The concept of forgiveness is one, which raises the hair on the backs of a lot of peoples’ necks. And for very good reason, because the concept of forgiveness is often shoved down people’s throats. I am the first to admit that forgiveness indeed has its appropriate time and place, and that to prematurely "forgive" would be to deny, to dishonor, and to trivialize the suffering of an innocent.
Having passed that stage myself, I would like to share my views about appropriately timed forgiveness.. In order to forgive, one must blame. I believe that blame is always a lie. I’ve always said that I could blame my parents, but they would only blame theirs, and it could go all the way back to Adam, who blamed Eve, and I’d still have been a battered and abused child. So what good is blame? The only person I can hold accountable for my outcomes, is myself.
Since I am proposing what some might feel is an outrageous concept, let me use my own experiences to illustrate. I feel qualified to speak to the need of forgiveness, (or not) having come from a background of catastrophic child abuse which left me, for a time, in psychological pieces, or what has in the past been referred to as "multiple personality disorder". In the last five years, I have come from having spent two years in the fetal position in my bed, to discovering that I had nine alter personalities which ran my life in a not-so-efficient manner, and integrating them to become the mostly sane and joyfully thriving individual I am today.
Having barely accomplished the feat of integration of my experiences with their effects on my individual parts, and pulling them all back together again in what seemed to me to be a unified whole; having in the process lost, for a time, my four sons, and my marriage altogether, I decided nearly two years ago that it was time for me to re-enter the world of social acceptance, and begin dating.
I found an interesting ad in the local classified, and talked for three hours with a man who seemed to know every right thing to say to one who had been so deprived of loving and acceptance and honoring of my deepest desires and heartfelt wishes for good. We arranged to meet on the following day.
I’ll spare the details, but I spent the next three days in medical care, with internal bleeding caused by this man’s brutal rape. I underwent all the dehumanizing examinations that go along with such an experience, and spent the next few weeks with a rape crisis counselor, trying to put the pieces back together again. The police and the District Attorney were involved, and it turned out that the man had been previously convicted of similar crimes, and that I was lucky I had been so compliant.
I was compliant, because, unbeknownst to me, when faced with such danger, I resorted to old skills of splitting, and became once again the seven-year-old who had been treated in this way over and over again. Over the next few days, the doctors and police became familiar with my alter-personalities, my catatonic one and my broken baby and my ashamed little girl. I thought they had been healed and that "I" was in control.
The District Attorney finally determined that my case was not a candidate for trial, because due to my unusual circumstance and reaction, no jury would believe that this man believed he was doing anything wrong. The DA believed me, he said, but felt that losing a trial would be further re-victimization of me, and that I was better off to drop it. I fully agreed, and was greatly relieved to be done with it. My reason for pressing charges in the first place was to protect others who might answer his ads. I had no desire to endure the humiliation of a trial.
I have been accused of being in denial, but the truth is, I have come to be grateful for this experience. From it I learned some vitally important things about myself, about the need for growth in areas I didn’t know were lacking. I had no idea, for instance, that I could split again so completely. I didn’t know that I was an accident waiting to happen, and actually, a seeming magnet for men who treated women as I believed women were naturally treated. I had some really important core beliefs that needed recognition and reframing. I have grown light years since that time, and the experience left me far better off than I could have been without it. It was like a drop kick over a goal post.
As for the man, I have feelings of pity and compassion for him. He was impotent, and desperately seeking his worth and power in the recesses of my womb; he was a madman, acting out the most painful lack of self or ability to love anyone, least of all, himself. He knew all the right words, because he longed for love and acceptance as much as I do, or anyone else; he simply had no idea of how to get it for himself. I’d much rather be me than he.
I am convinced that "health seeks its own level" and that as I have come to much greater emotional and mental health, I will attract men and experiences in my life which mirror my own hard-earned growth. I have, in fact, set the intent that as bad as my experiences with men have been in the past, that’s how good they will be in the future. I’m counting on it.
This experience, and all I’ve ever known, has taught me that it’s not what happens to you at all, that counts. It’s what you make of it. The sexual act, for instance, can be the same whether it is one shared in love, or rape. It’s the intent that changes the entire context. This man had no intent to harm me, but only to find himself, and a desperate need for power and love. His confusion and desperation are far more painful for me to watch than any injury to my body, which healed automatically. Only I can choose whether he leaves psychological scars, and I choose NOT!
Rather, I choose to squeeze every drop of meaning and sacred purpose out of this (and every) experience, in order that I may pass this class, and not have to take it again. Intent is all. It is my intent that forgiveness become more and more of a moot subject in my life, as I learn to dispense with judgment and its inherent pitfalls, and search instead for the gift in every occurrence.
To Forgive or Not to Forgive
by Julia Fairchild