Like many in my generation, the first time I heard of Rihanna was in 2009 when pictures of her beaten up face exploded all over the news media. At the time I remember thinking is was good for the battered women’s movement to have this young beautiful woman speak out about violence against women.
Last night I watched the interview with Oprah on the OWN network. I was very impressed with her and her statements about forgiveness. Her insights were wise beyond her years. Right after the abuse, she was angry, hurt, and of course, publicly humiliated. Her public actions, as well as her music, came from a gut level of victimhood.
I was moved when, earlier in the interview, she stated that the most important thing her grandmother who recently passed on taught her was about forgiveness (and that she should marry a man who loves her more than she loves him).
She has forgiven Chris, saying she had to find peace with her father first. While her father was good to her, he abused her mother. She was still angry with him and of course, the incident with Chris triggered in her all those memories of her father abusing her mother. AND we all know by now, that often we are attracted to love relationships to heal our hearts, to heal our primary relationships with our parents. Yes, this young woman articulated it perfectly, once she found peace with her father, she was able to find peace with Chris.
Even though her grandmother emphasized the importance of forgiveness, she did not forgive right away. She was worried that she’d become some statistic, or look weak. She didn’t want it to appear that what Chris did was OK. So she lived with the anger and hurt for some time. What Rihanna didn’t realize at the time was that those were simply myths of forgiveness. The reality of forgiveness is that you have to be strong to forgive and it does NOT mean you condone the abuse. What Chris Brown did was NOT ok, and at the same time, Rihanna needed to forgive so she could heal her past and find peace in her life.
Shockingly, I watched the Today show and they were criticizing her for still loving him, and for forgiving him! They wanted her to remain angry! They wanted her to continue to live from a place of bitterness and retaliation. How crazy is that? Is this representative of our thoughts as a nation or just sensational television?
Being abused, whether by a parent, child, or a love-partner, doesn’t wipe away the love. Her actions at this point are text-book perfect for forgiveness. She wanted him to get help, recognizing this man obviously has a problem. She stayed away from him during the restraining order. She was mad, angry, hurt and felt victimized for a while. And she worked through her issues, taking control of her life, creating stronger boundaries, and although she admits she still loves him, she is moving on with her life. What more do we want from her? Do we really want her to spew angry venom forever?
Being abused is tough for anyone. Being humiliated in the public eye is awful and painful. Being criticized for forgiving? I hope she has tough skin and is centered and balanced enough to ignore and dare I say it, forgive, her forgiveness critics.
Lori Rubenstein is a former divorce attorney turned forgiveness teacher. She is a passionate lifetime learner of the art of forgiveness. Her mission is to be a beacon – lighting the path for others to find their way back to love. She has written two transformational books: Transcending Divorce: A Guide for Personal Growth and Transformation and Freedom from Abuse: Finding Yourself Again and co authored Faces Behind the Pages that Inspire is currently working on the manuscript for Forgiveness: Healing Your Past and Finding the Peace You Deserve.
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