There are three main stumbling blocks that can hold us back in everything we do, especially in our soulful businesses and close relationships: Guilt, Fear and Resentment. Each has its antidote and today we’ll explore the cure for Resentment.
The process of forgiving my molester was not an easy one. It was actually, quite literally, a nightmare. I’m going to share this story with you now only because I hope that within it, you can find what you need to forgive the people who have hurt you in the past.
I’ve spoken openly here about my history of childhood sexual trauma and the effects it has had on my life. It’s a topic that never stops coming up for me, even now as I walk strong on the path of recovery and healing.
And forgiveness is a topic we’ve talked about before here, too. When I wrote the previous post on the subject of forgiveness, it really resonated with a lot of people. But it also pissed a lot of people off. Some so much so that they wrote about their pissed-offness on their blogs. I mention it because this post may feel as raw as the last, so if you’re overly sensitive or don’t believe in the concept of unconditional forgiveness and the freedom it can restore to your life…please just stop reading now.
There is always someone, somewhere, suffering from the restraints this type of trauma inflicts upon our lives. If you live in a relatively populated area, there is a very good chance that at this very moment a child is hiding from their abuser only a stone’s throw away from where you are sitting.
One of my deepest, and least rational, wishes is that I had a magic wand I could wave to spare any child of ever going through that pain. But for me, for my life, I would not want to change a single thing.
This story must begin with an introduction to a woman commonly known as Amma. She is a living Hindu saint, often called the “hugging saint.” The miracles and mountains she has moved are too numerous to list here but I encourage you to learn all you can about her and her work.
She’s called the hugging saint because, well, she hugs people. Tens of millions of people worldwide. Her devotees, including myself, believe that she is an incarnation of the Divine. She is, at the very least, a fully self-actualized being.
I’ve watched her, numerous times, sit perfectly still in one place while each of the thousands of people who flock to her receive her darshan, her hug. Despite having several physical afflictions including diabetes, she doesn’t move from that spot until everyone has received her blessing. She does not leave to go to the bathroom, does not take a sip of water, does not take a bite of food. For 12, 15, 18 hours she sits there. By the time she’s done, her white sari is muddied with the tears, sweat, grime and makeup of everyone she’s hugged.
Amma was born in a poor fishing village in the south of India. Her family shunned her as a child because of her dark skin and odd ways. She was never educated, never taught to read or write, and yet she has built schools, hospitals, AIDS hospices and orphanages. She’s met with the world’s top physicists to discuss the nature of the universe and can understand, and reply to, any language she hears.
There is no explanation for how a person like this can exist. And yet, she does.
Receiving darshan from Amma is a life-altering experience. It is one my daughter and I were lucky enough to experience on several occasions. As the hugging saint pulls you into her arms you see nothing but bright, white light. It feels like you are being pulled into the universe itself. After the hug, you smell like roses for the entire day. My daughter and I used to joke “You watch and make sure no one’s spraying me with rose water when it’s my turn, okay?” Of course, no one ever did spray us.
During one of these visits, my daughter and I were lost in bliss after a long day in Amma’s presence. As we got ready for bed, I decided to do something crazy…I prayed to Amma for the strength to forgive the person who had sexually abused me as a child.
I drifted off to sleep innocently enough after my prayer. We had a long drive home the next day and I wanted to be well rested. I had no idea what I was in for.
It’s no joke: Be careful what you ask for.
The next morning, thankfully before my daughter woke up, I sprang out of bed and went running into the bathroom to vomit. I was covered in sweat and shaking violently, having had the worst nightmare of my life (and I’ve had some pretty bad nightmares).
It was the only time I can recall where I dreamt I was someone completely different than myself. I was a man. I had children. And I had the irresistible compulsion to rape those children.
There are no words to describe the terror of this existence. In my dream, I was constantly tortured by my evil compulsions and yet, I could not resist them. It was a life of agonizing pain and self-loathing. A life lived in what can only be described as pure hell.
In the dream, I did not want to harm my children. I loved them and the pain in their faces as I attacked them in their sleep haunted my days without end. It felt like I was trapped in a cage of my own sickness. There was no way for me to stop myself despite all the agony my actions caused.
When I stopped throwing up long enough to realize what had happened, I was furious! I immediately threw out all faith in that woman called Amma and everything she had ever touched. I was so enraged, a part of me wanted to tear apart the hotel until I found her so I could give her a good piece of my mind.
I pulled myself together and got my daughter ready for the drive home. She was a pretty big sleeper back then, being a ‘tween,’ and pretty soon into the drive drifted back into deep slumber.
As my daughter slept peacefully in the back seat, I took the opportunity to continue to curse Amma for what she had done to me. I banged my hands on the steering wheel in anger. “How could you do that to me?! How could you be so cruel?! I loved you! I trusted you!” Waves of nausea still tore through my gut as the memories of the dream refused to subside.
For hundreds of miles, I went back and forth between cursing the hugging saint and demanding an explanation from her. She let me have my tantrum and then, finally, I heard a woman’s sweet voice – clear as day – whisper in my ear.
“How can you forgive what you do not understand?”
Fuck! Dammit! Shit! And fuck again! She was right.
It may sound overly simplistic to you here, but I swear to you at that very moment not only did all of my frustration towards Amma disappear but I was washed clean in a silvery shower of true forgiveness for my abuser.
She was right.
There was no way for me to ever fully forgive the man who had molested me if I was not given such a clear understanding of how he suffered for his actions. In truth, I had never really stopped to consider, or care about, his suffering…only the pain he had caused me.
By experiencing what it is like to be afflicted with whatever mental illness causes people to harm a child in that way, I had no other recourse but to forgive.
For I had seen, under no uncertain terms, that he had suffered so much more than I. Unlike me, there was no recovery for him. There was no way out of his hellish prison. No escape from his constant agony. Eventually, he took his own life.
We are not often allowed such a clear insight into the reasons why people hurt us. This was a gift beyond measure. Once I got through the sheer horror of the experience, I was able to see it for what it really was. A blessing. A miracle. Amnesty. I was instantly liberated from all the anger and resentment I’d carried with me for decades and it was replaced with unconditional forgiveness and love.
My prayer had been answered.
She had only given me what I asked for and my eyes still fill with tears of gratitude at the memory.
And now, I ask you to do the impossible too. I ask you to find the one person you feel you can never forgive, the one who hurt you above all others, and try to feel what it must be like to be them. I know this might not be as easy without a hugging saint beating it into you whilst you sleep, but spend some time in contemplation and meditation, asking for guidance from a Source that feels comfortable to you.
Really sit with the impact their actions must have on their own life and how they must suffer as a result. Allow this understanding to wash over you and release you of the burden of that anger. Feel how it is replaced with compassion and forgiveness.
You have just freed yourself.
Note: Feature image of child courtesy of Southworth Sailor