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Forgiveness is ______

This week I will be forgiving in person or by currier someone who wronged me greatly. I’ve been struggling with what forgiveness means to me. I figured I’d present the letter I am taking/sending so I wouldn’t forget the things I want to say to this man.

He is one of the men who raped me and beat me. He is the one who drove the van and the only to ask “What must I do to earn your forgiveness?”. So far he has honored my conditions and I believe he will honor them so I’ve decided to tell him he is forgiven. By far the hardest thing I’ve done on my road to recovery.

I’ve cried, I’ve prayed, I’ve lost sleep and I’ve withdrawn. It feels as though inside I’m tearing myself apart with each inch I give. I’ve taken the bus everywhere for a week because my vision is clouded with pain inside. I see double and I shake inside and out.

This path scares me most. The ghost of forgiveness future wracking my soul and mind from the inside so violently I suffer externally. From violent shakes, to blurred vision and physically becoming ill. New and fearful path of forgiveness.

The letter is as follows.

Dear (name redacted for my privacy)

I wanted to put everything I wanted to say in writing. So I wouldn’t miss saying anything important. Also in case I couldn’t face you in person.

First I am telling you these things because I want you to understand how difficult this decision has been. I am still struggling with much of my past and trying to live in the present. Life hasn’t been easy for me since that day.

Second I want you to know that every man in my life from my father to my boyfriend has paid a heavy price for your actions on that day. I still wake with nightmares and the actions of you and those you were with trouble me still today in ways I could never express properly. I still recoil at my fathers embrace. I run from men and the thoughts of meeting a new man even one I’ve known for years sends such fear and dread through me I become physically ill.

Your part in this has lead me to a very dark place. A place I’m just now beginning to dig out of. A place without god, light or hope.

Third the aftermath of that day lead me to attempt suicide and almost succeeded. I feel into a deep pit where pain was all that was real anymore. I began cutting and struggle today to stop, I’ve been cut free for a little more than thirteen weeks when you get this letter.

Fourth I’d rather deliver this in person and tell you all this to your face. But I doubt I’ll have the courage. As I said every man in my life has suffered because I no longer trust men. I’m not even able to trust those I should and those who’ve caused me no harm. So most likely this is all you’ll get from me.

Fifth know for a long time I wandered from god a direct affect from your hand. In the past few years I have begun returning to my heavenly father and I have some hope for peace. To date I’ve not had peace in my life in a very long time. The ripples of that day have been tsunamis to my soul. Can you believe I’ve actually blamed myself at times?

Sixth know when I see myself in the mirror I see the monster you helped create. I see the scars and my face which was stolen that day. My innocence and childhood lost and the gift of my virginity taken from the man I hope to marry. I see so much pain in that mirror every day. I’ve removed the mirrors from my bathroom and bedroom; there are none in my living room, kitchen and office. I can’t stand how I look because I see the monster you helped create. I see the face stolen on that day and a face more plastc than bone.

Last I do not wish any long term communication following this day. I would rather you serve your time and we never have to speak again. Too many wounds inside still bleed from that day and I’d rather they have some chance to heal. Though to date you are the only one who I have considered forgiving. You are the only one who has done as I’ve asked and the only one who seems sincere in your desire to earn my forgiveness.

It’s been six years since you asked me what you needed to do to be forgiven by me. I remember my answer well. DIE! I went home and over the months came to realize this wouldn’t heal me. Your death would serve no purpose in my wellbeing and healing. So I wrote you and asked you to stop making me appear at parole hearings.

This is the sixth you’ve refused and I believe you will honor your sentence without making me appear and relive the nightmare of that day just to keep you in prison. Because you are honoring what I asked I believe you are truly sorry for you part. Though I will never forget I forgive you.

At the end of your 25 years I would ask the parole board to grant you parole. Please know that I wish with all my heart for god almighty to forgive your part in this as well. Your heart is sincere in your desire for me to forgive you. Let it rest with ease then. Honor my request and know you are forgiven.

I guess my next hurdle is forgiving myself.

I am told (because I asked) you’ve gotten your GED and are working on a degree in religious studies and theology. I am told you’ve found your savior Jesus Christ and are working toward a prison ministry. Perhaps you can save a few while you’re there. I wish you luck in this endeavor. I also wish you congratulations on obtaining your GED and luck in your degree.

I am told you’ve cut ties with the others from that day. You spend much of your time studying the bible and tutoring other inmates to get their GEDs. You seem to have turned your life around.

People like you may make a difference in this life. Let’s pray you do.

Michelle

The above is the context of the letter I wrote. I know I won’t be able to face him, nor forgive him to his face. My heart wants to but inside I still just want to run. I’ve spent a week crying myself to sleep over this. It hurts and I’m not sure I am strong enough for this. Inside I know I must but a part of me wants him to suffer as I have.

I’m probably a bad person to feel this way. No one should suffer I know and I can’t take the day away with his suffering. I know it hurts and it’s scary to enter these new waters. The path I am upon is foreign to me.

I was asked Forgiveness is _____ by a friend and pastor. I’ll give him my answer now.

Forgiveness is a beginning.

Forgiveness is a beginning. Forgiveness is a start at moving past the things that haunt us. A time when we begin to let go of that which binds our soul. It is the moment we allow the mind not to forget but to compartmentalize the inexplicable. It’s but the first step on a long road and we all know the first step is always the hardest.

It’s the moment we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to allow healing in. When we are hurt we harden to protect ourselves. We put up our shields and maintain a defensive posture to avoid more hurt. But the minute we let the shields down and open a dialog toward forgiving a transgression; we begin to heal the moment we forgive.

Forgiveness is the beginning of a journey to a place of peace and reconciliation. It’s a beginning to the reconstruction of the damage from hatred, distrust and pain. But it’s only the beginning, the first steps on a much longer journey to peace.

Some say forgiveness is peace, hope, trust or salvation I say it’s just the beginning of the path which leads to all those and more. It’s also often a hard path to start on. Harder and harder to begin when the pain is greater. Perhaps the rewards outweigh the difficult path ahead?

I have today placed my feet upon that long road. So today a new journey toward peace begins for me. There is still much to do, much left undone and more to forgive. But I’ve started my journey.

I don’t know where my choice will lead. I know this man seems sincere in his request for and desire toward my forgiveness. This is what I hope is a journey toward trust, hope and peace within myself. Maybe I’ll even learn to love the monster inside.

Will it lead to the men in my life not paying for his sin? I hope so they are good men and don’t deserve the cost. Inside I’m still twisted with fear and mistrust. Perhaps upon a day I will have contest within and the demon forever pinned to a wall and left powerless.

Will it lead to peace with myself and will I one day be able to see me in the mirror? Perhaps not. My face a constant reminder of the day. My cheek and much of my face not my own and the hollow sound upon touch. This maybe the hardest to move past.

Is this the path to forgiving myself for all the years in darkness? All those years alone inside afraid of the world. Afraid to feel and afraid to live.

Questions only time will answer and questions I look forward to the time when I know the answer.

~Michelle Styles – February 3, 2014