Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hitting the Wall

"Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among those who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour - unceasingly. This is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family." -Henri Nouwen

Sometimes I forget that I can be safe. That is especially true when I am afraid of being left behind, afraid of being unloved, afraid of being abandoned. It's those times when I take seriously the idea of compassion ~ even for me. My claws can dig deep, especially when I am afraid.

And in that, I have often hurt other people. I haven't been willing to let go when the time is right. I haven't been able to truly wish them well.

Then I have to remind myself about the expansiveness of who we all are ~ an expansiveness that makes us capable of compassion when we thought it was impossible.

I'm learning that lesson right now as I got some news yesterday from my doctor that I would have preferred to not hear. Due to the actions of others, I have an illness that will never leave. I can't get rid of it. Can't will it away. Can't pretend it doesn't exist. It does and it affects my ability to connect to others in a meaningful way, in a way that comes naturally to most. "It's permanent but it's treatable," he said.

I spent the evening in a slow burn, wanting to exact revenge on those who perpetrated this damage.

Then in the dead quiet of night, I came to understand that I can not expect to be forgiven if I do not forgive, if I do not honor the woundedness that caused the abuse that changed the hardwiring in my brain.

When I think of the people who did this, when I hear other stories of those who have survived childhood abuse, I choose to see in meditation - the perpetrators and me - held by the heart that is larger than all of us ~ and at the same time, a part of us.

I can't help but see on some level that they were both children once, too. They both had hopes and fears. That way it becomes possible to somehow connect us, to make me understand a bit more.

While there are certainly degrees of hurt, I'm not sure there are differences in kind. What hope do I have of being held in that same large heart if I close mine to those who hurt me ~ but continue in my own human way to hurt others by hanging on so tight that it's difficult to let people go when they need to go?

If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? - Alexander Solzhenitsyn


crazymumma said...


Don't you think by this post alone, by the path of thought you are on that healing is taking place?

This was amazing. Such a brilliant line of thinking through pain and hurt. I think I will be lying in bed tonight trying to follow this path, or at least trying to find it. Because it is good. And forgiveness does not come easily.

I hope that many readers take some of your wisdom to heart.

QT said...

The two quotes that you have included are probably some of the best I have read, especially the first one.

I feel for you, Chani. I think you are on the right path. As a bystander to child abuse of all kinds when I was a reporter, I wondered how do we punish someone who so dramatically alters a human being's ability to trust and to love??

heartinsanfrancisco said...

In the abuse field, we speak of the Cycle of Violence. It's like the tiny Russian doll sets that each fit into slightly larger ones, going back through the generations to the first parent to abuse his child because he had a bad day.

And the abuse heaps up so the child at the bottom of the heap gets the full brunt of all his ancestors' frustrations from the beginning of time.

Who in his right mind would inflict that kind of pain on a child?

Forgiveness, though, is easier said than done. The opening of a heart long sealed shut is no easy task, but it is also the only way out for the one trapped within.

I struggle with such anger, too, even as I know that it does no good and in fact, continues to harm me and those I love now.

Allowing our responses to be ruled by old fears means that we have taken our old abusers into the very stronghold of ourselves from which they continue to make us feel terrible and alone.

Forgiveness in this instance means, perhaps, recognizing the path our pain traveled to become ours, thanking it if we can for doing its best to protect us from hurt, however misguidedly, and letting it go.

Perhaps there should be a ceremony for such letting go. Or maybe it's just called "living."

Anonymous said...

A very wise post indeed Chani.

Like love, forgiveness requires one to completely let go -- it is impossible to do it without really doing it. And unless you are in the middle of it, it seems like an unfathomable task. I tip my hat to you --for hitting that wall and coming away with an understanding and a release.

Anvilcloud said...

WOW! Sounds like a brutal day and that you continue to learn and gain insight. It's hard not to be angry, but your parents (or whomever) were also probably products of rotten environments ... as were theirs. I think it says something like this in the book: "The sins of the fathers are visited unto the third and fourth generations." At one time I thought that might indicate a petty a vengeful deity, but now I think it's just an obvious truism. Best wishes.

thailandchani said...

CM, yes.. I do think it's part of healing. Healing is taking ownership of our own lives instead of giving it away to someone else. I don't see how we can do that if we continue to let those perpetrators ruin us. Best to forgive and move on. There are too many nice people in the world to be bothered with those who aren't.


QT, I don't know. I'm not even sure punishment is the answer. Perhaps correcting the causes might be.

I'll have to think about this one. :)


Susan, a lot of abuse comes from lack of coping skills. I've caught myself in the past having an abusive thought about someone.. and on occasion, abusing with my temper. It's lack of seeing any other way at the moment. That seems to be a core issue anyway.

We all have to make a choice to stop abusing.

There is a ceremony in my culture for letting go. It's called Loy Kratong.


Witnessing, it's great to see you here! I absolutely love your blog! :)

I've often said that behavior is a choice.. and letting go is a behavior. That to say.. I agree.


Anvil, both of my parents were spoiled brats.. which in its own way is a horrible life. Very good point about the multi-generational nature of it. I think you've nailed the true meaning of that one. Some take it as karma.. but your explanation sounds more reasonable.


Well, folks.. I'm trapped in the ethers of Google Reader again.. so I will give up and come back to answer comments (presuming there are any more) in the morning.

Peace to all! :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't the best way to learn compassion to walk in anothers shoes? Learning what you did can't be easy, but to conclude you need to forgive is compassion in itself isn't it? Acknowledging those that went before you couldn't have possibly have known better or they wouldn't have continued to abuse. Understanding that helps bring you towards forgiveness, if not understanding and compassion.

Laurie said...

You are in my thoughts as you confront what has hurt you. Many blessings to you.

Tabba said...

Chani, this is so raw. Reading it is like looking into your mind and your heart.
Something in this reminded me of Thich Nhat Hahn & something I read of his about a sea pirate and a little girl.
Are you familiar with what I am speaking of?

Rimarama said...

I have always struggled with forgiveness, and I've never had to forgive for trangressions as grave as those that were committed against you, but I do know, from my limited experience, that it is so powerful, liberating, and healing when it does happen. Judging from this post, it sounds like you are well on your way.

Peace to you . . .

thailandchani said...

Reflecting, yes.. I consider it to be a lesson. I don't believe very many people choose to abuse. They don't know another way .. or they don't recognize it as abuse. I don't believe people are inherently cruel.


Laurie, thanks.


Tabba, I don't remember that one specifically. What was the essence of it?


Rima, thanks. :) I do feel like i am on my way. There are some changes coming. I can feel it. Forgiveness is definitely a first step and the only way to go. It's the only thing that frees me to move on to a quality of life that I want.


Angela said...

Thank you.

Catherine said...

Chani, first off, I am so sorry about your difficult news, about your pain and sorrow.

About this post - excellent, excellent, amazing, amazing. I so frequently think about this, actually, yet encounter it (in others or myself!) so rarely. But I believe that wisdom and health comes only after we realize that good and evil are not clear cut (in this world, anyway) and not only have we been wounded, but we have wounded. And not only have the perpetrators wounded, but they have been wounded.

There is someone in my life that I am having trouble showing grace to, right now. And so often, SO OFTEN, I think of the forgiveness I myself need - in the eyes of God, if not mankind - and how can I withhold that which I dearly need to gain?

thailandchani said...

Angela, thank *you*! I always get so much from your posts!


Catherine, I remember reading a book in the 80s written by Patti Reagan. It was called "Homebound" and it was about her life growing up with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. She was a free spirit with her own mind and often had a lot of conflict with her parents.

One line she wrote in the book stood out for me. "Sometimes forgiveness means we don't do well together." That really helped me to read that because I'd conflated forgiveness and absolution. There are many people I have forgiven but "we don't do well together." We can not have a relationship but that doesn't stop me from true forgiveness.

That knowledge has helped me to find grace in some situations I might not have been able to otherwise.

Make sense?


Jan said...

Chani, I am so sorry. You shared at an amazing depth, showing how the Divine is already working within you to heal your inner self. Thank you.

slouching mom said...

Lovely, thoughtful, moving post, Chani.

I find you one of the braver people I know.

Snoskred said...

I'm sorry this was your experience, Chani. Forgiveness is the best thing you do for yourself. It isn't about anyone else or what someone did. It is about healing and letting it go. It is so important.

flutter said...

I am sorry, you don't deserve this.

blooming desertpea said...

Forgiveness is not an easy path, especially when you're always reminded of the pain that people have inflicted on you, with an permanent illness. Yet, I truly believe, too, that forgiveness is the path to go as it sets us all free ...

Emily said...


We are far apart in age, geography, lifestyle, and philosophy. But, we are together on some cosmic level, because today, as I was taking Zachary to school, I thought a lot about these very things, both in terms of my current issue and in terms of my family. I'll be posting on it soon, I think.

I am sad you are carrying a very physical reminder of your past, but I am glad that your spirit rises above it.


Tabba said...

I have copy & pasted the part that came to mind when I read your post. Draw from it what you will :)
I have a poem for you. This poem is about three of us.
The first is a twelve-year-old girl, one of the boat
people crossing the Gulf of Siam. She was raped by a
sea pirate, and after that she threw herself into the
sea. The second person is the sea pirate, who was born
in a remote village in Thailand. And the third person
is me. I was very angry, of course. But I could not take
sides against the sea pirate. If I could have, it would
have been easier, but I couldn't. I realized that if I
had been born in his village and had lived a similar life
- economic, educational, and so on - it is likely that I
would now be that sea pirate. So it is not easy to take
sides. Out of suffering, I wrote this poem. It is called
"Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have many names,
and when you call me by any of them, I have to say, "Yes."

Anonymous said...

Chani, I don't have any practical advice, but I feel for you, and I wish you peace. I wish for you to be at peace within the large heart.

Julie Pippert said...

Chani this was a lovely, insightful post, and I was ready to focus on that but then I read a comment you made. Yes, forgiveness doesn't mean absolution IMVHO. It means IMO, "I have let this go, it no longer has the same value and power in my life." Sometimes it means absolution, sometimes it means reconciliation, sometimes it means seeing the two valid points, but sometimes, it just means letting go.

Great post.

Using My Words

KC said...

Forgiving in this instance seems so incredibly difficult, even contemplating it in the face of such horror is truly a testament to your strength.

painted maypole said...

beautifully expressed. I still plan to do anohter post on forgiveness ...someday:)... and this was lovely. and the quote! fantastic!

storyteller said...

Your post is heartrending and (as usual) thought-provoking. I find myself remembering how I came to practice forgiveness as a daily meditation when walking anywhere. For me, forgiveness of others preceded acceptance and forgiveness of myself ... just as I am. Only after many years did I realize that forgiveness allows us to put down the burden WE carry (that the person who "wronged" us forgot about and/or dropped long ago). We release ourselves and return to love ... and peace through the choice to forgive. Thanks for the reminder and my prayers go with you as you continue your journey.

On a different topic, I've been catching up in Google Reader (thanks to Annie) and came upon the post you published on your one-year anniversary of blogging (posted on 9-24-07). I'm amazed at all you accomplished in such a short time. What an inspiration you are to me as a "newbie" to this Virtual World. Methinks I must be a little older than you, but our living circumstances are similar. One difference however, is that I've come to relish my "alone time" ... at least for now, but this took a long time, and I do have Molly and Ms. Kitty plus lovely neighbors (along with my sister and two best friends when they're not off in their RVs exploring the USA) to keep me engaged in the world. I'm grateful to Verizon for free cell to cell minutes often, for that's how we stay connected while they're gone for months on end.
Hugs and blessings,