If I see one more “spiritual” meme about forgiveness come through my Facebook feed, I just may start flipping the bird to random people. Encouragements to forgive irritate me.
Our culture is caught up in the idea that forgiveness is a soul cleansing act that will graciously lead you to recovery. The forgiveness rhetoric is so heavily associated with moving forward and the idea that it will rescue you from harboring ill will. I don’t buy it.
When things don’t sit right with me, it can have a physical effect. My gut is far wiser than my brain or my heart. It doesn’t seem to be as gullible. As I get older, I tend to let my gut lead more. My tendency to do so pushed me away from the forgiveness gospel. No part of exploring the idea of forgiveness felt good on me. It actually cheapened the outrage I have learned to tap in to and made me feel smaller.
Given the extent to which I have been doused with dysfunction and used for another person’s gain, I’m not so sure I am wired to accept that belief. Furthermore, I think it’s a little bit of bullshit that any person that has had their body and mind violated against should be advised or expected to forgive the perpetrator. The socially accepted voice that tells me I need to forgive to obtain closure is righteous and lacks empathy. Learning that has brought me more closure than any failed attempt at forgiveness.
I could not, and still cannot, wrap my head around telling someone that willingly made a wrong and somewhat lethal choice, over and over again, that I forgive them. For me, telling the man that abused me for eight years of my young life, “I forgive you” is telling myself “it’s ok”. As in, oh don’t worry about, no big deal, I’ll survive. It’s not ok. People say when you forgive, you can let go. Let go of what? Let go of any part of my story and ignore how I have had to adapt because of it? No thanks. I’ll hold on to that.
I didn’t need to offer forgiveness to find the kind of closure I needed. Without forgiving, I managed to tone down the panic and trauma. I needed self acceptance and the ability to embrace all of who I am. Now I just need a shift in our culture so that I don’t feel like I did something wrong or I am inconveniencing someone else’s comfort level by telling my story.
I call bullshit. A “strong” person is one who has found the courage to scrape off the layers of shit and shame abuse glues to you. The film that needs to be peeled back and eventually removed is a lifetimes worth of work. For me, forgiveness just doesn’t have a place in that battle.