Healing Doesn’t Always Mean Forgiving

Note: This is a slightly revised version of my post which originally appeared on the Wellness Universe blog on August 2, 2020. 

My marriage to my children’s father included a great deal of emotional and verbal abuse from him, along with behavior that can only be labeled toxic. That behavior and abuse continued off and on even after I ended the marriage, until last year when I finally severed all possible means he had of reaching me. He has caused lasting emotional damage for me, with the result that I have been in therapy for over a decade to work on healing from what he did as well as from other abuses I’ve experienced in my life.

In some corners of the spiritual community, I would be told to forgive him. I might even be told that forgiving him is the only way I could “truly” heal.

I disagree.

My spiritual mentor taught me that when it comes to harm caused by others, forgiveness equates to admitting that person has power over you. My mentor’s advice was, instead, to practice acceptance. “I accept that this occurred in my life, and that it was the choice of the person who caused the damage to do so. I accept that it was not about me, but about them. I accept that I am a good person regardless and can move on with my life.”

Forgiveness, as preached and practiced by some, not only involves acknowledging someone’s role and power in your life, but also often includes allowing that person to remain in your life. Again, according to those who espouse this way of thinking, the only way to be genuinely healed is to continue to allow the person who wounded you to be around you, even at the risk of being wounded again.

And again, I disagree.

In my view, someone’s first priority is to take care of themselves. To practice self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance. Sometimes, this means removing other people from your life. I had little choice about allowing my kids’ father to remain in my life; we shared children, and the court refused to believe what I told them about his abuse, so I was legally compelled to coparent with him. That exposure to him and his abuse did an additional near-decade of emotional and mental harm to me, until my children were old enough that I was no longer under that legal obligation. And the moment that became the case, I cut that tie.

Allowing someone toxic or abusive to remain in your life in the name of “forgiveness” doesn’t serve you or bring any benefit to anyone except the toxic/abusive person, who continues to have an unobstructed license to continue their behavior. This is not “true healing.” This is ego speaking, telling you that you have to act in a “more spiritual” way to prove that you’re really healed and enlightened. (An exception might be made for someone who has been toxic or abusive in the past but has demonstrated remorse, willingness and ability to change, and has expressed apology and made amends for their behavior.)

True healing comes when you embrace yourself as the incredible being you were created as, and choose to conduct your life and relationships in a way that honors yourself, your needs, and your health. And sometimes that means forgiveness doesn’t happen, at least not as it’s often preached–and that is okay. You have the right to set boundaries for yourself. You have the right to say, “This person is unhealthy for me.” And you have the right to forgive–or accept–in the way that works best for you.

I work with people who have experienced abuse, bullying, and trauma and are learning to forgive and accept themselves above all, providing Chios Energy Healing, channeling, and mindset coaching to facilitate their healing journey. I would love to talk with anyone who is on that journey about how I might help. Channeling sessions, which have been on hold due to my recent surgery, will resume on Monday; Chios Energy Healing sessions are unavailable until November 2, but I can share some suggestions for ways to rebalance and restore your own energy system. You can learn more on my website, http://www.riverevolutions.com, or my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/riverevolutions.

Today

Today, I’m undergoing surgery to remove my thyroid, as a result of the health issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Obviously, I pre-scheduled this post!

I appreciate good thoughts and healing energy that anyone is able and willing to send. The surgery itself is not major, but there are risks, as there are to any surgeries. More difficult for me, I will be alone in that my family members won’t be allowed into the hospital, so I won’t wake up in the recovery room to see them waiting for me, or be able to have them visit and sit with me while I remain in the hospital overnight.

At the same time, though, I am looking forward to having this taken care of. So many of the physical and even mental health issues I’ve experienced over the past two to three years can be traced to the thyroid problems. Once the thyroid is removed and I’m put on medication (which is simply a version of the hormones my thyroid is supposed to make and hasn’t been), I’ll feel so much healthier and be so much more able to accomplish things!

For the next few weeks, I’ll be somewhat out of commission as I recover. I have some blog posts banked up that I’ll be sharing, and my newsletter will go out on its regular schedule. I’ll be poking around on social media as well. However, channeling sessions and email channelings are on hold until September 28, and Chios sessions are unavailable until November 2, to give me time to tend to my own health and recovery.

 

This is and will be a good thing. This I believe.

Choosing Community

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve chosen to leave some of the Facebook groups for spiritual practitioners to which I belonged.

I won’t get into all the reasons here, because I want to avoid calling out anyone in particular. Let’s just say that members of one group became very judgmental and accusatory about me and my practices due to a message I shared with them (ironically, a message about judging and working on yourself before you judge others), while the other group was specifically designated as a women’s group and has members who are very firm about it being a women’s group, which became uncomfortable for me as a nonbinary (specifically agender) person.

A third group includes members who post conspiracy theories, misinformation, and blatant lies about COVID and other things, and due to my policy of zero tolerance for that kind of thing, I’m likely to leave that group as well. I’ve stuck it out thus far because I have great respect for other members and consider a few of them my friends, so leaving the group would be more painful for me.

Finding community, whether it’s online or in person, isn’t easy. It’s even more difficult when you hold beliefs that others either disagree with or find “crazy” or “ridiculous,” and more difficult still when you are not one of the recognized binary genders. I’ve always struggled to fit in much of anywhere; even as a preschooler, I was “too weird” for the other children to want anything to do with me. And the more people I encounter, the more frequently I feel like I don’t belong.

I have been fortunate with some of the communities I’ve become part of. Shout-outs to Britt Bolnick and Calandra Martin for making their communities welcoming and inclusive; while they specifically state they work with women, and in fact I was still identifying as a woman when I began working with them, when I came out as agender both of them made the effort to make sure I knew I was still included, and both have made attempts to alter their language to be more inclusive. Also to the EarthSpirit community, which is a large, varied, and hugely welcoming and caring spiritual community I’ve been part of for four years now, and to the Polka Dot Powerhouse networking community, which has expanded their mission to explicitly include serving nonbinary people.

Finding community is a very individual thing. Communities which feel supportive and welcoming to one person might feel exactly the opposite to another. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh. And sometimes it’s just another example of “nothing works for everyone.”

I struggled a bit with leaving the Facebook groups, because I felt like I was giving up, and one of the bits of detritus from my past is the tendency to put myself down for not forcing myself to stay in situations that don’t feel healthy or aligned for me. But that’s the thing. Those groups did not feel right *for me*. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the groups or the people in them, just that they weren’t groups in which I fit. And when you are in a situation where you don’t feel like you fit or feel like you have to change yourself in order to fit, it’s okay to leave. 

It’s especially okay to leave when a community or group turns out to be toxic or unhealthy for you, or where you experience bullying or emotional harm. I’m thankful that wasn’t the case with the groups I left; they weren’t toxic, just misaligned with me.

Finding and becoming part of a community can bring you benefits, but there are no benefits to joining a community that isn’t aligned with you, or to forcing yourself to stay in a community that doesn’t feel right. It is okay to make the choice to leave and seek a different group. Doing so doesn’t make you a quitter or weak; it makes you someone who values yourself enough to find a group where you feel like you belong.

Speaking Through Fear

I’ve been working and learning to be better about speaking my truth. Speaking up for what I believe, and expressing who I am and what I stand for.

What I didn’t take into account is how scary that actually can be.

I knew *I* was scared to do it, but chalked up the fear to all the time I spent in environments where speaking up was literally unsafe for me. What I’d forgotten is that in claiming my freedom to speak, I’m also claiming responsibility for the things I say, and sometimes that responsibility includes facing people who respond negatively or who are hurt by my words.

When I am informed that I’ve said something offensive or hurtful, I apologize where warranted and make amends where possible. My right and willingness to speak up doesn’t absolve me of the need to own my shit and take responsibility. But even though I apologize and I respect and validate people’s reactions, that doesn’t mean fear doesn’t raise its head.

In my past, people have harmed, or attempted to harm, me because they didn’t like things I said or just didn’t like me. So when someone approaches me with an issue they have about something I’ve said, while outwardly I try to respond in a respectful and productive way, my inner child is gibbering that the person might hurt me, that they’ll talk behind my back and turn people against me and so on. And anyone who has experienced the gibbering fear of a child can tell you that logic doesn’t always work to quiet the fear.

Then there’s the issue of attracting unwanted attention. Since I’ve begun speaking up more and sharing my messages on Instagram as well as Facebook, I’ve had about half a dozen men respond with propositions and “compliments.” (They might think that “Hey, you’re sexy and I want to be your friend” is a compliment; I do not.) It’s easy enough to block them, but again, my past comes up. I have been preyed on and victimized in the past because I present as female, and so even though I know these men are online (and often in far-away countries) and I can block them, the fear that they’ll stalk me or track me down elsewhere in person or online still looms.

I’m learning. I’m finding the balance between staying quiet out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or speaking up but in a mindful way. I’m also finding the line between rational fear and irrational, and the more important line between what I am in control of and responsible for, and what is in the control and responsibility of others. I believe I owe people the respect to not hurt them intentionally and to apologize if I cause hurt; I do not believe I owe anyone the choice to keep my mouth shut so they aren’t offended.

(Note that I am referring to individual offense, such as someone not liking it when I state an opinion that is opposed to theirs. I am not referring to things that are offensive, prejudicial, and harmful to entire groups of people, such as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech. I don’t engage in those types of speech knowingly, and if someone calls my attention to something I’ve said that falls under one of those things, I learn from it and am more mindful going forward.)

Saying, “I’m going to use my voice and speak my truth no matter what” is easy. Actually *doing* it is complicated, difficult, and scary. There are a lot of things to weigh, including whether speaking truth is worth the risks. For me, it is, and I hope to learn more over time about how to find the balances I need in order to speak.