I have written about physical punishment countless times before and I’m always horrified with the belief systems of a majority of the people I share this society with. Some people here are very creepy…
* * *
The Curse: Patterns and Spirals
“Forgiveness is another word for letting go.”
-- Matthew Fox
“Forgiveness is another word for letting go.”
-- Matthew Fox
Learning forgiveness, both granting it to others and accepting for ourselves, is one of the primary tools for spiritual growth. For many us, if we are honest enough with ourselves, taking a look at our history is to be plagued with deep-rooted feelings of guilt. We may develop insight, or we finally open to the possibility of being accountable for some of this history, which opens us to a new perspective on life. As human beings, we may also yearn to undo our mistakes. However, many of us carry guilt for years as if we deserved to continue to be punished.
True growth means letting go.
My experience has shown me that it is not until we learn forgiveness that we can stop the patterns that have been handed down from generation to generation. I'll give you an example from my own personal history. I was blessed with two beautiful, intelligent, caring, and courageous parents. The fact that I’m living the way I am today is a testament to their legacy of courage and determination against sometimes great odds. I am very grateful for what they have given me. I honestly believe that if I were to carry my mother on my back for the rest of her life, I still would not be able to repay what she has given me.
However, both of my parents were abused as children. For example, it was a common practice to make children kneel on uncooked rice, or to be hit with a switch until they bled. That’s considered a form of abuse today, thankfully. My father was orphaned by the age of seven, having lost both his parents to disease and was subsequently raised by an older sister who was barely older than him.
I was raised in a home where the specter of violence was always just a moment away until my mother was able to escape that hell. I had seen too much violence before I was even five years old and It took me a long time to even begin to understand all any of it. I loved my parents dearly, as I know they loved me, but there was a lot of abuse and feelings of horror and abandonment in my childhood. I simultaneously adored -- worshipped -- and hated and feared my father, who could be loving and angry to the extreme. My mother, also a sweet and loving person, was quick with her hands, often smacking me in the face, eliciting within me feelings of hatred, which I then felt guilty for harboring.
People today are always amazed at my ability to size people up. I’m often right on point with my ability to analyze people, even if I choose to look at the better side of human nature. I’m no fool -- don't let the suit, tie, and smile fool you. LOL But the fact is that I first learned how to read people as a child. I had to for my own survival because I had to know if the most important person in my life was going to hug or hit me. So I learned to read the body, listen for tones in the voice, check the eyes. I had to become good at this.
Growing up and listening to my mother’s screams or being subjected to physical punishment myself, I would promise myself that I would never re-enact these abuses to others. At those times, I hated my parents and felt guilt about that hate because they were my parents and I was taught that it was wrong for me to feel what I felt.
Years passed and I found myself the primary caregiver to my own son seven years of age. Imagine having me as a father! LOL!!! Whatever! I like to thin that my son and I had a great relationship. I can be very entertaining, to say the least. I think early on my son had a huge crush on me and adored me and I tried my best to develop a relationship based on unconditional love and honesty. I guess only my son can adequately answer whether I was successful or not.
One day, he came home with a report card that I felt wasn’t reflective of his abilities. My son was a gifted child but, as with many brilliant children, he lived in his own world, the “real” world sometimes being very boring. I was the same way. As a child, my mother would send me to the store and I would disappear for hours, causing a family hunt and more often than not, I would be found sitting somewhere daydreaming, or staring at the intricate patterns cracks made on the sidewalk or cloud formations. Anyway, that day I was feeling a little drained and I was feeling very frustrated because here I am, I'm thinking, busting my butt, stressing the importance of education to this kid and he’s not getting it!
So the more I’m talking to him, the angrier I get, and the angrier I get, the more boundaries I trespass. Eventually, as I feed on my frustration and anger, I’m cursing at him, raising my voice, and talking to him in a way I never did before. Heck, in my mind, I want to take him over my knee and spank the shit out of the little fucker.
All the while, there’s a part of me that’s “watching” all of this -- a kind of inner witness -- but my body is in “fight or flight” mode, and I can't stop myself. By now, my son is crying and the more he cries the more frustrated I become and somewhere I know I'm losing control, that I’m going somewhere deep and dark and my son is terrified...
But all I want to do is kick this kid’s butt!
Just then, my son -- voice quavering and his body trembling -- my son pleads to me, “But Pops I don't understand, what do you want me to do? Please, tell me... ”
And my heart just melts right then and there because I look at my son’s face and see the tears welling in those beautiful blue eyes and at that moment I'm overwhelmed with love for my son. At that precise moment, I saw reflected in my son’s eyes, my own inner child and was vividly reminded of the horrors and trauma of my own childhood. It was as if his plea awakened me from an unconscious or deep-rooted rage and I became terrified myself.
Feeling as if I have awakened from a bad dream, all the fears, all the rage dissipates. I take my son in my arms and hold him tight, repeating over and over, “I’m so sorry... ”
You see? This is how patterns are repeated. I often say we're probably playing to scripts that were written generations ago.
That moment served as an awakening or epiphany for me because I realized that I had to find resolution with my own demons. If I didn’t, they would get passed down to my son and those that I love the most. Before I could be the father I wanted to be, I had to forgive my own parents, and let that rage go because that abuse was so powerful a force that it threatened everything that was important in my life.
I had to let go.
Fortunately, I was able to do that -- at least to a certain extent. I was also able to speak to my son about my own fears and how sometimes when he didn't do well in school, my fear was that he would eventually suffer as I did. It was an irrational fear, but that’s where my head went in those moments when I became most angry or fearful. I believe my son is a good man today, having gone to college and attempting to fulfill his dreams as a musician. I know now that I never had to hit my son for him to respect me, though sometimes I convinced myself that I had to. I am certain that he respected me, not because I terrified him, or beat him, but because he internalized the value of trust. One day, my brother called me from Florida where my son was staying for a couple of weeks during summer vacation. It was late, about 1 AM on a Friday and I asked if everything was okay. My brother told me that he was at a Blockbuster video rental with my son and that he had offered my son the chance to pick out a porn flick. He told my son that it would be their secret and that I didn’t have to know (grrrrrr… ). My son’s response was, “I can’t do that because my father and I respect each other and that would be wrong.”
You see, it wasn’t fear that stopped my son, but respect and love. Eventually, I learned that my anger stemmed from a deep-rooted fear – probably the fear I experienced as a child in an violent home and community.
Did I become the “model” father after that day? No!!! LOL!!! But that day I began to try understand to importance of forgiveness and the practice of letting go because letting go is not just something you do, it's something you become.
Forgiveness is not saying that what you or someone else did is OK. Rather, forgiveness is a state of being in which you allow yourself to get rid of the fear and rage through a long and slow, but necessary process. The price you pay for not letting go is pain, not just for yourself, but for those closest to you.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…