Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Magic of Redemption: Awakening

In my last post, I described how I had passionately believed in certain LDS beliefs concerning redemption as applied to a history of abuse.  I concluded by describing how I had  unexpectedly gained profound insights into the fallacious and evil nature of this myth. What were these insights?

First, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe that I was responsible for atoning for other people’s sins.  The fallaciousness of this belief is crystal clear to me now:  even in LDS doctrine, there is only one person who is capable of redeeming others from their sins – and he was able to do so because he is a God and led a sinless life himself. He had no “baggage”:  He was not abused as a child and did not carry within him the legacy of a history of abuse.  I, on the other hand, was and am a mere mortal, a frightened boy who was himself abused and mistreated.  How could I possibly expect myself, or allow others to expect me, to atone for the sins of my abusive forebears?  The concept is not only grossly unfair and doctrinally unsound, it is evil.

Second, I had allowed myself to take on the responsibility of “metabolizing” all the hurt, pain, anguish, grief, etc., of previous generations.  And what qualified me to be able to shoulder this immense burden?  Absolutely nothing – except the myth that I had been assigned this task by God in the pre-existence because of my valor, righteousness, strength and general all-around “special-ness.”  But what loving Father would lay such a task upon a son whom He knew would emerge from childhood permanently crippled by the very thing he was supposed to “metabolize”?  Again, the concept is not only grossly unfair and doctrinally unsound, it is evil.

Third, I allowed myself to take on the role of redeemer, or “metabolizer,” to focus on the needs of others while ignoring the legacy of abuse within myself.  In this mythical tragedy, I was no more than a tool, a facilitator.  My true sense of self was sacrificed to the mythical persona of redeemer, of “special one,” of “metabolizer.”  I would lay myself upon the altar of redemption for the sake of those who had come before me and those who would follow, trusting that someday, somehow, some way, somewhere over the rainbow, I myself would be healed and made whole.

Meanwhile, by taking on these roles, I only exposed myself more.  When I failed at metabolization, which I inevitably would, I sank into despair and vowed to try harder, only to sink further and make myself a convenient target for others.

These magical doctrines of redemption, these myths of “specialness”, cost me dearly.  I now see this.  The belief that one is “special” and can play God places an unhealthy and wholly unrealistic burden upon the self to perform magical, god-like, super-human tasks.  It reduces the self to a tool, a means of facilitation.  Rather than recognizing the hurt, the shame, and the brokenness (created by abuse) in all its humanity and seeking to honestly and lovingly heal it, these doctrines and beliefs instead impose new, additional layers of guilt, shame and self-hatred.  They are debilitating, they are destructive and they are wrong.  Why I would allow myself to believe and be captivated by them for almost three decades of my life, why I could not see until now that “the Emperor is not wearing any clothes” – the answers to these questions may have to wait for my next hot-tub visit.

As human beings,
our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world
- that is the myth of the atomic age –
as in being able to remake ourselves.

~ Mohandas Gandhi

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you were trying to live a version of "The Green Mile" with the abuse you suffered. That must be terribly damaging to have viewed that as your burden. I'm glad you've come to a better realization.

    When I look back at the things I went through as a child, I end up feeling more resolute that my children will not experience that. Some things will likely stay with me (I never care about my birthday), and some have made me more aware of my responsibilities (I'm not afraid to piss of my wife in defense of my kids, something I wish my father had done with my mom).

    No doubt as you continue to receive insight into your past, you will continue to grow into a more thoughtful and wise person. Thanks for sharing this journey.