A couple weeks back, I wrote about how although I was a victim at one time, I am no longer. It got a lot of response – I think because it’s something we can all relate to in one way, shape, or form.
In that post, I mentioned that I’d soon be talking about forgiveness. So, today I’m beginning that conversation.
Over time, I plan to share on this blog about my experience seeing a counselor a few years ago and about how and why it changed my life. I’d planned to go in somewhat chronological order of events, but I can already tell that’s not going to work. So, I’m simply going to share stories with you as they’re on my heart to share.
And, before I go on, it’s worth mentioning that I am not a licensed counselor, nor do I have a psychology background (besides those two classes I took in college). I’m speaking purely from personal experience.
I was about a month or two in when my counselor, Swede, first made mention of forgiveness, regarding what happened to me as a kid, being sexually abused.
He’d just had me write a letter to my offender, to simply… “Let it fly”. The objective of this letter was not to send it in the mail, but to simply air out what had been buried and stuffed for so many years.
Before I left Swede’s office that day to write a letter, he asked if I was angry about what happened to me as a kid. I shook my head somewhat flippantly and said, “No. Oddly enough, I’ve never been angry about what happened.”
Swede said, “Who knows. You may be surprised.” To which I responded, “No. I know myself pretty well. I won’t be surprised.”
Turns out I was wrong. Really, really wrong.
I was proactive whenever Swede gave me little assignments like this, so that evening, I headed to a coffee shop, sat outside with my laptop, and I began to type.
And I typed… and typed… and typed.
I was furious. Not just mad – furious. I was boiling. I was so angry. And… it caught me completely off guard.
I’d say it was likely one of the oddest experiences of my life because I’d apparently carried all sorts of anger for all these years… and didn’t have the slightest clue.
I’m pretty self-aware, so this one was rather surprising.
So, I typed and typed and typed. And I did just as Swede had suggested – I “let it fly”. There were no rules – I could say whatever I felt like, as long as it was honest and it needed to be said. And I didn’t need to feel bad about swearing – I needed to let it out. So, I’ll just go ahead and tell you now that it’s not exactly reading material that you’ll find here on this blog. 🙂
I typed intensely for over an hour straight until my hands began to cramp. But, I didn’t stop until I said everything I wanted and needed to say.
And, once I felt as though I’d gotten it all out (a few times over) I drove up to the foothills to be by myself for a bit… and I felt lighter than air. An enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A weight that I’d apparently been carrying for years and years… without even realizing it.
Pretty profound. I was so surprised.
The next week, I sat back down with Swede and we chatted about the letter. I was even a little embarrassed about it. But… he was proud of me. 🙂
I told him what I just told you and I asked him, “Is it possible to be that angry about something and not even realize it?”
To that, he responded, “Sure it is. If you put your hand on your knee right now, you’re going to feel it, right?” I responded with an obvious, “Sure, yeah.” And he continued, “Well, if you leave your hand there for 15 minutes… are you still going to feel it?”
Aha. I said, “Nope.”
Swede said, “Nope, your knee will become numb to it in that 15 minutes. Your hand will be on your knee just as much as it was before… but you’ll be so used to it that you don’t feel it any longer. It’s no different with anger.”
This is one reason I love Swede – he can illustrate a complex situation in extremely simple terms.
As I was about to leave Swede’s office that day, he said, “Okay, I’m giving you another assignment. Now that your anger has been diffused, I want you to rewrite that letter. But, this time, I want you to include something about forgiveness.”
Whew. I’m a forgiving person and don’t hold grudges. But, whew.
I said, “Oh man. I know that I’m supposed to forgive and I know that it’s important… but, he hasn’t asked for forgiveness, he’s never shown any remorse at all, and he simply doesn’t deserve it.”
To that, Swede very quickly said, “You’re right – he doesn’t deserve it. He hasn’t earned it. But forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with him. It makes him no less responsible for his actions.”
He went on, “By forgiving, what you are doing is giving up any claim to what happened and stripping it of any control or weight it has over your life and well-being. Forgiveness is for you, not him.”
Such wise and freeing words.
I’ll continue with this story soon. This has already become a long and intense post. 🙂
However, I can tell you from personal experience that writing a letter was a powerful thing. Not for the purpose of keeping my experiences stuffed or buried, but just the opposite – for the purpose of letting it fly and diffusing the weight that it carried for so long.
I’ll dive deeper into forgiveness soon. It’s a powerful, powerful thing.
If you’re interested in taking the powerful and bold step of seeking counseling, you can apply confidentially with us here.