That Crazy Concept Called Forgiveness
Something amazing happened to me and it’s deep. Believe it or not, I actually write about more than assholes and Barbie dolls. (On a side note, I promised my cousin Barb that I’d start referring to 20-somethings as amaze-holes instead. It’s more fitting, don’t you think?
I did something kind of crazy. I friended the girl who bullied me in elementary school on Facebook. And she accepted. And we talked. And we connected, really connected for the first time in about 35 years. And something amazing happened inside of me and I hope inside of her too.
When I had my kids, I started working through my feelings about being bullied and I came to a place where I understood that she and I were both victims of our experiences and upbringing. Kids aren’t mean to other kids because they feel good about themselves. I forgave my bully because I recognized a generational pattern of aggression and hate that I refuse to perpetuate. Most importantly, I had to look in the mirror and confront the fact that I’ve treated people in ways that I regret. Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.
But our experiences have a way of causing us to build defenses that become deeply ingrained. Why do I hate office politics? Because I was bullied. Why do I have an anxiety attack if someone honks their horn at me? Because I was bullied. Why do I crawl into a ball if I feel like I’m being emotionally attacked? Because I was bullied.
I’m ready to let go of those defenses now. Amazing.
If there’s one thing I can point to that has made forgiveness for me possible it’s that I’ve never had a desire for justice.
I never once took pleasure or solace in the fact that one of my abusers went to prison for 3 years (and he would’ve been in there a lot longer if I hadn’t been terrified to tell the whole truth). His punishment did nothing to help make sense of what had happened to me or how my life had spiraled out of control from there. Ultimately, the one thing I wanted was impossible. I wanted it to not have happened. I wanted him to not be the way he was, to have not made the choices he made and to have not inflicted the hurt he did. Anything short of that was hopelessly inadequate. I recently found out that he died years ago and I wish, I wish, I wish…
There was a woman who despised me when I was a little girl. She glared at me and pointed me back to my bedroom whenever I worked up the nerve to come out. She beat me with a washcloth after I took a bath and didn’t rinse the tub, leaving a ring of strawberry scented bubbles. Her voice shook with high-pitched rage as the wet cloth snapped against my head and back. She’s like a monster in my mind and I would love to see her now so that I can replace the image of a monster with that of a woman. I want to know if she turned herself around. I want to know if she went on to have kids of her own and if motherhood changed her, if it softened the anger in her heart. She’d probably have grandchildren by now and I wonder if she dotes on them the way my parents dote on my kids. I want to see God’s light in those beady, squinted eyes that I remember so well. And if she didn’t redeem herself? What then?
Then, I have to forgive her anyway. I wouldn’t be the same without any of them. I’m who I am because of how I let those experiences break me, then build me, and then empower me. The cycle of pain ends here.