This whole week has been about the “Me too” movement. Women are standing up and expressing the sexual harassment and trauma that they have carried with them since they were young. Secrets hidden deep in their minds and hearts and in their DNA code. Once young and hopeful becomes used or disrespected or even (as was the case for me) violated. I once wrote in a diary that “men rape in many ways.” They rape with indifference of feelings or respect, they rape with rejection of heart and spirit, they rape physically as well. Rape being used in the vernacular of power, disregard for the other “An act of plunder, to strip something of resources” is one definition. The act of seizing and carrying off, violation or abuse” is another. So yes, rape is mostly understood as sexual violation, without consent, but I venture to say it goes further. Violation of vows strip the marriage of its resources. Violation of trust strips the relationships between a parent and a child as it strips the relationship of its much-needed foundation. We are careless with our relationships. We pledge to protect, care for or nurture another (either through parenthood or marriage) and then we plunder the very soil we have planted our lives in. We have lost so many human values of kindness and decency in our society. We are without filters, blurting out anything our over worked and stressed minds can conjure up and when people recoil, we blame them. No acceptance of one’s own responsibility in the matter. No accountability or soul-searching to see how we might have harmed another. Accountability is a rarely used word or action any longer. Kindness is lost in the stress of offense. Where do we find our compassion for one another? How do we forgive the unforgivable? I have had a lifetime of “unfair stuff” and so I have had a lot of time to think on these things. When I first heard about forgiveness in the bible “Forgive your enemies. pray for those who use and abuse you.” I thought WHAT? Why would God have me forgive the abuser? The rapist? The neighbor who made our lives a living hell? Why should I forgive my ex-husband who cheated on me two weeks after our vows were exchanged in the mansion covered in ivy where we pledged eternal love? OR the Dr who broke my neck, the neighbor who raped me in some bushes. How is that fair? WHAT possible reason would God have for that? How about all the people who sprayed pesticides and herbicides and forced us from our home after saying they wouldn’t? (Never to be able to return) Why is any of this forgivable? I have had to forgive my abuser in my childhood (my Mom) and help care for her at the end of her life. I had to forgive my closest and dearest parent (my dad) for not believing me about my mom. I remember bathing my mom and turning to see her looking at me with hate in her eyes. I remember something Mother Teresa said about caring for the unlovable. She imagined them to be Jesus and she was tenderly caring for Jesus while she cared for them. It’s what I did with my mom to the best of my ability.
I think God commands us to forgive others because UNFORGIVENESS brings poison into our own life. It’s called a bitter root. I once heard it said this way “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It does me NO good to hold unforgiveness and anger against those who have wronged me. It gives them power that holds me in chains. I am smart enough to realize that the greatest gift I can give myself is to forgive someone else.
So in this time of “Me too” I want to suggest that to hold anger and resentment and hatred towards those who sexually harassed us, or touched us inappropriately or even those who rendered us mute with the suffering and trauma of being held against our will and violating us, those people need to be released. They are holding us in chains if we don’t. They are poisoning our lives with our unforgiveness and we can never be free if we don’t or won’t forgive. Forgiveness is not condoning or accepting that what was done to us was ok. IT wasn’t and it never will be. Forgiveness is saying “I release you because I love me. I know that I am going to be ok and I am strong and that you are released to GOD and I am blessed because I am the stronger and the better for having released you and your act. You will one day answer to God for what you did to me. It’s enough to know that day will come. I release you to God, to be blessed and to be changed. Amen”