When you stick out from the crowd, whether it’s because of LD, physical
development or anything else, you’re a target. While some of that attention may be good, cruelty comes along with it. It can ruin and destroy lives, offer fodder for nightmares and leave sadness lingering throughout lonely nights.
There are many ways to react to those experiences. Some of the bullied become bullies. A few take their rage out on the world by committing unspeakable acts. Others develop mental health problems or hold onto bitterness through adulthood.
Others forgive and move on. One of the most stunning recent examples of this is when the families of the victims in Charleston offered forgiveness to the one who took their loved one’s lives.
My first reaction was, “I could never do that”. As I sat and thought on it for a while, though, I realized that first impulse is wrong. I’d need to find a way to reconcile what happened in order to move on with my life, and part of that would be to forgive the individual.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. The world at large sees it as a form of generosity, and some people see it as a way of giving the wrongdoer a pass.
In reality, forgiving someone is an act of self-love and release. In the world of LD, bullying and poor treatment are epidemic. Childhood victims grow into adults who need to cope with what’s happened to them.
I’m one of that number. It took me a long time to figure the why of what happened to me did, but I was able to let go of a lot of the pain when I sorted it out. I understood why the people involved did what they did, and while I’ll never forget the slights, I have been able to forgive those who hurt me.
I’ve had conversations with some of them, while I kept my distance from others. In the end, letting go of that bitterness helped me more than it did them. I also discovered they lost a huge amount of power over me.
That’s the true value of forgiveness: reclamation of personal power.
By that same token, it’s never easy, especially when the damage is severe. Sometimes, it can’t be done, and that’s ok. We each grow at our own rate, and sometimes forgiveness just isn’t an option.
No one is under any obligation to forgive those who hurt them. By the same token, those who do forgive others are under no obligation to seek out the offender to let them know.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting someone off the hook. It’s possible to forgive someone, but still hold them accountable for their actions. Although some of the families and victims of that shooter in Charleston offered their forgiveness, he must still be held responsible for what he did.
If someone constantly hurts or bullies you, you can still forgive them, but still distance yourself from them. You don’t deserve to be abused, and you must do what’s needed to take care of yourself. Forgiveness doesn’t mean enduring abuse. It means leading by example and standing strong in your right to be you.
There are some people I refuse to interact with, because I don’t trust them to have changed. I may have forgiven them for hurting me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give them the chance to do so again. Does this mean I hold a grudge?
I don’t think so. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them, but I won’t enmesh myself in their lives, either. If I happen to come across them on the street, I’ll be civil, but I won’t encourage more interaction.
There’s a difference between forgiving someone in your heart and letting them know you did so. Staying silent about your forgiveness has its value for you, but letting them know is a kindness to them. There’s a certain level of relief when you know you’re forgiven, and it can help both parties grow as people.
It’s completely situational, though. As I’d said, seeking out the person who hurt you often opens the door to more pain. In that case, live and let live is the way to go. Especially in cases of violence and crime, that person still must face consequences.
Like all things, the concept of forgiveness is a tool. It’s far more versatile than our polarized culture wants to admit. In the hands of emotional abusers, it can be a weapon. In the hands of victims, it can be a healing salve. When given to people who made mistakes, it can be nourishment for growth.
What role will you use it for in your life?