Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
In my opinion, the most difficult person to forgive is the one who is currently and repeatedly causing harm. Frustration can be insurmountable trying to deal with an offender who ignores our voice or pleas to stop. It may be appropriate to use the term “abuser” to describe this person who is operating under the assumption of power and control.
Someone once said to me that the first step toward recovery and healing from abuse is to stop the abuse. When physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, spiritual, or financial abuse is occurring, it must be stopped.
How are we supposed to forgive a person like that? Should we?
We have examples of such amazing spirit in the lives and deaths of people who suffered while forgiving those who brought them harm. One hundred years ago, minutes before her death, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna prayed for those who were about to kill her. Earlier she had forgiven the murderer of her husband.*
What about now? Photos of Hutus and Tutsis, the two warring cultures whose acts of genocide killed millions of people in Rwanda, show survivors from both sides standing together 20 years later forming a new interdependent society. Pascale Kavanaugh began to care for her abuser in 2010 after the woman suffered strokes that left her helpless. Pascale sat by her mother, her enemy, and read to her. Through this experience, Pascale’s hatred changed to love and forgiveness.**
This type of struggle is familiar to me. Because my family of origin was unhealthy, I have had to address this position of forgiving while being hurt. Of course your issues are unknown to me. What I can point out is what I have learned in the process.
- It is sometimes necessary to leave. No one can tell another when it is time to end a relationship. I had to learn my value before I could say goodbye to toxic people. However, abuse is never ok, and you can seek help from a number of community and religious organizations.
- It can help to see the offender as human. Jesus is the epitome of understanding this as he asked God to forgive those who were killing him, “because they do not know what they were doing.” ***
- It can help to accept that this person may not change. Much of my pain in harmful relationships has been caused by a lingering hope that tomorrow or next month, or after some event, the offender will soften. These pipe dreams kept me stuck in damaging holding patterns.
- It is helpful to let go of the woulda-couldas. If only the past would change, I thought, then everything would be okay. But it won’t. Harm has been done, pain is reality, thinking about regrets only injures us more. Today’s option is moving forward. We know who and where we once were, but do we know who we want to be? We can go for what we want.
- It is a relief to believe that God is the offender’s judge and we can leave behind any desire for revenge or vindication.
- It is important to forgive the right person. I have found it impossible to forgive someone who hurt me when deep inside I was actually blaming myself.
- Return good for evil. This does not mean to become or perpetrate an attitude of passive slave or door mat! However, by practicing kindness with boundaries, I have felt my heart become free of resentment. Jesus said to pray for our enemies.
Why forgive? Because it empties our hearts of bitterness. How to forgive? By extending kindness and mercy. No one promises this is easy.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com
*A Russian Orthodox Church Website Orthodox Christianity and the World http://www.pravmir.com Great Examples of Forgiveness file:///C:/Users/nancy/Downloads/great-examples-of-forgiveness%20(1).pdf
**By Jane Claire Hervey http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/extreme-forgiveness/ A Mending Feud and The Unexpected Caregiver