I recently got involved in a conversation with a small child who was sitting with her grandmother waiting for her mother outside the supermarket. In those quirky little subject jumps found in the conversation of the very young, she informed me that her brother, who was younger than her and therefore “fust-er-a-ting”, had broken her (something) – a word that apparently made sense to her. I commiserated, and upheld her for being so grown-up about continuing to be nice to her fust-er-a-ting brother from the lofty heights of her three-and-a-half-year-old wisdom, while her grandmother smiled at me from over her head. Then the little girl told me that she forgave her brother because “Baby Jesus told me to”.
Ok. Point taken. Out of the mouths of babes, and all that.
I’ve struggled, recently, with the emerging and intrusive recollections of all that has happened to me. Of all that’s been done to me. Of all I suffered, and the price I continue to pay. Most of the time, I’m angry at myself for allowing myself to be the victim of intimidation, manipulation, violence and use. But beneath that easily-controlled neat little layer of self-directed anger, I know I should be – and I am, without necessarily being honest enough to acknowledge it – absolutely fucking furious. Not at myself, but at my ex, the perpetrator of such abuse.
And I know that I’m “supposed” to forgive, that I’m “supposed” to hold him in whatever form my prayer takes, that I’m “supposed” to see beyond his actions to the soul beneath, to care for that, to hope for the best for a person whose own suffering caused him to create mine. And I want to do that, because I want to be the type of person who can. But I can’t. I’ve tried. I’ve tried in all the different forms that my prayer takes. It’s a bit disheartening, really, but here’s a suggestion from Adrian Plass, one of my favourite authors (slightly paraphrased by me, because the book from which I originally read it was borrowed from a friend and I’ve already returned it to its owner):
God, I know I’m supposed to pray for (insert name here). I know I’m supposed to care for them and pray for their welfare. But I can’t. I’m so hurt by them and by what they did to me that I can’t pray for them and I can’t love them like I’m supposed to. I’m so angry and hurt that I want them to die, and I want to watch (that bit’s a fairly direct quote. I remember the bit about watching). But I’m praying for them because You told me to. Please help me to feel less horrible about it each time I pray.
I don’t really know what forgiveness means. If it’s lack of bitterness then maybe I’ve achieved it, and I don’t want him to die, and I certainly don’t want to watch. But then I’m still angry, and still scared, and at the same time I feel sorry for the person whose small mean-heartedness meant that he had to hurt me to feel ok about the world. I’m a bigger-hearted person than he is, and I feel sorry for him in that, even though I’d quite like to slap him with my shoe, or shout aloud all the shameful and illegal things he did to me, in front of every single person he’s ever known, and then watch him take the consequences – which probably doesn’t fall into the category of achieving forgiveness.
So I’m pretty confused about it all. The prayer’s about the simplest, most-achievable thing about this whole sticky issue.
Other than the fact that I’m bigger-hearted than my abusive, violent ex-husband. That’s pretty much a given.