i am what most people would call a ‘pessimist’, but I prefer to call myself a ‘realist’ – isn’t that just what pessimists say to make themselves feel better? strength finders actually tells me i am restorative, and my other strengths; intellection, context, strategic, and adaptability, all seem to tell me that i was created with the exact genetic makeup to find problems, figure out where they stem from, plan the best route and adapt any plan to fix the problem. well now, being a pessimist isn’t looking too terrible now, is it?
but what happens when the enemy loops himself somewhere in the gaps of my processing? let me tell you, i go spiraling down the rabbit hole into a world that seems to be littered with evil, unforgiveness and lacking compassion. needless to say, I go to hell.
did she just say she went to hell? well, depending on your definition of hell, i suppose in some aspect i said exactly what you think i said. regardless of whether or not hell is a literal location in which our loving, forgiving, and patient creator sends us to is for another post.
allow me to illustrate my most recent trip down the rabbit hole to hell.
about 6 weeks ago, as my husband drifted off into dream land my body began to go into overdrive as the enemies lies invaded my mind. i began to think these horrendous things about myself, about the possibilities of horrible, unchangeable, unforgiveable characteristics in myself. i quickly woke my husband and we sat in prayer for well over an hour, but nothing seemed to curb my fear.
after being in a training to be a sexual violence advocate, i had been consuming all sorts of material, and opinions of fellow advocates about the damages caused by perpetrators. i began to wonder, “where is the compassion for human life in general?” or “are there certain actions that are really, truly unforgiveable?” suddenly all of my training in psychology, experiences in life, and conversations with friends and family merged with this concept of forgiveness or rather the there lack of.
i began to reevaluate my own experiences with sexual violence, both as a child and as an adult. i held my experiences up to the definition of sexual violence of the organization i am working for, and wondered, “do i fit as a victim?” more importantly, do my “perpetrators” fit as a perpetrator of a crime? what does it mean to be a perpetrator? if i’m a perpetrator, am i suddenly unworthy of compassion and forgiveness?
“. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. . .” Lord’s Prayer (mathew 6: 9-13)
in the church, we are told to “forgive others”, in fact we are commanded by Jesus, and this is the ONLY prayer He tells us to pray. some churches won’t even let you take communion if you have unresolved issues with another brother or sister in Christ. ehem. . . scuuuuuuse me while I cough up the blood of Christ.. say that again? I’m not to drink or eat of the body of Christ because I won’t validate another person’s actions against me? that doesn’t seem Godly.
a common theme running throughout spiritual healing from sexual trauma is often, “if you’re still struggling, it’s because you haven’t forgiven.”
it’s incredibly aggravating to hear someone spew out forgiveness speeches when all you want is healing from the scars of sexual violence. Further more, this message leads people to believe the reason they are still struggling is because of an inherent issue within themselves, rather than acknowledging that forgiveness and healing are two separate tasks. forgiveness is a decision to hold no account of wrongs against another person, while healing is the continual reaffirming of your strength, making small victories in building trust, and finding joy despite experiencing sorrow.
no one is exempt from being a perpetrator, because this word is so subjective that we forget it is just a word that society applies multiple meanings to.
i am intentionally using the word “perpetrator” to make the above point. the ability to hurt another person’s feelings, break someone’s trust, cross someone’s boundaries or violate a person in a much more intimate way such as sexual violence, always begins with a victim. when i think about my experiences a child, i am overwhelmed with sadness towards the people involved. i recognize their need to understand their surroundings and experiences. i recognize that i am not capable of describing their reasoning’s for doing what they did to me. and though i bare the scars of their actions, i long see healing for everyone involved. recognizing that everyone is a victim of something, whether is be a poor childhood, sexual or physical abuse themselves, or mental illness has made it easier for me to forgive my “perpetrators”.
to forgive doesn’t mean to condone, limit the effects, or forget the actions a person has committed against me.
my experience in talking about forgiveness with others has often been that of, “but i don’t want them to think it was okay. i can’t say, ‘i forgive you.’ without them feeling excused.” i feel ya, i struggle with this when my spouse says something that i am hurt by, and he asks for forgiveness. It’s like I can literally feel the unforgiveness pulse through my veins when he asks this of me.
what I have learned, is that forgiveness is an opportunity to show God’s grace in some of the most “unworthy” of circumstances. forgiving someone really gives you power over your life, and how you will be treated. Forgiving others allows you to tell the person that what they did really hurt you, describe any scars you have because of what they did, and unchain the chord the enemy uses to drive you down. (2 Cor 2:11)
it isn’t only those who have perpetrated against us that need to be forgiven, but we must forgive ourselves.
i had to realize that i carried so much shame and guilt around my experience as child, that my experiences with rape later in my life didn’t even register as rape, but rather as, “normal behavior”. I convinced myself this was my “type” of man, and I was somehow asking for it.
as a result, i have carried around a deep hatred for myself. a hatred which chained me to the enemy, and made it easy for him to pump his venomous lies into my system. i believed that i must have done something so terrible, that God Himself wouldn’t forgive me, and if God can’t forgive me, certainly no human would. for me, it was only a waiting game until that action was discovered and i wound up alone.
i just kept searching and searching for that action through imagining the worst possibilities. through therapy, and talking this out, i have felt some closure, but the hatred for myself remains something i am working through. with the help of true friendships, and prayer, i am certain i will learn to forgive myself and thus love myself.
so, i encourage you all to look at your definitions of forgiveness and ask yourself if there are any areas of yourself you would like to forgive. are there any people you can’t seem to forgive? break the chains to the enemy now, don’t let him settle in you.