Forgiveness is such a complicated word. The words meaning hard to define. It is difficult to find the right adjectives to explain. The meaning and reasons never the same. For each of us, it differs.
Let’s go back a few years… I was 16 and working my first real ‘wordly’ job. I had already begun to accumulate furniture. Free couch from someone’s front porch. Dresser my mom let me have. Mattress from burnt out boys group home. I was all proud I had a job at a local fast food restaurant. I was given the position of ‘closer’ with a 50 cent raise even though I was the youngest employee. I wasn’t invited to visit co-workers homes. Maybe because I was the same age as their daughters who played soccer and went to after-school tutors. But I was respected for my work ethic, my positive attitude.
I would call my mother every Friday night. Collect from the slight warmth of the closed phone booth. We would catch up on each other’s lives. Hers filled with toddlers, efforts to find healing from her grief, and of course church. Mine with teen emotions, work, my learning curve, and overall trouble adjusting to a life she didn’t warn me of.
On one particular call she mentioned that Mr. W was passing through town in a few weeks and would love to take me for dinner. The W’s were family friends as their children attended the high school *1 that the community had. Many families who heard of mothers loss and grief tried to support and sent their many prayers on her behalf.
I was rather excited to be going for dinner. Seeing someone who knew my past life. An escape from my dull life of work and sitting in my lonely barren basement suite. I put on my best new to me clothes. Walked the dozen-plus blocks to the designated restaurant. The only one I really knew of. It sat beside Mr. Mikes all you can eat salad bar. I splurged on paydays and gorged myself on the food.
Mr. W and I had a quick hello hug and went straight in to be seated as it was a chilly late fall evening. No sense spending any unneeded time getting a chill. The lights were the proper dimness of an evening restaurant. The music quiet in the background. He ordered a bottle of wine for us and appies while we perused the menu. It was still such a rare occurrence for me to be in a restaurant. I was careful to never order anything very expensive yet not the cheapest for I wanted to maintain an unobtrusive middle ground at all times.
The evening was quite nice. We chatted reminiscing of a time gone when had a family and knew life no different from the sheltered commune. He caught me up on how the children were doing. Young adults now really. Attending a Christian college down south. Back then it was a time of snail mail. I diligently wrote many letters. Few returned them. Some grand friends I have to this day did. I kept those letters carrying them with me from place to place for decades. Hugging the friendship and love to me that they meant.
The wine finished, table cleared, and bill paid. We made ready to take our leave. He offered to give me a ride home as it was now dark and snow had begun to fall. I gratefully agreed and hopped into the front passenger seat. Before I had time to latch my seatbelt W reached over to give me a hug. But it wasn’t just a hug. It came with hands groping and a wet tongue reaching towards my aghast open mouth. My quick ducking, flailing arms, and wiggles to evade advances thankfully were not fought physically. Verbally, of course, I was berated for enjoying a dinner without wanting to give a proper thank you. Fortunately and sadly I was becoming quite agile at these piggish men. Those are different stories. I walked home steaming mad at this end to what had been a great evening for me.
The next time I spoke with my mother I shared my shock my anger my betrayal of this man who was to be a safe person. This is when the worst blow hit. My mother’s response was, ‘Oh I forgot to mention that about him.’ She arranged this dinner. The time, the place, the man and HER daughter who was but a child teen still in need of guidance, of protection. She FORGOT to mention to me she was setting me up with a known pervert.
This is where the problem with forgiveness lies. The version that was being used at that time by those people. It was a forgive and forget motto. Oh, you said a swear word pray then forgive and forget. You had an affair, you hurt that child, you went to jail for abuse, you starved your children, the list goes on. We will have the congregation pray for you. We will forgive and forget. Although we will try to remember to not leave our children unattended with you. We will try to warn others not to leave their children alone with you and maybe your offspring for who knows. That is the forgiveness I grew up with from 10 to 13 when I walked out. Now as an adult I don’t give a shit when being told ‘I’m sorry’. I care about actions.
I didn’t intend this post to be a rant, however, I recently read an article on forgiveness. I also had this memory pop into my thoughts. So I have jumped ahead a good few years in my reminiscing. However, writing from the heart is more important than chronological order right.
I would love to hear your thoughts on forgiveness. For it is a powerful weapon wielded by the ‘victim’ that takes away power.