“I’ll never forgive you, for what you’ve done!”
Have you every said these words, making a promise to yourself not to forgive? Do you understand that in that moment, you as a matter of choice, have become a slave to unforgiveness. You have shackled yourself not only to an event, but to the person or people that have wronged you.
“Hang on“, I hear you say. “that person hurt me, they destroyed my life!” I’m sorry, but once you’ve thought about it you’ll see that, that’s not true. Yes, they have impacted your life, interrupted it and perhaps changed it. But the destruction of it is a matter of your choosing, not theirs.
Let me explain this to you through a deeply personal experience of my own that I hope will help you to understand why choosing to forgive, is choosing to be free.
When I was 11 years old I was sexually abused by a pedophile. Understandably it was a traumatic and frightening event that took me many years to overcome. Today the memories of that event are still there in my mind, yet they hold no power over me.
How then do you get from abused to free? It took a couple of years for me to figure out how to deal with what had happened, because back then, you didn’t speak about such things nor did you report them. The support that’s now available to you, just didn’t exist 37 years ago. You either dealt with it yourself, or it dealt to you… it really was that simple.
In those couple of years between being abused and having my freedom epiphany, I hated the man that had done this to me, I hated that I had been put into the care of that man by welfare. I also blamed my mother for not being able to help me. I hated that I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. So I retreated into my mind, and a fantasy world of my creation.
But I was shackled to that event, afraid, lonely, ashamed and consumed with guilt. Every time I thought about it, it was as if I were being abused again. I could feel it physically and emotionally. Then you get hit with the self doubt and start asking whether it was your fault, you start thinking that you must be gay, that there is something wrong with you.
Then one day I asked myself, “I wonder if he thinks about what he’s done to me?” Suddenly from somewhere inside of me I heard, “no! you are nothing to him, less than nothing… so why do you keep letting him hurt you?” To this day I don’t know how or where these profound and quite mature questions and reasoning came from… At this point I must have been around 13 or 14 and I took hold of that question.
The “why do I” became “how do I let him hurt me?” By hating him, and every time I think about how much I hate him, by reliving what he did to me that deserves me hating him. I could see the loop, and the downward spiral that my hate was leading me too. Then the question became, “how do I stop, how do I stop hating him and torturing myself?” Again that voice spoke up, “by letting go, by forgiving him“.
Wow! now there’s a concept for a teenager who’s only real experience of forgiveness came in the shape of being told to shake hands and forget about it. Or, the little bit of bible in schools explanation of forgiveness being so God could forgive us.
The truth is I wanted to be free from this, but I didn’t want to forgive him… Somehow I thought that if I did that, he would get away with it. That by not forgiving him, I was holding him to account. I also thought that I would need to go and tell him that I forgave him, and it would be a cold day in hell before that happened.
Then somehow it dawned on me, firstly I didn’t needed to go tell him anything, and secondly by forgiving him I was letting him go. Letting go of all the hurt and pain I was feeling. I came to the realisation that I wasn’t forgiving him for his benefit, but mine. Personally he could rot in hell for all I cared, but he wasn’t taking me there with him.
Back then I didn’t understand it the way I do today, and it took some time to get to that point when I said the words, looking in the mirror – “I forgive you“. Then every time those thoughts came to mind, I simple said quietly to myself – “I forgive you“. It did take time to get to a place where the memories no longer hurt and where I could think of that man without hating him. But every time I said I forgive, a link in that chain of hate was destroyed until I was able to step free of it.
You see un-forgiveness has the opposite affect, every time you relive the moment or memory, that chain adds a link and gets that little bit tighter doesn’t it? It weights you down, and consumes your every thought doesn’t it? That’s why I say, it’s the holding on that will destroy your life. Unfortunately I know to many people who are unable or more likely unprepared to forgive another’s wrong doing and over time the person they become is defined by a servitude of their own choosing.
I know its not fair, whatever it was that happened to you. I know that working though it is hard. God knows hating is so much easier… but as bad as what it is that happen to you or your family, allowing it to define you. That truly is a tragedy.
Choose freedom, choose to forgive for you and your life because I have also seen people turn tragedy into a life of harmony, peace and happiness.