm talking about avoiding a barrage, an incurable epidemic, a class 4 hurricane, or a plague.

Forgiving is one thing. Choosing one's battles based on ability to win and to maintain strength is quite another. After all, it is by virtue of our strength that we are even able to assist others at all. It is a noble cause to give another a nugget that brings measurable value into their lives. But you must also be able to recognize an incorrigible when you see him/her. Incorrigibles rob others of their share. That is the essence of the parable of the pearls before swine, and it also adds depth of understanding that the people who use "let the dead bury the dead" as their universal paradigm will never attain.


Anonymous said...

People qualify for Social Security after 40 quarters -- ten years -- of employment.

Any minister who left WCG between 1995 and 1998 has now had 20-23 years to get those ten years.

There are lots of reasons to regret one's WCG-related choices, but lack of Social Security benefits became a non-issue a decade or so ago.

RSK said...

No, no, no! That simply will not do!

Don't you know that our god is a god of vengeance and anger, just waiting to imbue us all with power so we can torture all the big bad bullies out there with scenarios Dante could never have dreamed?!? Hell, even people who just incurred our wrath by simply existing, like gays, Catholics, and North Koreans! And all the bastards who we say are just deceived... yet if they get in trouble with the law, we have nothing to do with darkness and eeeeeeevil, oh no! Nothing shall come between me and my high horse!

(/end parody of common COG mindset)

Anonymous said...

Should we forgive the Stalinist legacy media for destroying the country with no end of lies?

Byker Bob said...

You didn't look at the amounts relative to level of income and years paid into the system. 20 years in many cases would qualify you to live on or below the poverty line, eating dog food and hoping there are no medical issues. Could you live in any meaningful way on under $1,000/month?

Personally, I have no dog in this fight since I've been paying into Social Security since 1975. However, I consider retirement to be 1) Something you do for chicks, and 2) Identity foreclosure, since most of us derive our worth from our careers. 3) A ticket to the 'heimers, since you are no longer challenging your brain and all the aluminum from your beer cans, antiperspirant, and HWA-approved cookware suddenly kicks in.


Anonymous said...

Nobody incurred wrath just for existing. Stop lying.

set the captives free said...

Byker Bob, in reference to your last two sentences, wouldn't 'incorrigible's' be another name for the 'dead'? As in "let the dead bury the dead". It kind of read to me like, let the incorrigible's deal with the incorrigible's. Personally I don't believe anyone is truly incorrigible, I think it is more that the key into their heart and mind hasn't been found yet. Yes people do need to 'want to change' and need to want to do better. Then I remember how something, like what Dennis has written here, has been a "key" into my own heart and mind. A step for growth. Something 'clicked'. It's beautiful when it happens. How do you know you or something you may say aren't the 'key' for another that might help them turn that hard part/seemingly impossibly broken part of their life around? Honestly we don't do it. I fully believe it is the God of love that provides.

A lot of problems can't be solved or "fixed" right now but mercy can be shown and forbearance (putting up with), working towards the goal of forgiveness. If we are only willing to do the least possible in effort, finding only quick/easy fix situations to 'help', are we really helping others or just attempting to "save ourselves/our own life"? I understand it. I went into self preservation mode as I was surrounded by some very 'toxic' people and I cut them off because I was not able to function with their -stuff-. It's as if I was not to be given the time of day but was supposed to 'worship at their feet'. Ugh. The thing is, after one of them died 3 years ago, I realized that I had robbed myself of a very special friendship and very likely a great deal of healing for both of us. What I needed to do was to fully speak my mind and not stay in that box that seeming 'incorrigible' kept putting me in. My Dad. I miss him.

Dennis, it's funny. I was just this afternoon saying to my husband that, yes, some of your posts seem to be way out there..but many if not most, show a heart, compassion, understanding and have great meaning for some of the biggest matters in life. This post is the kind of teaching/sharing that I always wanted to hear in "the church". Something beneficial that pertains to the now and works for the future. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and real thoughts on forgiveness. Perfect timing.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Good post. I identify with it. One of my greatest struggles has been to be able to forgive myself for being such a blind fool for so long. Overall, I've succeeded. I meant well, but I could not know what I did not know for so long a time.

Anonymous said...

I never forgive, forgiveness is a sign of weakness.

Anonymous said...

9:12 you make the perfect psychopath

Anonymous said...

I recall reading how a son forgave his father on his deathbed for a life time of abuse. I've read of similar stories. Personally, I believe these people failed to exercise the courage and strength to hold their abusers accountable. Sometimes so called 'forgiveness' is a cowardly cop out and betrayal of justice.

RSK said...

Yeah, I'm sure you don't like that, makes ya COGlodyte types look unclean. I saw it in WCG and I see it frequently on these comments. Whitewashed tombs.