When Forgiveness Is Unnecessary
“I want you to know that what you did to me when I was 15 really messed me up. You apologized to my mother, but you never apologized to me. I am wondering why that is.”
These were the first few sentences I wrote in an email to the man who sexually abused me when I was fifteen. I asked for an apology. I told him that what he did hurt me deeply and profoundly damaged my self-image. In his reply, he apologized. He took full responsibility, and I accepted. And that was that. I forgave him. I felt the burden lifted, and the pain that I had carried with me diminished.
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When It’s Better not to Forgive
This experience is why I know it is not my place to forgive Harvey Weinstein, or Donald Trump, or Louis C.K., or any of the other hundreds of thousands of men who have put women in horrible positions, up to and including the horror of rape. Now, will I trust these men? No, most likely not, but forgiveness is given by the person who was harmed to the person who harmed her. It is also a matter of the abusers forgiving themselves, but all this has very little to nothing to do with me, and it grieves me to read about how much time and energy people spend on arguing who does or does not deserve forgiveness.
Forgiveness is most powerful when we can forgive ourselves for the things we sometimes do in pain or fear. It can also be a powerful healer when we can forgive others for what they have done to us. But spending energy on sustaining anger against a person or group who has done nothing to you personally is a waste of energy, especially when so much of the world is dependent on the intelligent expenditure of the energy we have.
If we look at why we hold this anger against people we don’t know, we might just find it is misplaced, and indeed, misdirected. For instance, I could be very angry at Harvey Weinstein and all the horrible ways in which he abused his position, but, if I sit with this feeling, I might see that what I am actually angry about is the men I have had to work with, and for, who in one way or another abused their power and in the end, got away with it. And this is indeed the case. This is why it is important to fully understand why you might be angry about something that has taken place outside of your life and your circle of humans. This emotional reaction can tell you so much about where your energy is really needed. Most often, it is within.
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