I’m in third grade at Christian school watching a McGee and Me video in the cafeteria with the rest of my class. Suddenly someone in the video shares the same name as the man who molested me and escaped legal punishment. I start crying and panicking.
My teacher, an angry former substitute we got after our beloved gentle teacher eloped in Vegas, is irritated. She wants me to be quiet and sit down. She can’t spare a moment of compassion for me. She tells me that since it’s a common name, I need to get over it. I’m going to encounter men with that name all my life and I need to stop making a big deal of it. And then she tells me to forgive the man who isn’t sorry he raped me.
I spent years trying to forgive him, praying for him, and feeling guilty for the harm he did to me. Now I always hear commandments to forgive in my third grade teacher’s scornful voice. They are all poisoned by irritation at victims for having had emotional damage done to us. They all sound like efforts to silence, not to truly heal.
Trying to forgive my rapist delayed my ability to forgive myself. Any guilt I absolved him of was magically transferred to me. Forgiveness did me harm.
I don’t tell people they have to forgive others, especially unapologetic abusers. Sometimes the easiest way to heal and move on is to NOT forgive, not forget, but remember where they were at fault. Sometimes that’s the best way to forgive yourself.
Yes, this was such an important lesson for me to learn.