Sooo, I recently had to give a presentation in my hometown on Sexual Violence. Let’s just say it went really well but I was a nervous wreck beforehand. I wasn’t nervous about speaking in public especially on a topic that is near and dear to my heart but I was nervous because it was in front of a group of people that have known me all of my life and many don’t know what I’ve gone through. Nevertheless, I survived. I really believe people were blessed by it as well as enlightened as to just how often sexual assault/rape takes place. As any good presenter would, I opened the floor for questions. The question was raised, "Has either of the men ever apologized and would I want them to?" Hum well, let me think about that one.
As a survivor of a traumatic event, it is quite natural to be angry, hurt, confused, in denial, disillusioned, etc. However, there comes a point in the healing process where the f-bomb comes up. No I’m not using slang for profanity but I’m talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an easy task. It’s not like we are talking about forgiving someone for stepping on your toe or cutting in line or taking the last bag of chips from the snack machine. We are talking about forgiving someone for a complete violation of our personal space and womanhood. Now that my friend is not easy. However, it is a necessary part of the healing process. For those who are like, "uuuhh yea I don’t know about all that. I don’t hate them but it’s a process." Trust me, I feel you and I completely understand where you are coming from but let’s consider the reasons why forgiveness is so important and who exactly do we need to forgive.
Let’s begin with the question of why do we feel that we can’t forgive? Some of the reasons I’ve found that make forgiveness hard are:
They don’t deserve to be forgiven
They have never even apologized to me
If I forgive them, it will seem that I’m okay with what they did
They get off the hook
I don’t hate them and I know the Bible tells us to forgive but oooh you just don’t know what they did.
Do any of those sound familiar? For many years, I have believed many of these exact same things. However, with time and some biblical teaching (hence the word biblical not religious), I learned that forgiveness actually doesn’t mean any of these things. First of all, forgiveness is a choice not particularly a process. But I feel you, the process may actually pertain more to getting to the place of making the choice versus actually deciding to forgive. Secondly, we have to understand what forgiveness is not. Recently my pastor did a sermon on forgiveness and I have to say it really gave a new perspective on this whole notion of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not minimizing the offense.
Yes it was terrible. They hurt you to your core. They stole your childhood. They stole your innocence and all of that is still relevant and real.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
Reconciliation takes two but forgiveness only takes one.
The bible tells us as much as it’s up to you, live at peace with one another(Romans 12:18)
Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened.
I’m sure all of us have said at one point or another, I can forgive but I won’t forget. But you know what, no one is asking you to forget.
However, the goal is to get you to the point where you no longer relive the pain when you remember it.
Forgiveness is not a feeling.
Forgiveness is a choice and your feelings will follow.
Let me be clear, I don’t think forgiveness is always easy but I do think it is a necessary part of the healing journey. Not forgiving is not benefiting you nor is it hurting them. Often times our biggest challenge with forgiveness is that they seem to be able to just go on with life as though nothing has happened, while we suffer the hurt, the shame, the blame, the guilt, etc. My response to the question was that neither guy has ever apologized to me. Well, now that I think about it the second guy called me saying he was sorry afterwards but that’s about it. I haven’t seen either of them in years. I don’t need them to apologize but I have forgiven them. I’ve also forgiven myself and those who hurt me with their words and their actions. I have also asked for forgiveness from those I hurt while I was simply coping with what happened to me. You know the saying hurt people hurt people. I still remember what they did to me but it no longer controls every little thing that I do. I don’t wish any ill will towards them because I know they will have their day and God will repay. I chose to forgive because as a believer in Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven. I may not have done the things they have done but I have done my share of wrong.
So what do you think? What stops you from forgiving? Do you want to forgive?
Stay tuned for steps on how to forgive.