!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Emerging Women .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Monday, February 19, 2007
Personal response/responsibility for/to the inevitability of human sin/imperfection/pain
What do you do when you hurt someone you love and you couldn't help it -- even tried to avoid it -- but your own brokeness/issues got in the way? Or Someone who loves you causes you immense pain and couldn't help it -- even tried to do better for you than their parents or past lovers etc? Or when you and your spouse cause each other pain simply because you're both over tired, with different personalities that understand and respond to stress or circumstance in conflicting ways? What do you do when you or another person is the source of a human being's pain and in one sense it's not your fault. It's not their fault. Where does personal responsibility come in under these circumstances, which I think apply to most of human sin/imperfection/pain? What does it look like to confess? When/should/how do we take personal responsibility for that which we couldn't help given our understandings/circumstances/baggage/hardwiring? What does it mean to forgive someone who couldn't help it? Can we still hold them responsible and forgive them? Or do we simply have to understand and accept them?
posted by Jemila Kwon at 11:30 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 2/19/2007 02:03:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    Great question.

    What does it mean to forgive someone who couldn't help it?

    I think that acknowledging the pain without assigning blame is part of the equation. In my experience, this has been a much harder thing to do than it would appear to be at first glance.

    In some cases I'd start enforcing a stronger set of personal boundaries with that person. I'd still love them, and (barring extreme circumstances) they'd remain as an important part of my life as ever, but there may be limits placed on, say, the tender parts of myself I had once shared with them.

    If my husband was the one causing the pain, we'd talk about it. I'd try to identify when it happens most often and we'd probably come up with some sort of subtle way for me to let him know it was bugging me if he did it in public (or vice versa).

  • At 2/19/2007 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous Linda

    I agree, Lydia, that boundaries are good and appropriate in many circumstances. Forgiving others can be such a complicated thing sometimes, and at others it is as simple as dropping a grievance.

    Last year I helped lead a group of impoverished urban women in a study about forgiveness. All of them had been sexually assaulted at one time or another, and they all carried plenty of baggage. What I didn't expect from helping these women is how this study would impact my own ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness. It was probably more helpful to me than it was to them. Learning healthy paths to forgiveness was not a new subject, but it was enlightening to tackle the subject with these dear women who have so many grievances. It reinforced even more strongly that serious offenses require a life-long effort to forgive and that these larger grievances affect our ability to deal with the smaller offenses that pop up from day to day.

    I've found some great techniques to help with forgiveness if anyone is interested.

  • At 2/19/2007 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Irim

    Hi, hon,

    First of all, big hug. Forgive yourself and them - we're all human. We all get caught up in our stuff every now and then (or, as per one school, trapped by our schema) and react. Forgiveness doesn't mean "You can do this to me all the time," it means, "I'm letting it go b/c I understand you're human and it hurts sometimes, and we all lash out. I know we'll both try to do better next time."

    Having said that, there ARE limits. You know what yours are - but physical and emotional violence ARE NEVER OK. And neither is repeated lashing out. In any of these cases, WALK AWAY. It may be the best thing you could do for them, b/c it might galvanise them into getting help.

    As for personal responsibility, we're all responsible for how we act. When I get trapped by the fact that I was sexually abused or my parents' emotional neglect, it *IS* my responsibility to try to be mindful of it and act accordingly. I may lash out and it may be understandable, but I'm still responsible. My life, my purpose here, is to become the person God meant me to be. And that means taking responsibility, saying, "I'm sorry," and moving forward with commitment to do better next time - e.g., taking a deep breath and thinking, "This isn't about you, it's about me, and I *need to put this in proportion*."

    I may not be able to help my feelings, but I can help my actions. And *so can they*. And yeah, I'm going to fall. So are the people I love. That's why we'll call eachother on it and work it out. But sometimes, it's too far to stretch - and that's ok too.

    So draw those healthy boundaries and respect theirs, and sometimes people will step over them...decide how you're going to react, and just do the best you can.

    And remember, your soul knows what you need to do...so don't forget to listen.


  • At 2/19/2007 04:45:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    I'm interested in those techniques, Linda.

    I may not be able to help my feelings, but I can help my actions. And *so can they*. And yeah, I'm going to fall. So are the people I love. That's why we'll call eachother on it and work it out. But sometimes, it's too far to stretch - and that's ok too.

    Good stuff.

  • At 2/19/2007 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Jemila, I understand your question. I've been there a lot lately.

    I'm someone that likes boundaries, but more for my sake than to just set healthy boundaries for those around me. In the midst of a very hurtful situation recently, I felt God compel me to offer forgiveness in a very tangible way, one that made me even more vulnerable to hurt and pain. In that physical offering of forgiveness, I profoundly experienced my Creator. In giving forgiveness, I received healing.

    I can't speak to where you're at, Jemila, but I offer you a hug. I will pray for your hurt and the hurt of those around you, that the Divine will move in your heart and that Lady Wisdom will bring direction to your soul.

  • At 2/19/2007 05:26:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Lately, I have been working on how to express hurt or offense, lay boundaries, or even stand for things that I feel I should. I tend to be passive aggressive, and I am "trying" to be different.
    I agree with Lydia, that I try to allow acknowledgement of pain. The other side for me is to try not to always take things in a personal way. Sometimes, it's personal, but many times the person who hurts you doesn't even realize that they have, or didn't mean to.

    I recently felt very hurt, shoved aside, and flat out stupid (for being open) with a group of people. I decided I would try to share that feeling. In doing so, I heard the other side (which was not easy) and realized different perceptions played both sides. If I had not had that discussion, I don't know if I would have moved on like I have. It would have been eating me alive. I felt I was able to say how I felt, but also learn something I needed to in the process.

    We get hurt and we hurt others. Sometimes (ie. abuse, circumstances) take a while to work through, but for little situations, I would say grace and love are key to dealing within the process.

  • At 2/19/2007 06:37:00 PM, Anonymous Linda


    Here are some the things that were especially helpful to the women in my group.

    One of the things that the women in my group learned from is how a Grievance Story grows if we allow it to. There are some pretty significant signs that a grievance is taking over our lives, such as thinking about it more than the good things in our lives, getting emotionally or physically upset when thinking about the situation, and telling the story over and over again to ourselves or others.

    Like Michelle said, it is helpful to understand that an offense is, more often than not, something that was not meant personally toward us. Even with most serious offenses, the offender is not usually out to get the the victim personally. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to receive the offender's hurtful, violent, or sinful action. Depersonalizing the offense also helps disconnect us from it so we can see that we are not defined and perpetually victimized by the offenses against us. Telling ourselves exactly how the offense was not personal seemed to be very helpful for these women.

    The last thing that the women found helpful were the meditations and visualizations that we did as a group and encouraged individually. They all involved conscious relaxation and deep breathing. While some may feel this to be rather "hokey", the women I worked with felt renewed and invigorated by them. (I wish you could have felt the love moving around the room when we were finished! :-))

    Two that they especially liked were The Breath of Thanks and Heart Focus. Both start with deep and relaxed breathing. The focus of BOT was to inwardly say "Thank You" and cultivate a heart of gratitude for anything good in one's life while continuing the breathing. The crux of the HF is to choose an experience that caused you to feel loved or at peace (not with the person you're trying to forgive!) or a scene in the natural world that fills you with a sense of beauty and peace, focus on it, and try to bring those feelings into the present. We practiced these as a group within the context of God's love for us and what he has done for us, but it is even possible to practice them with no sense of faith.

    Sometimes when I am feeling particularly weighed down by others' offensive behavior or anxiety in general, I tell myself "The Peace of Christ" while breathing in deeply. I do this for a couple of minutes or long enough to feel the tension melt away. It reminds me of God's love and forgiveness for me and helps me to let go of things I cannot control. (This is also a good focus for yoga if any of you out there are into yoga.)

    Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to make good on my promise.


  • At 2/19/2007 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Thank you everyone for sharing your hugs and hearts. I love you all so much, even from a distance. I've felt so accepted and loved by you sisters. You are beautiful women!

    I forgive pretty easily when the other person acknowledges responsibility (which I think is sometimes different than blame,) and clearly feels bad and empathetic that they have (probably inadvertantly) hurt me, but it's really tough for me when I am one of of two or more people just have such radically different perceptions of reality or the other person is defensive and isn't able to genuinely say, "I'm really sorry I hurt you; I don't ever want to hurt you and I'm sorry that sometimes I do" because they feel the need to prove how it wasn't their fault rather than focus on the feelings that resulted, regardless of intent. That's where I need healing to be able to be accept it when the other person just isn't able to meet my perceived needs for healing and to be able to find that healing within myself and with God's love.

    I suppose I am also hard on myself when I know I've failed (in however small a way) someone I love even when I've tried so hard to do right by them, (I'm thinking esp as a parent) and maybe the trouble I have forgiving/accepting myself when I don't meet my own standards I also project onto others -- and esp my mate when they are the ones not able to meet my needs.

    May we all learn to show ourselves and our loved ones a little more grace and grow into strong boundaries that don't make us hardened at heart.

  • At 2/19/2007 07:20:00 PM, Anonymous Linda

    oops. I forgot to mention that the whole intent of the meditation and visualization is to take the power away from the Grievance Story. You may have already gathered that, but I didn't want to assume so. It's like a practical working out of Philippians 4:8.

  • At 2/19/2007 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Helen

    Jemila, I've been in those situations where the other person is never going to say sorry because they don't see that they did anything wrong.

    In those situations it seems like the best thing I can do is just let it go.

    I try to bear in mind that they probably didn't hurt me on purpose. Jesus' prayer on the cross "Father forgive them because they don't know what they are doing" is a good one, because as you alluded to, a lot of hurt happens unintentionally.

    If I don't let go, then, as some wise person said, the other person hurt me once but I am hurting myself over and over again each time I think about what they did.

    Letting go doesn't mean denying it hurt - it means letting go of wanting to get back at them or demand an apology.

  • At 2/19/2007 08:48:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Linda: I really appreciate the idea of the "Grievance Story". I've never heard this used and it struck my heart like a dagger. As did this whole post...thanks, Jemila. ; ) I'm right there struggling with similarly themed issues right now.

    I want to run but I know this would be wrong. I want to close off and maybe, for now, that is the best thing. And when I am able, I'll come back out of hiding and see what I can do. For certainly, this "fighting back" has led to nothing healthy.

    All these words I take as great encouragement. I can find a way.
    A higher way.

    Thank you all.

  • At 2/20/2007 03:57:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    "A higher way" Yes. That's it, isn't it? A way that isn't doormat or demonizer, that loves other AS self, not other instead of self, but doesn't discard or demean other to save/protect self. A higher way. This is my prayer for all of you, as for myself.

  • At 2/20/2007 06:40:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Yes, Jemila, exactly. I hope we can each encourage one another in doing so.


Links to this post:

Create a Link