The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 1

by Elouise

My deceased father, an ordained clergyman, has been on my mind for the last several weeks. Especially the way his behavior toward me still affects my life.

I began blogging over three years ago because I was ready to break my silence. I wanted to tell the truth. Not just the truth about what happened to and within me back then, but the way it shaped the woman I’ve become.

If you haven’t read my earliest posts, I invite you read these, published over three years ago: Dear Dad and Rituals of Submission: Part 1 and Part 2.

Forgiveness has also been on my mind in the last few weeks. The topic almost always comes up when I describe my life as a child and young teenager.

My friends are concerned for me. It’s important, even necessary that I forgive my father. The sooner the better.

  • For some, this is the key to God forgiving me. Indeed, if I cannot forgive another human being, why should God forgive me?
  • For others, it’s important so I can ‘move on’ with my life. This means not getting stuck dwelling on this negative part of my life. Or at least not making it the leading theme of what is, after all, ‘my’ life. Even though it’s impossible for me to conceive of ‘my’ life without multiple connections with my father.
  • For friends who aren’t wired the way I am (an INFJ from way back and very happy, thank you!), forgiveness seems a reasonable exercise that would break the power of the past over me. By putting ‘his’ voice in one column, and ‘mine’ in another, I would simply clarify the truth and get on with my life. Almost like starting over with a blank slate. It sounds lovely; yet it isn’t true to reality as I experience it.

I appreciate each outlook. Yet I still get hooked by self-destructive attitudes and behaviors that arise daily.

  • My responses to these situations are rooted in my father’s attitudes and behaviors toward me.
  • Yet they seem to be my own beliefs and assumptions about myself.

Finally, I often wonder whether I can or need to forgive myself. If so, what would that look like?

As I see it, forgiveness isn’t a spiritual, intellectual, or strategic decision made once for all. It’s about my whole being and will take a lifetime. I face multiple opportunities each day to let go of my sometimes frantic desire for security and survival, affection and esteem, power and control, and my desire to change a situation.

A broken clay pot can’t be made whole by gluing it back together. No amount of glue will make it new. It’s still a damaged, cracked clay pot. The only way to repair the damage is to return the pot to the furnace, melt it down, and tenderly begin reshaping it. Not as an act of terror—though the process is terrifying—but as an act of love, acceptance and healing.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. What might healing look like, and what kind of forgiveness would it take?

Thanks for reading, listening with your hearts, and commenting if you’d like.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2017
Image with quote found at