Dealing with Abandonment:
Four Steps Toward Forgiveness
Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I’ve passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it…..
In the poem, The House with Nobody in It, Joyce Kilmer personifies the feelings of an old house that is no longer lived in and every time I read it, something within my soul aches; it’s the feeling of abandonment.
Many people we brush elbows with have an intimate relationship with abandonment. The destruction it makes is visible in our families, our circle of friends and in the workplace. It is a difficult force to reckon with because the wounds abandonment makes are deep and prone to infection. It can make you wonder if there is any hope for one wounded by this foe. The good news is there are definite steps you can take to defeat this formidable enemy and the first one is defining it.
Describing abandonment and the thoughts, feelings and reactions it generates requires more than just a simple definition of the term itself. However, since I am an English teacher, I have often found that a term’s definition is a good place to begin when delving into a specific subject.
Abandonment means “to withdraw from, often in the face of danger…. to withdraw protection, support or help.” (merriam-webster.com). It holds within itself the deliberate retreat from another person; a specific choice to turn your back on someone else.
The word deliberate is an important consideration in understanding this adversary. Deliberate actions are harder to deal with than unintentional ones. When someone makes the conscious choice to cause me harm, the damage to my soul is greater and therefore, the healing process more complicated. People throughout history know the anguish of abandonment, including individuals found within the pages of the Old Testament.
Weather you are a person that give validity to the Old Testament or not, the man, Joseph, in the book of Genesis knew what abandonment is.
Though Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob (Genesis 37–50), his own brothers, seething with jealousy, abandoned him by selling him as a slave. These men took him to Egypt, a country he knew little about. Later, Potiphar, Joseph’s owner abandoned him by sending him to jail when Joseph was not guilty of the crime of rape. The record of Joseph’s life paints a picture of the destruction abandonment makes. I have also wondered if Joseph may have felt abandoned by his God.
The children of Israel also had to deal with feelings of abandonment when they were slaves in Egypt (Exodus 1–14). Year after year, the Israelites suffered under the harsh thumb of Pharaoh and they cried out to God to deliver them. Their anguished cries rose for over 400 years and yet it seemed as if God had turned his back on them. They felt that God abandoned them.
Whether you believe in the Hebrew’s God or not, both examples tap into the overwhelming hurt and anger that abandonment produces.
There needs to be a distinction, however, that a person can feel abandoned, even if, in reality they aren’t. Both actual and perceived abandonment can wreak havoc in someone’s life and both need healing if someone wants to move forward in their life.
Feelings of abandonment is when a person perceives someone has abandoned them. As children, we may have experienced this feeling multiple times. For example, a child goes with his mother to the grocery store. He is not paying attention, and wanders off., he looks up and Mom is not around. He shrieks in terror because he feels his mom has abandoned him.
Abandonment, as an adult, occurs when we make assumptions (maybe even correct ones) and we conclude that person has left us, we feel abandoned, even if we’re not.
Actual abandonment is when an individual has made the deliberate choice to “withdraw protection, support or help” for another. When someone is supposed to love, protect, support and/or help you leaves or chooses not to intervene, a dark sense of betrayal hits the sufferer’s soul. Betrayal produces many feelings such as hurt, fear, anger, and sadness which can lead to much darker places within.
We can justify all these feelings associated with abandonment but the problem is these feelings are like darts that hit your soul, the tips of which are poisonous. When a person harbors these feelings within, even with realizing it, the infection spreads. This infection seeps into our thoughts, feelings, relationships, motivations and more. The good news is, there is an antibiotic for this infection but the bad news is this remedy requires disciplined action, the act of forgiveness. This treatment offers hope to the soul haunted by abandonment but forgiveness is a choice a wounded person has to make.
The antidote of forgiveness is the medicine the soul needs to heal from abandonment. Forgiveness is often a misunderstood process; it is not forgetting what someone else has done to you. Forgiveness does not involve forgetting, nor is it letting someone off the hook for what they did to you. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself.
Four steps to forgiveness
Forgiveness is a process of choices you must make to heal the wounds of abandonment.
1. The first choice of forgiveness is to acknowledge that someone has deliberately chosen to abandon you.
Do not sugarcoat it; they did it. They are guilty and acknowledging what they did will help you make the next choice.
2. The second choice of forgiveness is to “let it go.”
I understand this to mean that my mind will not feed the betrayal and keep it alive. I have already acknowledged it and there is now no need to hang on to it.
3. The third choice of forgiveness is to stop allowing the memory of the betrayal to replay in your mind.
You can control what you think about and you can choose to “change the subject” in your mind. Instead, replay the lessons you have learned through this experience so the next choice is possible.
4. The fourth choice of forgiveness is to pay it forward and help others whose souls need the freedom from abandonment.
Abandonment and unforgiveness is a heavy burden to carry. Put that burden down today! You don’t need it!