Many years ago, a person that was very dear to me, physically assaulted me. Okay, so- I say that casually, but we all know that is not casual. But this is not the story about that exact incident…….which I will tell you all one day.
This is the story about what happened in the aftermath of my choice to forgive this person.
Forgiveness is an incredibly powerful act. One that cannot be faked. For those of us on a journey of peace, it is considered a very high goal. And yet, we don’t all really have to deal with this, in a huge way, every single day. On the day we do, it rocks our very existence and our belief in everything we think we know. It may also challenge everyone around us as well.
On this day, the people involved in the experience right after the assault were both of my daughters and another young family friend that was visiting us. The assault took place outside of my home. Once I was able to get away I ran in the house and woke everyone up and called the police. I was simply inconsolable. None of us slept that night. I was shaking, frightened in a way I had never been before and my young family had to be there for me, instead of the other way around. I have no doubt of how frightening it must have been for them to have their powerful, ‘always in control’ mother, shaking and in tears.
Aside from myself, the two that were the most affected were my oldest daughter and our family friend. I will call him Tom. They both were enraged, wanted revenge and did everything they could think of to make me feel safe. I watched their resolute reaction and did the best I could talking to them about forgiveness. But, I was oh so far away from my own forgiveness.
While, of course, I always wanted to be a forgiving person, when confronted with this situation, I could not find my way there. At first. As I searched and searched for forgiveness, for even a clue of how to go in the right direction, I could not find any beacon leading me there. All I had was a desire to find my way to forgiveness and a prayer for any help I could get. After several months of excruciating emotional turmoil, soulful prayers and beseeches, it happened. A miracle. Forgiveness came. It came when it was crystal clear that it was the ONLY way out of the pain!
The experience of forgiveness is so powerful, so all encompassing that sharing it becomes compelling. I of course shared with my family that I had finally arrived at forgiveness. . . . And, I expected them to as well. I think I expected it automatically. But not only did they not forgive, they became angry at me for forgiving.
That was an experience I had not anticipated. It was first Tom who confronted me. He thought I was a total lunatic. This person was dangerous, he said. How can you forgive? Spiritual path or no, this was a mistake.
My daughter was next. She was very sad for me, she said. But as much as she was sad, she was extremely angry at this person and perceived my forgiveness as a betrayal to her. Like, how could I forgive someone who tried to kill her mom, and couldn’t I understand that!?
So, my healing process did not end at forgiveness, and forgiveness itself created new challenges for me to resolve. At first, I simply let both of them say their piece and I responded with my viewpoints.
After a time, I realized that not giving full space for their feelings was a mistake. I also really saw and felt how impactful the experience was for them. It was not just ‘my’ experience. It was theirs just as much. I saw that as much as I needed to forgive, I also needed to let them process their feelings in a way that was meaningful to them. I stopped explaining my choice to forgive. I started just listening. Being there. Letting them know how much I loved and appreciated them. I listened to their perception of this person, their fear of violence. Their insecurity about my and their safety. Together we created a healing between us, at the end of which we were much closer.
I love you!