With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur around the corner people like to reflect back on their wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness. I’ve been getting a lot of pressure at home that I need to forgive. My parents want me to forgive them for not protecting me when I was a helpless child. My brother wants to be forgiven for raping me countless times. My answer is NO!
No person has the right to tell me who I need to forgive. I’m not going to forgive my brother or parents for their peace of mind. I won’t be doing this for them. This is a decision I have control over. My brother took enough from me and this decision is not something he can take from me. I’ll forgive when I want to for myself.
Having this question presented to me got me thinking of the ways in which my life changed because of my trauma. Childhood sexual abuse affects a person in almost every single aspect of their being. Many things that most people take for granted were things I struggled with and continue to struggle with. How can I say I forgive someone who turned my whole entire life over and caused me unimaginable and indescribable pain?!
However, I also see that because of my trauma I am a much stronger person and have so much more depth to myself. I really appreciate many things that most people take for granted. I’m not happy that I was abused. I would have never chosen such a life for myself but given the situation I am learning how to grow from this and appreciate my life as is.
A year ago I would have said that I will never forgive my parents or my brother. Now I look at this a bit differently. I don’t forgive them yet but maybe next year I’ll be able to. Forgiveness is something I’ll do when I feel ready. The benefit for me would be not holding a grudge because holding a grudge means I’m holding onto pain. When I’m ready to forgive I think it will be like letting go of a piece of my pain which will help me heal.
I don’t think forgiving my brother means that he is given a clean slate and gets away with murder. I’m not in charge of rewards and punishments in this world. My forgiveness doesn’t make him less accountable for what he did but it will take a burden off of me.
[submitted to JCW by a survivor]