When I was 16, something happened that dramatically changed my life for several years. It was painful, confusing, strange, and it was not okay.
It was assault.
For months on end, I wished I were dead. I couldn't look at myself in a mirror. I couldn't bear the idea of what had happened, even so much that I literally shut down emotionally. I did risky things afterwards with the mentality of "What worse could happen now. I am worthless as it is."
I felt alone, and the emotions that followed were confusing.
The first, was I told someone who was a former teacher of mine what had happened. She was someone I trusted- and she did what she was supposed to do. Soon, I was in an office where I had to describe every detail of what had happened to a principal who was male. It was the worst, most embarrassing, most excruciatingly horrific thing I could have imagined. I wanted it to go away and to pretend that it hadn't happened.
Then, after talking to adults who asked me what I had done to cause it- I began to ask myself the same question. I blamed myself- hated myself- and harmed myself.
For a while, I stopped talking entirely. I said nothing to anyone- and shut down. Then the fear poured in.
The person who assaulted me went to class with me. He would follow me around school, just close enough to rise the hairs on my neck. I recall at one point, he leaned over my shoulder when I was in detention and looked at my work, closely. He whispered "Good job." to me.
The fear turned to hatred, which turned into a deeper thing entirely.
Wanting to see someone pay for what they had done to 'ruin' me.
I truly believed I was ruined for marriage, for a future. I thought that the choices I had were either to drop out of highschool and get away from him- or to kill myself.
And for a while, the blame shifted between myself and him. First, I hated him. Then, I hated myself. Then, I realized that the solution was there all along.
Bitterness DOES rot your bones. It makes you ill, mentally, physically. But it does more than that. It turns you violent. It turns you angry. It turns you from the person you are supposed to be- a light shining into the darkness, to a darkness shining into darkness.
To fight pain with revenge- only causes more pain. It will make you proud, for a time- that you stood up and did what you thought needed to be done. But then it will turn to a pain that is nonpunishable. You will have to do more and more to try to fill the wound- to bring justice for your pain that cannot be attained.
But luckily, I found forgiveness.
Forgiveness, my friends- does not mean forgetting. It doesn't mean trusting. It DOES NOT mean letting that person back into your circle. It means not harboring an ill will or hate towards them. Not wanting to see something bad happen to them for the wrong they've done. Not wanting to see them suffer. Not even wanting to see them apologize.
It means knowing that it is dust in the wind. That you can let it blow off of your shoulders- so that when you see them again... You don't want to hide from them. You don't want to yell, or hurt them. You just let them be people. Whether you choose to talk to them, or pass them by. It just means that if they decided to say hello to you- you wouldn't have to follow it up with "I hope you rot in hell- you giant piece of dirt." It means that you know that they are free to find the ability to apologize- without the fear of a reaction from you.
I haven't forgotten the past, clearly. But it is the past. It is where it is for a reason. And I know in my heart- that forgivness has happened on this end. That although, I would never purposefully run into this person, I would be able to hold my head high and know with all my heart that God has helped me to find a way to let the burden off of my shoulders.
If I can do it- so can you.