Survivors' Voices: Giving Thanks, Part 2
Last week’s reflections on Giving Thanks were beautiful, and I am honored to bring you a few more reflections on gratitude from our Survivors’ Voices panel this week.
Gratitude is the antidote to bitterness and resentment. I could not say or think like this when I was in the midst of doing a lot of work surrounding my trauma. I’m sure there will be times in my future when I struggle with what I have declared. For this year though, I am grateful for a heart that is learning to let go of the many things I cannot control, including justice for all the ways I was harmed.
Finding things to be grateful for has been quite the challenge during my recovery from years of clergy abuse. I had to get past the shame and anger phases (which took a very long time) and begin to focus on how my experiences can be seen as a blessing in disguise. My journey led me into the spiritual realm, which has been a phenomenal replacement for the dogma-based Catholic approach to life that I grew up with. I approach life now through the eyes of “What would Jesus do (or say)?” rather than “How am I going to avoid shame or the fear of the devil’s wrath?” It’s provided me with a softer, more peaceful approach to virtually every encounter in my life. I have a kindness and compassion that was never encouraged while growing up. I have a default position of forgiveness now that comes from the deepest part of my heart (rather than that fake “forgive because you have to, even though you don’t think they ‘deserve’ to be forgiven” approach that was encouraged by the clergy). Forgiveness for me now has a level of authenticity that allows me to let go and let God, and that includes the capacity for forgiving the multitude of perpetrators that hurt me. I am grateful that I was able to find my way through the intense pain and anger that arose from the abuse, and find my way into an incredibly fulfilling spiritual path, because it has made my life much more peaceful and calm in an increasingly scary and chaotic world.
I have struggled with the holidays, and sometimes I still do. In the past, they seemed to be opportunities for further abuse. At this point, I can say that I am thankful - not for the abuse itself, but that because of it, I hope I am a better person. I believe I am more caring, understanding, and patient with myself and others. I am grateful for opportunities such as this blog, and the conversations, survivor circles, and prayer offered through Awake. I am blessed to know and be reminded that, in spite of the awful experience of abuse, I am truly loved by God.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for each person who shares their reflections in this space - and each person who takes the time to read with an open heart.
PS: If you have experienced any form of abuse by a Catholic leader and would like to share your own thoughts future topics, I would be grateful to include your perspective. You can find information about joining the Survivors’ Voices Panel here: An Invitation for Survivors. Your voice matters.