Forgiveness isn’t divine

I meant what I said in my last post – I really am moving on from the drama of my father. (Okay, okay…I’m starting to move on.)

Of course I’m still thinking about it; one forgets these things as easily as one walks into Mordor. During my daily perusal of Dear Wendy, though, I came across a link to a Slate post by Emily Yoffe, the site’s current “Dear Prudence”.

She starts, “What do we owe our tormentors?” What follows is a discussion, with references to several experts and studies as well as anecdotes of famous family issues, about the difficulty in letting go of these kinds of relationships – as well as the danger to the victim of not.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned on here, but have said more than a few times to my mother, is that a big reason I initially held back from sending a “kiss-off” letter was because I couldn’t bear to have it on my conscience if my father suddenly decided to make good on the threats of suicide he’s made for as long as I can remember. I know in my rational mind that he is a troubled and ill and self-centered man, and that regardless of his own justifications the decision to take his life (or not) rests squarely on his shoulders.

However, I have to contend with a strong emotional core. When I went to the police in 2004 and my parents finally separated for good, I struggled for years with feelings of guilt that it was my fault, not his, that our family was torn apart. It didn’t matter that I could see (and was living) the positive changes that night brought to us; inside, I blamed myself for not keeping quiet and wondered if my mother and brother blamed me too. It’s a twisted, vicious cycle, and not one that I want to jump into again. Yoffe discusses the concept of preemptive or exculpatory forgiveness – forgiveness given for the sake of finding peace, without any attempt on the part of the forgiven to make amends. I realize that any inkling of forgiveness I can give him would be nothing more than that, and what’s more it wouldn’t bring me peace.

Yoffe says, that’s okay. “Sometimes the best thing to do is just close the door.” I couldn’t agree more…but I will admit that it’s so nice to see someone else saying it too.