The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 3

by Elouise

“Forgiving does not remove our scars any more than a funeral takes away all of our grief.”
“We cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.”
Lewis Smedes, in The Art of Forgiving, Moorings 1996

Denial. I lived with it daily. Not simply denial about my father, but about precisely what he had done to me. In a dark room in my mind I still, in knee-jerk fashion, hadn’t given up bearing ‘my’ share of responsibility for the nature of our relationship.

I experienced it as unrelenting warfare. Yet if you’d asked me about this even three years ago, I would have protected my father by denying the truth. All it took was an add-on phrase or two like these:

  • I wasn’t always an easy child.
  • Sometimes I deserved what I got.
  • Sometimes I asked for it by being stubborn.
  • I know I’m not entirely guilt-free.

All intended to soften the truth and point away from my father as the responsible adult party. If I didn’t, I feared no one would listen to me. I had to remind them that I know I’m not perfect, either.

One of the most difficult exercises of my adult life was to blame my father. Not generally, but specifically, and in writing. With clear reasons, and naming the reality for what it was. I worked on this during the summer of 2014, using Lewis Smedes’ book, The Art of Forgiving, as a guide to rethinking my relationship to Daddy (the term my father required us to use when addressing him).

According to Smedes, I couldn’t forgive unless I first blamed my father for what he had done–concretely, specifically, and with reasons that held water. I had never blamed him in that way. I’d spent all my life trying to share the blame. That had to go.

Forgiveness has a shape. It isn’t a feel-good exercise driven by required words or even attitudes of reconciliation. Nor is it intended to deflect my attention from the Big Stuff truth. What happened to me changed my life in negative ways that are not outweighed by any positives I might name as ‘balancing’ factors.

What, then, do I mean when I say, ‘I blame Daddy’? My denial was so deep that it took several weeks to clarify this. Here it is in short form. You can read more here and here.

I blame you, Daddy, for

  • Willfully, intentionally and without coercion from anyone, using your power in ways that abused my body, my spirit, my mind, my emotions, my developing sexuality, and my overall identity/sense of self
  • Abusing your power as my father, as an adult male, and as an ordained clergyman
  • Not knowing or loving me as I was and am, beginning from early childhood and continuing throughout my adult years
  • Creating an atmosphere of intimidation at home, not an atmosphere of safety

Thanks for listening!

To be continued (one more post) . . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2017
Daily Prompt: Denial