The Power of Forgiveness
This is just a little “quickie” on what the power of forgiveness has done in my life. I was feeling stirred to write about it so here ya go! Some know about this little aspect of my life, some don’t. I firmly believe in what the Word of God says, and that is this: “And they have CONQUERED/DEFEATED/OVERCOME by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…” Revelations 12:11. I am a pretty raw and open person who doesn’t like to sugar coat things, and made no exceptions for this piece, especially if they are about serious and real life topics, so consider this your warning.
Growing up, I was sometimes very naive (what kid isn’t) and was often oblivious to my surroundings (again, what kid isn’t). I had these guy friends that I would always hang out with. Let’s call them Jack and James to honor their privacy, and also because I just really love “J” names. As a kid, I saw this as innocent because we were just having fun. I’d play video games with them, shoot hoops with them, ride bikes with them, and just hang out. I never thought anything else of it. I did this throughout my early years of elementary school, however, everything changed in third grade.
In third grade, I was hanging out with Jack and James after school, like normal. But this time was different. Their mom and older brother weren’t home. So it was just the three of us at their house. We wen’t out into the backyard and one of them asks “wanna play a game?” I of course said yes, because what third grader doesn’t like games?! I thought we would play something imaginative, like being Indiana Jones traveling through the galaxy in our Millennium Falcon to meet Voldemort at Mordor to save the world from total destruction. But no, they had a different game in mind. They told me I couldn’t go home unless I complied to all the rules and did everything they said. I was getting sketched out and skeptical of what’s coming up next, but I wanted to go home so I swallowed my questions.
For the first part of the game, they told me I had to kiss them. I thought “kissing?” Groooosss. I told them no, but they quickly reminded me that I couldn’t go home unless I did everything they said, and added an “or else” at the end of it. So I kissed them. I was thinking, “okay, that wasn’t so bad. Now I can go home!”
Next they told me to take off my shirt. I immediately said no, but the reminder and “or else” quickly followed my refusal. Out of fear, I slowly took my shirt off. Mind you, I was only in third grade so taking off my shirt wasn’t exposing much, but it was still traumatizing and straight out humiliating. One of the brothers saw my fear, and dare I say felt bad, so he took off his shirt too, his brother following his lead next. After this, I shyly asked, “Can I go home now?” They said “not yet, there’s one more thing we want to try.”
They led me into their dark, creepy shed. In there, they told me to pull down my pants. I tried refusing, but that worked just about as well as chickens breathing under water. They took it upon themselves to “help” remove my pants, and then they did the same. They were older than me, so they knew more about what sex was than I did. I don’t know if I even knew what sex was then. They each took a turn to try and invade me, but both shied away because it wasn’t working. A sigh of relief went through my head, but I was too afraid to let it out, afraid they would try again. After their failed attempt to steal my innocence, they let me put my clothes back on and go home.
The amount of shame I felt was unbearable, but I did not fully understand what they did to me until I was older. As just a third grader, I was ashamed of what I had “let” them do to me. I was convinced it was my fault. I carried that shame with me until half way through my freshman year, just 2 years ago. After Jack and James did what they did to me, they continued to assault me sexually with their words. They called me “C***”, “Whore” “B****” and many other crude names I’d rather not say. One day, my dad heard them and set them straight (go dad) and they immediately stopped after that. Even though the name calling stopped, the shame, anger, and unclean feeling remained. I stuffed the molestation to the back of my head and chose to ignore it, never dealing with the repercussions it caused emotionally and psychologically.
About half way through my freshman year, all the memories from this day came flooding back in great detail and nearly knocked the wind out of me. I tried to ignore it but they invaded my thoughts every second of the day. All the feelings I chose to ignore hit me like a ton of bricks. Since the summer before my freshman year, I decided that enough is enough and to fully devote my life to God. I had been reading the Bible, spending time with Jesus daily, and getting to know what he says about me all over again. When all these feelings and memories came back, I remembered what God says about the power of forgiveness. At first I was like “forgive them?! Yeah right! Don’t you know what they did to me! They never even said sorry. They don’t deserve forgiveness.” I was right about them not deserving forgiveness, but if any of us, including myself, got what we deserved, our worlds would crumble into dust. After trying to fix the feelings and memories on my own, I later gave in and decided to try this whole forgiveness thing out. I sat in my room and was like “Jack and James (using their real names of course) I forgive you.” After saying those words, I didn’t feel any different. My first thought was along the lines of “well, I tried,” and so I went about my day. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt different. I started thinking about my molestation, but instead of feeling ashamed, angry, and unclean, I felt so much joy, peace, and comfort.
The power of forgiveness is really quite astonishing to me. I honestly didn’t expect to feel any different after I forgave them out loud, but boy was I wrong. There is so much freedom in forgiveness, and I absolutely love it. It’s so simple, yet so hard, but once those words leave your mouth, you will never be the same, I promise.
It has been a couple years since I made the choice to forgive my attackers, but the peace, joy, and comfort has remained just the same ever since. The prompting inside of me to write about this started a few days before the Unmasked conference, to which the stirring intensified during and after this conference. My hope is that this will help others choose to forgive because of the freedom I’ve experienced from speaking forgiveness out loud.
P.S. remember to love everyone, you may never know what they’ve been through or are going through.