It is most definitely a discussion. It is not even looking for answers. It is an exploration.
I have no answers, and draw no conclusions as such because this discussion is my very personal journey.
I’m sure there are many who will draw encouragement from this discussion.
I’m also sure there are many who wish I could come up with answers.
To be honest I’m at the very beginning of grappling with this. I’m discussing this because I’m trying to process the most heart wrenching injustice and find a way forward.
I’m also entering into this discussion because I feel there is a need for real honesty concerning this subject. In too many Christian contexts there is a lack of real honesty just simplistic answers which do not allow for processing or honestly asking very deep questions that don’t have easy answers.
Sometimes being a Christian is really hard. It gets hard when gut wrenching life events mean you have to grapple with very deep questions to which there are no easy answers or easy solutions. Neither religious nor simplistic Christianity have any real answers when it comes to these issues.
As a victim of crime and a survivor of the most appalling sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and religious abuse I find myself grappling with issues to do with deliberate cruelty, betrayal, lies, denial, play-acting, justice, injustice, defiance and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is hard at the best of times, but is certainly easier if the person admits their fault, confesses and repents, maybe even apologises.
Forgiveness becomes virtually impossible when the guilty are faced with the truth, faced with the legal consequences, but do not respond with humility but with defiance, denials, play-acting and lies. By doing so they evaded justice. By doing so they evaded exposure of their crimes. By doing so they stuck 2-fingers in front of my face and in front of the face of God. By doing so they showed no comprehension of the way their actions, lies and denials when confronted with the truth tore my life apart.
I’m left wondering how on earth can I forgive when my abusers deny any wrongdoing, carry on their lives hard faced, glorying in their win, going about as if cruelty is normal and as if it is normal to have nothing to do with your daughter?
I’m also left wondering how God who hates injustice can allow such injustice to happen on top of all the injustices of all the other abuses. I’m left feeling that my life is just injustice piled on injustice until there is nothing left but injustice and devastation.
And so I’m left wondering how to move on.
I think there are layers of forgiveness, just as there are layers of guilt, grief, shock, bewilderment, disbelief – and any other human emotion you can think of. I think there are varying levels of forgiveness too.
To forgive is a choice but is the hardest choice to make in the face of bare faced defiance.
When someone receives your forgiveness that enables possibility of closure. But when all you have is defiance, denials and lies how can true forgiveness happen. There can be no real closure in such a situation, there will always be unfinished business.
People say it doesn’t matter if someone won’t or doesn’t receive your forgiveness, but actually it makes a huge difference and contextually it really does matter. I feel that opinion is too simplistic.
Without true confession and repentance the affect of their sin upon you cannot be nullified. The truth is without true confession and repentance there is no closure.
Forgiveness is a process, a journey and not necessarily a destination. It does help to keep speaking their name and saying I forgive you. Doing that over time it is possible to feel more compassionately towards the person who wronged you. But where there is only defiance and lies there is no justice, justice enables a move towards closure. Injustice leaves unfinished business and no closure.
Speaking the truth of what they did helps to put the blame and guilt where it lies and that is on the shoulders of the person who did the wrong not on the person who is struggling to forgive and honestly grappling with the hurt and lack of closure.
It’s very difficult in this situation to let go of them and leave them to God. When you’ve trusted God to bring justice and closure but instead you’re faced with defiance and injustice, it’s really hard to keep believing in a God of justice.
It’s simplistic to say just let go of the anger and the pain. Those are emotions that need processing not just denial. Getting beyond the hurt and pain is a process not just a one-time event in these situations. I think the same is true when it comes to real forgiveness in these situations too.
If only I had the love and compassion Jesus had. In a sense it was easy for HIM, HE gave up all HE had in heaven to come to this earth and bridge the gap between God and humans. HE knew HIS Father’s heart so well. HE was secure in HIS Father’s love and at one with HIM.
I'm an incredibly hurt insecure human being who, who struggles to trust, but who is also in relationship with God through Jesus but does not have that same level of complete trust in God Jesus had. I so wish I could be like Jesus, but I can only be me discussing with HIM how to see and understand HIS perspective on the unique situation I find myself in.
The other thing about Jesus is so many Christians have said HE forgave HIS tormentors and murderers from the cross. I’m not all that sure I agree with that. That is because what HE actually said from the cross was – “Father forgive them..."
That prayer Jesus uttered from the cross is something I keep coming back to over and over again. There is something very profound in those 3 words and something to learn from them. There is a reason why Jesus did not say “I forgive them” but rather “Father forgive them” - it's as if Jesus Himself really grappled with forgiving the people who were doing such dreadful things to HIM and actually struggled with it Himself and in HIS love and compassion in the end Jesus passed it on to HIS Father to do the forgiving because in HIS humanity it was too big and too hard for HIM to deal with – that’s my thoughts on that scripture.
Some have told me to let God take care of the offender because God is just. In itself that is a true statement but also minimises the process and can be perceived as extremely simplistic.
God says “vengeance is mine, I will repay” When you’ve trusted the leading of God through the legal process but am left with defiance and injustice at the end of that process, it makes it very hard to take God at HIS word because that trust and belief has been seriously undermined and shaken by the injustice and end result.
The real truth of real forgiveness goes way past simplistic statements. It takes you deep into the depths of your own broken heart and the depths of God’s heart of love and compassion. As those two collide a conversation takes place at a very deep level of understanding. It doesn’t always provide a straight forward solution or relief. Again we’re talking process, not one time events. The conversation takes place at different levels within both hearts. I think there’s a certain amount of going backwards and forwards and round and round during that conversation.
It's very hard when people are deliberately and defiantly non repentant and hard faced - turning up in church as if nothing is wrong and nothing has happened. Having to cope with your abusers turning up in church whilst deliberately sticking 2 fingers up at God is beyond the capacity of describe. Having to cope with your abusers continuing to use the church as their cover story is beyond awful and beyond hypocrisy. Having them do all of that on that back of having lied and denied to prevent justice and to prevent exposure is disgusting and distasteful at the very least. It is utterly appalling for me as a victim, for those who gave evidence against them to the police and for the church leadership who now know the truth about them. It’s totally ghastly and repulsive to be brutally honest.
It is as if they have no conscience at all. Sometimes when people have lied and denied for long enough they actually believe their lies and denials to be absolute truth regardless of evidence to the contrary. Thus they worm their way out of it and can be incredibly and frighteningly convincing in their true lies.
There is freedom in forgiveness – I read this definition of –
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it is about letting go of the other person’s throat”(The Shack, p.224)
I found that to be a very helpful analogy. When you’ve suffered terrible deliberate systematic cruelty for many years it is EXTREMELY HARD TO FORGIVE, NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY. SOMETIMES ALL YOU CAN DO IS TO TAKE YOUR HANDS FROM AROUND THEIR NECKS, FROM AROUND THEIR THROATS. ACTUALLY BEING ABLE TO DO THAT IS SO HARD.
I SENSE THAT GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO THAT IS A PROCESS AS WELL AS A CHOICE.
Without confession, repentance, admission of guilt or other things which lead to closure surely it will always be there at the back of your mind. Having to watch your abusers behaving as if nothing untoward happened and all is normal fuels the fire. When people have been so deliberately cruel to you and are so defiant when faced with the truth where can you go? How can such defiance be coped with, processed and gotten out of your mind. It is in reality and in all truth extremely difficult. It’s almost impossible to forgive cruel people who lie, pretend all is normal and do all they can legally to silence you and keep their evil deeds secret.
I am talking here of real tough issues of life and faith where there are no easy answers. Forgiving wanton cruelty in the face of total defiance and lies is virtually impossible.
A friend of mine said to me regarding these issues – “
I feel people are mistaking "justice" for "revenge". Needing justice is not to be revengeful. It's about needing people to repent and face the truth of their crimes, and in an ideal world, ask for the person they abused, to forgive them and face their punishment by law with humility. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world and that is what is difficult to deal with. We need prayers and more support for the abused and bullied and for it not to be acceptable in our society any more. It is as hard to deal with others reaction towards abuse (or in my case Domestic Violence), they prefer to "turn a blind eye", which is equally as abusive. I guess there is no answer to how to get over it and move on, when it has affected you so much. Fix your eyes on Jesus Fi.”
I found that incredibly helpful because as said earlier when people do not repent when faced with the lawful consequences of their actions and evade accountability, justice and exposure it makes it so much harder to deal with - I don't think these things can even be got over but rather be processed so it's possible to live with such awful, disgraceful, distasteful, disgusting truth somehow!!
I think there are some things that happen to us in life that are so awful we'll never "get over" them as such, but instead process them in order to be able live with the truth of what happened and the consequences - I think the term "getting over" is simplistic when faced with real gut wrenching heart breaking life events!
A friend give me the following excerpt from a memoir called “Battle for a Broken Heart: Recovering From Incest and Child Abuse” written by Nicholas Meadows. The excerpt was written to his mother, the person who had abused him and whom he was struggling to forgive.
“I know I need to forgive you. When I think about forgiving you, I get... scared. I think that if I forgive you, then I am saying everything is okay. Mom keeps telling me that forgiveness is not the same as excusing, or forgetting. She says that forgiving is letting go of the hatred and trusting that God will do what is best. She says that forgiving is giving up any thoughts of revenge, or "I hope you burn in hell" ideas. I don't have any thoughts of revenge and I don't hope you burn in hell; it's just that I don't want to see you in heaven either. Mom tells me that in heaven, I will love everyone and everyone will love me, since heaven is perfect. I don't understand how I could possibly love you if I still remember what you did to me. I know that Jesus was tortured and killed because of us, yet HE still loves us. I guess if I had the kind of love that Jesus does, then maybe I would view you differently, but as of now I don't want to love you. I did that once and it cost me way too much. I do want to forgive you though, because I want to be completely free to move on. I don't want these feelings that tie my stomach into knots anymore. I am praying that God will "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalms 51:10) I guess that at this point all I can truthfully say is that I want to forgive you, and I am trying to be the most loving person I can be. I pray that God will answer my prayer and give me a heart that can forgive and love as HE does.”
I found that really helpful because it really captured the conflicting thoughts and feelings involved in honestly grappling with these issues.
I know I will carry not only the abuse I experienced but this appalling injustice inside me for the rest of my life and will have to process in order to be able to live with it.
For me the sticking point is how do I find a way through the maze of hurt and out the other side of it - how do I process all that - I would like to be able to forgive, but right now I’m hurting so much it’s very hard just to process through the heart wrenching, gut churning agony.
My shattered heart wants to be able to forgive but doesn't even know where to begin.
But the more I write, the more I speak out, the more I'm honest about how darned hard this is, the more freedom I find in expressing what to begin with feels to be “the inexpressible”.
I guess the only way forward is to stay open, to stay honest and to stay leaning on the safe people in my life, Safe Daddy and Big Bruvver instead of closing up and turning the hurt inwards. And in so doing draw support and encouragement for the journey one baby step at a time!