Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When Forgiveness and Charity are Seen as a Weakness

As I've mentioned throughout the years, I was in cognitive-behavioral therapy (on and off for a couple of years) for my PTSD. It wasn't until about a year ago that my last therapist basically said "You're done. You have the tools and the strength to no longer need therapy (unless there's a relapse for whatever reason)." I've been doing well since and I'm very grateful for all the help that I received but there's one thing from my years in CBT that did me more harm than good: being told that my ability to forgive and be charitable towards the person who hurts me is a weakness that needs to be eliminated.

Prior to starting CBT, I forgave very easily. I didn't forget but I forgave and was happy to move past the problem. My first therapist (in training) applauded this part of me. She used to say, "I think it's great that you can forgive someone; to try to see what might've caused them to lash out, knowing that it has more to do with them than with you." She was my first and only Catholic therapist (in training) to date. Since I was attending CBT at a local university and she was a grad student, when she was done with the program, they gave me to another grad student.

This second graduate student was the one who made me feel like there were several things wrong with me, especially this gift of being able to forgive. She made me feel like I was weak. When I used to say "I know this person hurt me but I wonder if it's the only thing they've ever known, which is why they act that way," she used to chastise me and tell me that I shouldn't be forgiving or even charitable towards them. They did me harm. They should feel guilty and have to pay for their offenses. Between her and the next 2 therapists I had, I was filled with a lot of anger. My ability to forgive was replaced with hurt and anger.

The last two therapists I had helped me sort my thoughts out, more so the second-to-last therapist I had. She was very sweet and very similar to my first therapist (in training). I was able to regain a bit of that ability, something my last therapist nearly took away... except, this time, I knew myself, my thoughts, and how important it was to be charitable and love others though they treat me poorly. I haven't fully regained the ability to forgive and be charitable as I used to. I still do it, but I can get very angry for a little while before I calm down and see things as they are, separating feelings from rationality. It's a reflex that I, unfortunately, have to unlearn from my time with the second therapist-in-training. There's a reason why I purchased a book on how to combat anger from a Catholic perspective (which I hope to review in the near future).

Today I was reflecting on why forgiveness and charity towards those who've done us wrong are seen as weaknesses. Over the weekend, someone vandalized my car. Police suspect it's a neighbor since I live in a gated building... and the parts that were vandalized made no sense -- the side panel/garnish of the front passenger's side window and then scrapping off of the LX letters on my Honda Civic. They didn't even take the parts. They left the LX next to the back bumper and we found the broken panel/garnish under a neighbor's car. I had so many people badmouth whoever did the damage but I found myself not only being able to forgive whoever did the damage but also ask God to forgive them for their actions.

I didn't feel anger nor injustice. I didn't seek revenge. I filed a police report, sure, but that's because the building manager asked me to for insurance purposes, not to harm the other person. I purchased the replacement part at the local dealer and it was installed (free of charge, thank goodness) today. The building has security cameras installed near where my car is parked but I didn't ask to see who it could've been. I don't want to know because I really don't need to know. Instead, I'm going to pray for whoever did it.

If they were high or drunk, I pray they get the help they need to kick those terrible addictions. If they did it out of hatred (which is the current theory as we have a neighbor who very much dislikes us), I pray that God softens their hearts because hating someone is like drinking poison yourself and then expecting the other person to die. (I don't know who originally said that so I paraphrased). If it was a randomly picked act of vandalism, I pray that God helps them examine their hearts and minds and that they repent and seek to live a better life; a life that seeks God and all that is good.

I hope that one day I may be able to turn the other cheek and forgive as I used to without allowing my temper to flare like it has in recent years. I hope that the anger that does rise up in me from time to time reminds me to be more charitable, especially towards myself if it's anger caused by something I've unintentionally done. I hope that I can remember that forgiving isn't a weakness. Jesus forgave those who crucified him and treated him as if he was subhuman. Did he speak up when they placed the crown of thorns on his head? When they spat on him and mocked him? Jesus suffered more than I ever will in my lifetime. He set a beautiful example of how forgiveness and charity are not signs of weakness but of an inner strength and a reliance on God to help us through times of trials.

... and I just realized that today is Tuesday which means meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary. Well played, Holy Spirit. Well played. ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to share these thoughts bouncing around in my head. :)

I want to get my sleeping schedule back on track (currently sleeping 1-3 a.m. through 10-11 a.m.) so I'm going to try to get everything I normally do at a later time a bit earlier. Since it's almost 8 p.m. PT, I should start getting things done for the day so I can unwind with a cup of tea and a good book. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

1 comment:

AnneMarie said...

I am so glad that you have been able start coming back from the harm that that therapist caused you. Yikes! I think it is so awesome that you were able to be so forgiving when your car was vandalized. I think that sometimes, people (myself, for one) try to justify lashing out anger by thinking about the instance when Jesus flipped over tables and chastised the people who turned the temple into a marketplace. But if we really look at what God is asking of us in the Scriptures, it's easy to see that He does want us to forgive and be at peace. My husband does this way better than I do, but I've been trying to grow in a spirit of forgiveness and understanding more, though I still have quite a way to go!