Does this sound like a horrible title? Does it sound contradictory? I don’t believe so. Though we should not live our lives paralyzed by our past, memories can teach us invaluable things. Why do we study history in school? Hopefully, we do so in order to learn from the past, so that bad situations are not repeated in the future.
When someone has experienced a great trauma in his/her young life, as in the case of childhood sexual abuse, the effects of such a trauma often make forgiveness a seemingly impossible task. Still, in the scriptures, we hear, (Luke 17:4) “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Well, what if the person who harmed you is not sorry? Must you still forgive? (Mark 11:25) “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Jesus doesn’t say anything about the offender having to be sorry here. Rats!
In cases where great injury has been inflicted, I think that sometimes we have to just cry out to God, “I know You want me to forgive, Lord, but I can’t. I have been hurt too badly. You’re going to have to help me! I can’t forgive on my own, but with Your help, I can do anything. Please help me!” He will help you, as He has helped me. Bring your hurt, your brokenness to the foot of Jesus’ cross. Lay yourself there before His presence in the healing and most powerful Blessed Sacrament.
What about forgetting? Does the Lord require us to forget? I don’t think so. Remembering can keep us (and others) out of danger, just like a good history lesson. Forgiving does not mean putting yourself in the position to be physically or even psychologically harmed again. Psychological hurt can be even more awful and damaging in the long run than physical scars that heal much more quickly. Forgiving does not mean that you have to “hang out” with the person you have pardoned – This is important in the case of abuse. Doing so is allowing yourself to be emotionally abused or harmed again and again – each time you are in the presence of the offender – especially if they have not asked for your forgiveness or tried to change his/her ways. Denial of the elephant in the room is so dangerous to the spirit within. It keeps the abused in the role of victim as opposed to that of SURVIVOR! You are a survivor! You have lived to tell your story, because God willed it!
You are worthy! God created you and loves you beyond all telling! He did not abandon you when you were hurt as a child. He was angry with your attacker, and cried right there with you. I am sure that our Father is angered and deeply, deeply saddened by the horrible things that continue to happen in the world today as a result of sin. You are not alone!
God cherishes you, His beautiful creation! You must believe this, and have the courage to take care of yourself. Caring for yourself – first and foremost – involves Truth. You cannot participate in denial and heal well. God wants to heal you. In order to do that, you must step out of the boat and onto the water. He is calling out to you, “Take Courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27 Truth.