February 10, 2020

Abuse & Forgiveness: 50 Years Later

I’m a 76-year-old man and I experienced sexual, physical and other forms of abuse.

Because of my deeply rooted insecurity, fear and shame, I refused to deal with the impacts of abuse for so many years. My method of dealing with abuse took the form of hiding the facts surrounding the abuse and developing an intense hatred for those that had inflicted the abuse. Hatred became a governing principle in my life. It wasn’t until I was 67-years old that I finally sought help.

My mother was my abuser. Having been born into a family where dysfunction was the norm, I had a difficult time understanding just what was acceptable. I questioned in my mind the practices in my family regarding abuse.

As I grew, I also questioned my memory. Had I imagined the abuse? Was I to blame in some way for the abuse? What was wrong with me?

My abuse continued through my high school years and my hatred intensified. I lived for the day I would turn 18 and could legally leave.

I left home full of hatred and determined to never become anything like my parents. I moved as far away as I could and made a life for myself.

Hatred will govern your life if you allow it. I became convinced that the hatred would leave with the death of my parents. With them gone, I would be free and not have to deal with the lingering images of abuse. Boy, was I wrong! As each of my parents died the hatred only intensified. I did my best to put the hatred out of my mind but could not. I didn’t realize it, but what I really needed to do was to deal with the incidents of abuse that had so impacted my life.

Fast-forward many years, almost 50 years! As I neared retirement, I struggled with the idea of having to give up my career, a career that I dearly loved and enjoyed. I sought out a counselor to discuss retirement. This turned out to be one of the best choices I had made in my 67 years.

We quickly solved the retirement worries. The counselor also asked a number of questions about my past. Having confidence in my counselor and being comfortable in our dialogue, for the first time I told someone about the abuse I had experienced. As we discussed the abuse, the abuse that I received at the hands of my mother overrode all other abuse issues from my father and stepfather.

We spent a number of hours and many sessions to get to the bottom of the impacts of the abuse. We also worked on the feelings of hatred that had governed my life.

The surprise answer to ALL of my struggles – abuse and hatred – was forgiveness. It was a forgiveness of those that abused me and more importantly, the forgiveness of myself.

Acceptance of the forgiveness concept did not come easy. The more the counselor discussed forgiveness, the more it made sense to me. What really drove it home was when I had to write letters to those that had abused me and also to those I had offended with my actions as a result of my hatred. I wrote more letters to dead people than you can imagine. Those letters were so freeing.

The toughest letter I had to write was to a younger version of me. That was a letter to myself telling exactly what I was going to have to deal with in my life. In addition, I had to tell myself how he should deal with the issues of abuse, control, and manipulation. The counselor then had me read the letter aloud to her and to others. Wow, the impact.

The power of good counseling, the letters I wrote, and the acceptance of the power for forgiveness freed me. The impacts of abuse and hatred no longer govern my life.

The focus of Speak Your Silence is to help those affected by sexual abuse and assault move forward to live great lives and I am proud to be a supporter of this organization and their mission.

Mike is a retired electrical engineer who lives in Boise with his wife. He has four children and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All of his family lives in Southern Idaho. Recently, Mike wrote a book about his journey addressing the impacts of abuse, betrayal, and abandonment. The book “Shadows to Light” by M.V. Maddux can be found on Amazon and at other local and internet booksellers.