Last week, I forgave a man whom I’ve never met. I don’t know his name; I don’t know anything about him, except that Carolyn Stauffer shared a story about him in chapel last year during Take Back The Night. That’s when I learned that he is a father, or was a father, if his daughter survived what he did to her.
I swallowed that story and carried it with me, and for a year it festered in my gut like a chronic disease. I was angry, trying to understand how I am made out of the same dust as this man, and I was frustrated that no one else seemed to respond with the same degree of loathing and confusion as I had.
Last week with Yom Kippur so close and my own restorative justice process about to be completed, I forced myself to sit down with a paper and pen and demanded of myself, “Process.”
Process… I hate to begin it, especially when it is so grown into my fibers that I know it will hurt to bring it out and look at it. The only thing that got my pen to that paper was will power, because I knew that in sickness, a person usually feels better after purging. So, process. I processed.
I got the images from my heart and from my gut and I spilled them onto paper, away from my body, in a place where I could recognize my thoughts and feelings for what they are, and then accept that part of who I am. Then if I can, change me by (of all things) forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an emphatic rest. A torrential calm. Confusing, and warm. How relieving, that after forgiving someone, I can listen without judging, without anger, and just relate to them as one human being to another. What a simple truth that is so difficult to practice in conflict!
I forgave him… and if I ever speak with him, I will ask him to forgive me for holding his story too long and letting it fester.
Afterwards, I told myself that I felt like I had also forgiven all peoples who abuse others… to a degree. I’m not ready to make a commitment to forgive everyone, ever …But that is what God did, isn’t it?
Aly Zimmerman, Contributing Writer