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Compassion towards abusive men?

So I have been struggling with something. I come from a long line of abusive men. My grandfather beat my grandmother and did such horrible things as playing Russian roulette with a .38 to her head more times than she could count. My father used to fight my mother as well, although she held her own. So I have always had some negative feelings toward them (the men). I have been trying to find compassion toward them because i want to let negativity go and just love.
My grandmother left my grandfather years ago and just disappeared. So since that time I haven't spoken to him or her. I got married to my wife and time went on. Recently we bought a house and have a really good life, so i decided to get in touch with them. I had my grandfather come over this weekend and we hugged and talked for a bit. He offered to help with things around my house if needed. I have realized that i can forgive him and love him but it feels wrong. almost as if I am betraying the women who took care of me ( he beat her and my mom when she was little). I then decided that day to call my grandmother. I had a long talk with her and she was ecstatic that i called. I found out that the reason she never contacted us (i have a little sister too) is that she thought we were mad that she left my grandfather. which is stupid to think but you gotta remember that she is for lack of a better word a "broken" woman. I let her know that she was totally wrong and i always wondered why she didn't leave him earlier. Now she says that she thinks its good that my grandfather and I are talking but i still feel guilt. It is a confusing feeling to forgive someone but feel guilty about that forgiveness.
I guess i'm trying to work all this out and i'd like to know other peoples thoughts on compassion and forgiveness as it would pertain to Buddhism and these types of issues. (i know i cant be the only one)
ToshlobsterpegembaraDavid

Comments

  • Separate the action from the person. People (not just men) can do horrible things, but they are not horrible.
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Gentle Man Punta Gorda, Florida, USA Veteran
    Well, forgiving can be within reason. You can love others and within reason get along with them, while not being pure love for those who abuse others (this is reasonable, and this will give a bit of conflict if you do not decide to offer SOME love instead of all love). ALL love for those you disagree with because they are ancestors is a bit extreme, imho.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    People can change, too. Sometimes people at bad places in their lives do really bad things that the rest of us can't understand. That doesn't make them bad people but people who suffered more than the rest of us know and as a result made others suffer, too. I think maybe it would be good to give it time. Take things slow. Chat on the phone, have pie and coffee, just chat and see where things go. Maybe on or more of you will feel a need to bring up the events of the past. Maybe you will not. But it seems like a number of years have passed and it might be good just to get to know the people involved as they are now. It might make it easier to let go of the past.

    My dad was never physically abusive. But he was emotionally, to some extent. He used to call my mom names and they would throw things at each other in anger. Looking back, I know now it was a bad combination of both of them being young when they married (my mom was 17, my dad 21) and both of them coming from broken, alcoholic homes. My dad doesn't understand emotions and has had a long life in learning about them. I suspect he has a lot of austic tendencies. As I have learned more about such things via my son (who is also on the spectrum) I have learned better ways to converse with my dad and interact with him. Growing up, I just assumed my dad was kind of a jerk to people he didn't get along with (I never really had any issues with him myself) but growing up and learning more, he may have *acted* like a jerk but he wasn't actually a jerk. He just had a lot of conditions going on that contributed to his outbursts and ill treatment of some people. He has learned over the years better ways, and things are quite good between him and my mom (they divorced many years ago) and my sister and I. Everyone has come a long way. My mom is not the same person and neither is my dad.

    Just my thoughts. I would proceed with caution, and slowly. But I'd proceed. Healing takes time. It isn't something that necessarily happens just because we desire it. There tend to be a lot of emotions that have to be worked through. Have compassion for yourself as you do so, talk with your wife about it as you go along. See where things go.
  • @karmatib; I think you're a smashing human being and I don't know why you're feeling guilty. Anything that adds positive stuff like love, compassion, understanding, forgiveness is 'Truth' (capital 'T').

    Don't worry about it and just keep on doing what you're doing. Your grandad could learn a lot from you.
    lobsterDavid
  • :clap:
    If you keep this up, I will invite you to the hell realms with the Bodhisattvas (our mission is to help the suffering). The demons have pitchforks for roasting monks that have forgotten their vows and we are constantly trying to get on the pitchforks to replace the monks . . . oh such fun times . . . ;)

    @Tosh is so forgiving because he has been so 'bad' - more accurately in pain himself . . .

    Be kind. It seems to be working . . . :clap:
    Tosh
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    edited September 2013
    lobster said:


    @Tosh is so forgiving because he has been so 'bad' - more accurately in pain himself . .

    Yes; good observation; I didn't even notice that one. I just typed what seemed obvious to me at the time.

    Pain is certainly a good teacher. I like to raise a few eye-brows in A.A. by calling my Higher Power 'Pain and Suffering' (many choose 'God' as theirs)! But pain motivates me. When I didn't understand what I know now, pain motivated me to be extremely selfish and self centred and the consequences were that people close to me became collateral damage; I harmed them in the pursuit of what I thought would make me happy.

    It's funny really; I made my own happiness more important than anyone else's and I ended up suicidal and at my first A.A. meeting. Go figure! Pain then motivated me to search out another way of living; a better way.

    Now I know better, I understand that things like compassion, forgiveness, understanding of others, being of service to others; these are the things that really make us happy. It seems pretty obvious these days!

    And guilt is such a useless emotion; really; I had a black belt in guilt - it's truly dis-empowering.
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    Forgiveness and compassion are two different things.

    There are a number of ways you can increase compassion towards those who have wronged you, but developing compassion doesn't necessarily mean there is forgiveness. To truly fogive someoneone you must let go of the anger you hold towards them and cling to.

    I don't know how to tell you to do that.

    In my case, I had some issues with my father, now deceased. We were never able to reconcile the baggage we carried before he died. I had to finally come to a place and allow for the realization that he was, as we all are, a flawed being and while he did the best he could he didn't exactly bat 1000 when it came to his son. Coming to see my father in that light has helped with the process of forgiveness. Seeing my father as no different from me was they key.

    What you might consider is to get some professional counseling on the matter. I went for grief conseling for a few months after my Dad died and it helped a lot.

    You may also consider getting instruction for Tonglen meditation. It's primarily a method to generate relative and ultimate bodhicitta, and like I said isn't forgiveness, per se, but it can still help.
    karmatib said:

    So I have been struggling with something. I come from a long line of abusive men. My grandfather beat my grandmother and did such horrible things as playing Russian roulette with a .38 to her head more times than she could count. My father used to fight my mother as well, although she held her own. So I have always had some negative feelings toward them (the men). I have been trying to find compassion toward them because i want to let negativity go and just love.
    My grandmother left my grandfather years ago and just disappeared. So since that time I haven't spoken to him or her. I got married to my wife and time went on. Recently we bought a house and have a really good life, so i decided to get in touch with them. I had my grandfather come over this weekend and we hugged and talked for a bit. He offered to help with things around my house if needed. I have realized that i can forgive him and love him but it feels wrong. almost as if I am betraying the women who took care of me ( he beat her and my mom when she was little). I then decided that day to call my grandmother. I had a long talk with her and she was ecstatic that i called. I found out that the reason she never contacted us (i have a little sister too) is that she thought we were mad that she left my grandfather. which is stupid to think but you gotta remember that she is for lack of a better word a "broken" woman. I let her know that she was totally wrong and i always wondered why she didn't leave him earlier. Now she says that she thinks its good that my grandfather and I are talking but i still feel guilt. It is a confusing feeling to forgive someone but feel guilty about that forgiveness.
    I guess i'm trying to work all this out and i'd like to know other peoples thoughts on compassion and forgiveness as it would pertain to Buddhism and these types of issues. (i know i cant be the only one)

    lobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2013
    karmatib said:

    So I have been struggling with something. I come from a long line of abusive men. My grandfather beat my grandmother and did such horrible things as playing Russian roulette with a .38 to her head more times than she could count. My father used to fight my mother as well, although she held her own. So I have always had some negative feelings toward them (the men). I have been trying to find compassion toward them because i want to let negativity go and just love.
    My grandmother left my grandfather years ago and just disappeared. So since that time I haven't spoken to him or her. I got married to my wife and time went on. Recently we bought a house and have a really good life, so i decided to get in touch with them. I had my grandfather come over this weekend and we hugged and talked for a bit. He offered to help with things around my house if needed. I have realized that i can forgive him and love him but it feels wrong. almost as if I am betraying the women who took care of me ( he beat her and my mom when she was little). I then decided that day to call my grandmother. I had a long talk with her and she was ecstatic that i called. I found out that the reason she never contacted us (i have a little sister too) is that she thought we were mad that she left my grandfather. which is stupid to think but you gotta remember that she is for lack of a better word a "broken" woman. I let her know that she was totally wrong and i always wondered why she didn't leave him earlier. Now she says that she thinks its good that my grandfather and I are talking but i still feel guilt. It is a confusing feeling to forgive someone but feel guilty about that forgiveness.
    I guess i'm trying to work all this out and i'd like to know other peoples thoughts on compassion and forgiveness as it would pertain to Buddhism and these types of issues. (i know i cant be the only one)

    Having goodwill (metta) and compassion (karuna) for a person doesn't mean you necessarily have to like that person or the unskillful things that they've done. In the Buddhist context, developing goodwill and compassion means cultivating the desire for true happiness for yourself and others and the desire to relieve the suffering of yourself and others. In this case, you can desire for your grandfather to find true happiness (which includes developing more skillful behaviours and correcting past wrongs) and want to relieve his suffering and the suffering of others he created with his actions without having to like the kind of person he was/is or the things he did/does. These kinds of attitudes also have to be balanced by wisdom, however, which is why another important attitude is equanimity (upekkha) — the even-mindedness that remains neutral in the face of experiences that we simply can't change — and the ability to let go when need be. For more about the four 'sublime attitudes' (brahma-viharas), I suggest reading "Head & Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahma-viharas" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
    Chazseeker242David
  • misterCopemisterCope PA, USA Veteran
    In my opinion, it's wonderful to forgive. However, that doesn't mean you have to allow a person back into your life who has caused you grief, especially a potentially dangerous person. There have been times that a person has treated me poorly, I forgave that person and let go of them. They are no longer a part of my life, and I am also not hung up on the guilt that would spring from leaving them unforgiven. Again, this is just my opinion.

    I hope everything turns out well for you. :)
    vinlyn
  • Strictly speaking, there are no "bad" persons, only "bad" deeds. Although the person can change, the deed stays for a long time. Once you realize this forgiveness is not that difficult.

    The caveat being that the person has truly changed.
    There's a story about Ramirez. He is old and living up there in his castle on a hill. He looks out the window (he's in bed and paralyzed) and he sees his enemy. Old as he is, leaning on a cane, his enemy is climbing up the hill - slowly, painfully. It takes him about two and a half hours to get up the hill.

    There's nothing Ramirez can do because the servants have the day off. So his enemy opens the door, comes straight to the bedroom, puts his hand inside his cloak, and pulls out a gun. He says, "At last, Ramirez, we're going to settle scores!" Ramirez tries his level best to talk him out of it. He says, "Come on, Borgia, you can't do that. You know I'm no longer the man who ill-treated you as that youngster years ago, and you're no longer that youngster. Come off it!" "Oh no", says his enemy, ''your sweet words aren't going to deter me from this divine mission of mine.

    It's revenge I want and there's nothing you can do about it". And Ramirez says, "But there is!" "What"? asks his enemy. "I can wake up", says Ramirez. And he did; he woke up! That's what enlightenment is like. When someone tells you, "There is nothing you can do about it", you say, "There is, I can wake up!" All of a sudden, life is no longer the nightmare that it has seemed. Wake up!

    Anthony de Mello
  • oceancaldera207oceancaldera207 Veteran
    edited September 2013
    My opinion, abusive men deserve absolutely no quarter. Prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, defend yourself and children with as much force as necessary, including deadly force. Surgically remove them from your life as much as possible. Use law enforcement and domestic abuse aid as much as possible.
    My opinion carries some weight as I know more abused women and children and their horror stories than I can count.

    Forgive them in your mind, understanding that they are diseased.

    But don't forgive them personally...sociopaths like this feed on anything they perceive as emotional weakness. Forgiving them personally only encourages their predatory nature. I've seen it time and time again.
    Give no quarter.

    Reading your original post story, its hard for me to hold my tongue, ill just put it that way.
  • Here's something to think about.
    If you, as a moral, feeling human being, discovered that you had horribly wronged someone in the past...wouldn't you beg for forgiveness and try to make reparations to the best of your ability?
    The gravity of the evil you have described, he should be on his knees, begging for the forgiveness of his victims. Have you seen remorse backed with action? or is it just 'water under the bridge' type thinking.? Its usually the latter, in my experience. Think about it.
    I don't know enough about the situation but, I smell a sociopath.of All the people in the world that need your love..give it to someone who can actually appreciate it..(and deserves it). It seems to me that women have this extreme desire to preserve familial bonds, and I've seen predators use that desire to its fullest extent. To me, family is not genetic, but people who care for each other, period. I wouldn't let something like that in my home., unless it was to tape a confession and turn it over to the police.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 2013
    karmatib said:

    I have realized that i can forgive him and love him but it feels wrong. almost as if I am betraying the women who took care of me

    What is the alternative? To continue hating him? What good would that do? Does the guilt come from some kind of idea that you are supposed to hate people who do bad things? If so, then where does this idea come from? Who says you are supposed to hate people who do bad things? If you really investigate that question, you find that it does not come from a place of wisdom but rather a place that is opposite of wisdom. A wise person has compassion for everyone, regardless of how they have acted. There is no need to feel guilty for being wise. :)

    :om:
    Toshpegembara
  • seeker242 said:

    A wise person has compassion for everyone, regardless of how they have acted. There is no need to feel guilty for being wise. :)

    :om:

    Spot on and everyone's a winner.

    But it's important to point out that just because we practise compassion, it does not mean we're stupid. If someone is dangerous, we take sensible precautions. For example, on the occasions I visit a new drunk who has contacted A.A. and wants to speak with an A.A. member, I always take a friend with me for back-up.

    And if someone's broken the law, then it's right that they should be dealt with by the proper authorities; they're responsible for their actions.

    But we can still always practise compassion.
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    seeker242 said:

    karmatib said:

    I have realized that i can forgive him and love him but it feels wrong. almost as if I am betraying the women who took care of me

    What is the alternative? To continue hating him? What good would that do? Does the guilt come from some kind of idea that you are supposed to hate people who do bad things? If so, then where does this idea come from? Who says you are supposed to hate people who do bad things? If you really investigate that question, you find that it does not come from a place of wisdom but rather a place that is opposite of wisdom. A wise person has compassion for everyone, regardless of how they have acted. There is no need to feel guilty for being wise. :)

    :om:
    Exactly... And having compassion for somebody and forgiving them doesn't mean allowing them to harm us.

  • Guys I really appreciate the words that have been written here. I see some valid points and I am truly taking them to heart.
    If it puts things into perspective my grandfathers violence was due to drinking. When he doesn't have a drink he would give you the shirt off his back. Obviously that doesn't excuse his behavior but I realized that I made him out to be a walking sociopath. I don't believe he is a threat to anyone anymore since he is aging horribly and isn't the strong man he once was. ( although i supposed anyone can pull a trigger) The woman he is with seems to be able to keep him from drinking at least as much as he used to and i have yet to see any signs of violence on her body or in the way she presents herself (you can always spot a battered woman if you know what to look for)
    The same goes for my father. He was only violent when he drank. He has since kicked his drinking habit and has made many positive strides in life including being there for my sister and nieces in both effort and money.
    I know if my mother were alive and could see my actions and see the type of person I am trying to be, that she would approve of my forgiveness.

    ps. I also have to comment on the maturity of the people on this forum. I have never in my life witnessed a forum of such level headed people. It is quite refreshing. I guess what would i expect from a Buddhist website?! :)
    Thanks!
    Davidoceancaldera207
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    Yes, it's sad how much alcohol can truly change a person, it can erase their true nature, and yet we're so worried about what weed might do. I have had many alcoholics in my family, none of them were physically abusive but all of them were at best emotionally neglectful, and often emotionally and mentally abusive. Mean old codgers. But often the most amazing people when they weren't drinking. And incredibly smart. Every alcoholic I've ever known has been an incredibly intelligent person. My experiences with them lead me to believe that their intelligence wasn't well managed between school and their own self-knowledge and they didn't know how to handle some of the experiences and thoughts they had and turned to alcohol to quell the thoughts. Sad indeed.

    I agree with the assessment that not all people who do bad things, are bad people. My ex was horribly neglectful of our kids when he had them alone (until I found out about it). I could tell you a million stories that would give you a perception of the kind of person he was. But then I could also tell you he was a man with untreated mental illness, alcoholism and undiagnosed autism. He did not do or say the things he did out off spite. He did them because he truly did not know. He died when he was 35 and I was still very angry with him. I wouldn't allow the kids to see him. Knowing what I know now about the suffering he endured, even though he made us suffer, I wish I could tell him I forgive him and still love him. He probably needed that more than anything but my understanding wasn't in place until it was too late.
    pegembara
  • "ps. I also have to comment on the maturity of the people on this forum. I have never in my life witnessed a forum of such level headed people. It is quite refreshing. I guess what would i expect from a Buddhist website?!
    Thanks! "


    Eh, we have our good days and our bad days.... ;) We all have our buttons, and when they get pushed we all tend to react in less-than-perfect-Buddhist ways; some more often than others, but hey- we're human. :D
    Vastmind
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    When you go from on thread to another it can be quite interesting. I note, for example, that some people here can have more compassion toward a man who can beat and abuse women and children than they can have toward a middle-of-the-road Christian.
    oceancaldera207
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    We have level-headed moments, lol. Not so much when we feel our views or opinions are attacked. Proceed with caution to discussions about karma, rebirth, Christianity and vegetarianism, lol. Level heads don't always prevail, including myself sometimes.
    Vastmind
  • I think one way to look at metta and compassion is to imagine how they would be if they were happy and free from pain. Would a person free from pain do such horrible things? I don't think they would. So just in thought you could wish that they be free from their pain so that they don't hurt a new round of people.

    As far as forgiving them meaning to include them in your life I think it's case by case. I once told my brother I hated him and he forgave me. These people mentioned have done much worse. Protect yourself both from emotional harm and in particular physical harm. Count on them being ignorant beings.
    oceancaldera207pegembara
  • oceancaldera207oceancaldera207 Veteran
    edited September 2013
    Jeffrey said:

    I think one way to look at metta and compassion is to imagine how they would be if they were happy and free from pain. Would a person free from pain do such horrible things?

    This is true, abusive behavior usually doesn't just come from nowhere and it's good to remember that. there are complex reasons for why people do what they do. I try very hard to remember that, and sometimes don't succeed.
    I am a still a firm believer though that prevention and deterrence of violence and bad behavior can be great acts of compassion. Encouraging good behavior though is an act of compassion as well, as karmatib is doing. It sounds like you're @karmatib handling the situation pretty well..
    I just hope that you proceed with caution. Perhaps let your grandmother know that you dont find your grandfathers past behavior reasonable or acceptable in any way. That's what I think I'd want if I were her..
    Does that make sense?
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