Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Forgiveness

Elizabeth Smart


I had to go to church recently -- one of my least favorite places on earth (I think I'd rather scrub toilets in a prison than go to church). The sermon was about forgiveness and mercy.  At one point the preacher said that most of us think our sins are not THAT BAD compared to the sins of others, but that we are all in need of mercy and forgiveness, no matter how big or how small our sins are. 

While the preacher was speaking, I spotted two couples (Couple A and Couple B) in the audience that made me think. I have known both couples for years and years.  Both couples have kids slightly younger than me, and both couples were heavily involved in youth group activities when I was a teenager. I always thought Couple A and Couple B were WAY TOO ENTHUSIASTIC (and honestly, they seemed so fucking DOPEY to me), so I pretty much kept them at a distance and remained wary of them. 

My teenage years/mandatory church participation ended long ago, but I was told that Couple A and Couple B recently confessed to the church that they had swapped spouses resulting in extramarital affairs, and they requested forgiveness. As if that weren't shocking enough, the husband of Couple A also confessed that he had had an incestuous relationship with his daughter, and he requested forgiveness. 

Needless to say, these confessions were nothing short of scandalous to the church, but I suppose the church/churchgoers are responsible for forgiving those that repent and request forgiveness.

While the sermon went on and on, I just kept staring at the man that molested his own daughter. I don't think I could ever understand or forgive a person that molests or rapes another person, particularly a child.  I don't know if this man's daughter can forgive him. And I just kept wondering if this man's behavior could ever truly be rehabilitated, and/or if he should be allowed to be in close proximity to any children EVER AGAIN.  Forgiveness is one thing -- and sometimes it is a TALL ORDER -- but exposing other innocents to risk is another thing. 

Thoughts on this???

Full disclosure: I am NOT religious (but to each his/her own!), and I conveniently make my own rules in life. 

25 comments:

Dancing Branflake said...

This post (the topic, not you) makes my stomach turn. Raping a daughter... I can't imagine what God has in store for him. I don't believe in hell, but I do believe God protects His children. My heart breaks for that daughter.

Marie A said...
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Claire Kiefer said...

Well I'm about as pro-criminal as they come, and this even shakes me up. WTF!!!! First of all, how did he confess this and yet not get arrested? How old was the daughter when this occurred? I am beside myself. That he did that, that more people than we think have dealt with stuff like that, that they felt the need to CONFESS TO THE CHURCH in a manner that clued the other church-goers into what was happening . . . UGH this whole situation is gross and disturbing. Don't tell me what church it was, lest my curiosity get the best of me.

I mean . . . that poor girl. Or girls, if he's abused more than one. And I suppose that deep down, I feel empathy for him for being so fucking disturbed.

Marie A said...

I posted a comment that really made me feel better, since I like to get preachy about what forgiveness really means, but it sounded really weird and apologetic for this guys actions. I believe that you can't know what someone else's punishment may be, and that absolutely everyone can be forgiven by God, but At the same time, just saying "I did this and I'm sorry" isn't enough to get forgiveness. You are supposed to provide restitution to the people that your actions have harmed- which in this guys case should include going to prison. And there is no reason for this to be public- in fact, by making it public, they have harmed more people, which requires repentance and restitution..... It's just false piety to say, look how bad I was, but now I'm good, so you have to be nice to me.

drollgirl said...

Marie A -- i loved BOTH of your comments. You made excellent points!!!! Thank you so much for what you wrote. I was going to write you back, but I don't have a blog or email address for you.

Felicia said...

Oh my effing god! I have so much to say about this...I'm writing you a very lengthy email right now!

fabulousjunk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fabulousjunk said...

You know, a lot of people hide behind religion, and use it as an excuse for their fucked up ways.
Ummm and why isn't that man in jail? Does he realize the emotional damage that he has done to his daughter probably for the rest of her life? Saying and doing are completely different things. While I may not be a religious person. My father was a devote athiest and my mother a catholic (confusing childhood), I do believe in karma, and I do believe one way or another it comes back to bite you in the ass.

becks
http://fabulous-junk.blogspot.com

Phoenix said...

I feel like Marie A. kind of nailed what I was gonna say, but I'll add on my two cents: a) I'm religious (in a non-judgey, don't believe in hell kind of way) and b) my father molested me. And this past weekend, at my wedding, my father was there, by my invitation, and he walked down the aisle with my mom. If that's not forgiveness I don't know what is.

What most people seem to forget about forgiveness is two things - the first Marie touched on, which is that you don't get to just do something shitty, say you're sorry, then do it again. You're implying when you ask for forgiveness that you realize you made a mistake and that you won't commit that mistake again. Change has to happen on your part; otherwise it turns into self-justification (a favorite of most religious people) and allows you to keep sinning, then repenting, then sinning, then repenting... that to me is bullshit. So part of the reason I forgave my father is that he promised he'd never done to me what he did to another child, and I kept tabs on him (with a lawyer on speed dial) to make sure that he never put ANYONE else in harm's way. And he's kept his promise since he made it 13 years ago.

That's the first part of forgiveness.

The second part of forgiveness - and this is the part that unless you live it you don't really get it - is that forgiveness is a two way road. You don't get to move on with your own life until you've forgiven the person who brought it to a skidding halt. It just doesn't work any other way. If you are angry, resentful, still triggered or afraid, your growth is stopped just as much as the person who victimized you. And I can guarantee you one thing about that daughter: she wants to move on with her life and put it behind her. The only way to do that - and I truly believe this - is to forgive. No, you don't have to forget. No, you don't have to excuse the sin. No, you don't have to give that person a second chance or trust them ever again. But in order to not give yourself cancer from the anger you will carry around in your body on a daily basis (and I carried that anger for almost ten years and it almost killed me with its weight), you have to forgive. Not for the other person. You forgive for yourself. I don't believe God punishes - but I do believe that sin punishes itself. And the best definition of "sin" I've ever heard is: Sin is when you treat people like objects. If you're treating someone else as other than human - whether it's worshiping them, objectifying them, judging them, or considering them to be less equal than you - then that's sin. That just makes so much sense to me, you know?

Hope that makes sense. Great post. Most organized religions make me cringe too.

Trissta {Living on the Chic} said...

Wow. Such great responses already. I don't know if my addition will be any different, but the way I look at life (in the whole scheme of things) is that it is always about progression. When you stop that progression (whether it's an addiction, bad choices, etc) you damn your progression and essentially create your own hell. Thus, you've damned yourself to a hell of your own creation. The only way to get past that hell is to go back to progressing and moving past it. Never repeating it, apologizing and truly feeling sorry for what you've done. That's the only way that you, or the person you've wronged, will ever move past that damnation. When you truly forgive, you're not just forgetting what happened, but rather building a new life and new perspective based on that wrong.

That's just the way I see it though.

Much Love,
Trissta

kimbirdy said...

i have loved reading all the comments to this post. talk about a relevant topic! as a therapist, i have seen people cease such atrocious behaviors, but it's very rare. all too often people go back to harming others after being supposedly rehabilitated. as a mandated reporter, if i hear of sexual abuse, i am required to report it, even if the child is now of age, for the reason that he could/probably do it again to another child.

i think it's grossly negligent of churches to "forgive" people who do these horrific acts and assume that God has suddenly changed everything for that person. i am not religious, but i do believe in God and he's not a valium pill that you take and make all the bad stuff go away. it takes HARD WORK to change behaviors and to find resolution to whatever it is in that father which led him to do such a horrible thing.

also, a note of forgiveness. i do not believe forgiveness is for the perpetrators, but for the survivors. forgiveness does not mean everything is better or that everything is excused. i think forgiveness means that the survivor decides to move on, find healing, attain peace, and live life DESPITE what was done to them.

Caroline said...

this is what I hate about "the church"... that people can do horrific sins...then confess and all is washed away. Fuck that. That man did a horrible thing...and his daughter will suffer for life. I suppose she can forgive him. But I think people use the church as a way to do bad things so they can be forgiven and not feel guilty. And I personally know people who have done that...commit adultery...go on a 3 day retreat...be forgiven...no more guilt. Ta! Da! Crazy!

cerebral e said...

I always wished I had a religion where someone would tell me what was right and wrong so I didn't have to figure it out for myself, and that would forgive me if I did do something wrong.

However, I don't have a religion so I have to figure it out for myself (shameless plug - I have a new blog where I try to figure it out http://ethicalexertions.blogspot.com.au/)

What a complicated, gross situation.

Did you read about this bizarre (although thankfully no incest involved) case? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/angela-buchanan-lesbian-affair_n_2001882.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

girlunwinding said...

Forgiveness is NOT about tolerance it is about letting go. A common misperception since we tell others that we need to be able to forgive them and in reality it is about forgiving ourselves. You can not walk in another's place and quite frankly, you do not want too. And it really is not a religion or church thing, it is a society thing. A group mentality and we really just need to be the master of our own fate and the captain's of our souls.
And if you are not religious than why are you in church??? That is like not having a penis and using a urinal ;-)
~Dawn

Kathy said...

i have to agree with the posters here; that forgiveness is for the survivor and the ability of that survivor to let go and move on with her life.

what that man did to his daughter is unforgivable, IMO. this is one reason why i don't believe in religions/the church - after doing something horrific such as molesting a child, you can't just go to a building, confess your sins, say a few hail marys and then your sins are "washed away". perhaps his mind is somewhat at ease because of this; that maybe he *might* be forgiven come "judgement day" but what about that little girl? she has to live with what happened to her for the rest of her life. she has to deal with the fear and mistrust for the rest of her life and going to church only having the institution discount what happened to her so easily only makes the situation worse.

i'm not religious by any means and i do believe in forgive and forget but there are certain actions that are just completely and utterly WRONG that can never be forgiven; child abuse of any form being the top one. how can a grown adult take advantage of an innocent child like that?

anyway, i could go on but i will stop here. this is a very interesting post.

diane said...

According to the Bible, children are holy, and the only sin that is completely and totally and forever without forgiveness is the sin against a child.
As far as the scope of forgiveness, I have an old family friend, Judith Toy, who recently published a book called "Murder as a Call to Love". Her sister-in-law and children were brutally murdered by a teenage neighbor boy. Her story is how she fell into the arms of Buddist teachings afterwards, on her road to forgiveness. By the time she felt able to forgive the boy, he had committed suicide.
Jude is an amazing woman, and has a lot of insight on the topic of forgiveness.
Personally, I believe that when someone is riddled with guilt, they will do whatever they can to purge themselves of it. For some people, it's not the guilt, but the stigma associated with what they've done that is unbearable for them. True guilt and the need to repent has nothing to do with how many people know what they have done.

Annabelle Archer said...

Wow. Great comments, amiright?

I also believe that forgiveness is a gift for the wronged party. To forgive is to let it go, not to say that it (whatever "it" was) okay. It frees your soul to begin healing.

In my beliefs, we all have really shitty things happen to us, that's just part of the journey. The other piece is what we do with those shitty things, how it forms us, touches our perceptions and colors our future choices. Shitty things are expected, as is learning from them and finding ways to turn them into a greater good within ourselves.

I have yet to find a religion that rang 100% true within my heart. Not that I've looked real hard. What I believe on my own, from my spirit, speaks louder to me than any book or any man on a pulpit.

Alisa said...

We have this issue in my family too. Some of our family members have chosen to forgive the offender but also have chosen to not be a part of his life. Which I totally understand. The offender spent his time in prison and has since become extremely religious. This has made it even more difficult for some family members to relate to him.

The children got their distance and moved on. They confronted him as adults and I am not sure if there is forgivness there.

SabinePsynopsis said...

It's exactly this weird assumption of the church that protects child-molesting priests (and lets not start with the mafia - 'I murdered another person, oops, better go to church on Sunday!')... A crime is a crime is a crime.

Lorena said...

I have heard that the people who attend church is because they feel the need to -
I think that this man should be in jail - and not in a church. Then again i am quite drastic.

SweetBonita said...

forgiveness is a hard concept. i don't know that it exists in the vein of "i'm okay with what you have done and i'm not longer emotionally effected by it, so we can continue one as if it never happened..." but i think that is typically what the person asking for forgivness wants. however i think it is something that can never be given. the father in this situation needs serious therapy and help, as does the daughter and the mother. the father also needs jailtime as what he did is a criminal offense. if their religion tells them they shoudl confess it in church, hey, do you boo boo. but i certainly would hope the situation doesn't end there. a church can't forgive someone for a wrong not committed to them. and He can ask for forgivness from God if that is how he chooses to believe and as the simplest form of apology, he should ask for it from his daughter. but i don't think it would conducive to anyone's "letting go" for him to still have any type of contact with his daughter past a structed therapy session with a trained professional. ang again, i do believe some jail time is probably in order, depending on the child's age. i don't know if incest is a criminal offense if both parties are adults. but if it isn't, it's certainly problematic at the LEAST, and should be further addressed with therapy.

Jen said...

I didn't read every comment but my heart goes out to anyone that has been molested. Truly. I couldn't begin to imagine your pain. Horrible. But I have to say that "keeping tabs" on these predators is ridiculous and somewhat reckless. These urges they have are not controllable or something that ceases to be a reality because of a "promise to never do it again" Every molester I've ever read about or heard interviewed that talks about their problem has admitted they would do it again and again and again if given an opportunity. These people have a sickness and need professional help and supervision. By doctors, parole officers and/or neighbors who know they live in their communities. They should not be left to self-rehabilitate or monitor their illness without professional interventions.

Kristine said...

I am not religious but I am a firm believer in the Karmic wheel. I hate the hypocrisy of people who do horrible things and then hide behind the church.Forgiveness is important in order to move forward and to heal but being a bit of a grudge holder I have yet to fully embrace that. Can't say much more than that first thing in the morning, everyone else has been more articulate. Need to drink more coffee...

Kitty Stampede said...

Wow. Very intense. I can't even find the words to say how much bad feelings child molesters bring up in me. My uncle was molested by priests when he was young which drove him to madness, ended up burning down the local catholic church and than after much shame brought on to the family, did himself in. It drove him mad...and I don't blame him. Especially with how priests were so highly regarded years ago. It sickens and saddens me. I honestly don't know if I could forgive. But the person inflicted would almost have to, to stop being a prisoner of their own mind and past.

I hate organized religion and think it is corrupted to the core, but I can honestly say at this point in my life, do believe in God and even Jesus's teachings for that matter (He hated the corruption of politics, was an outcast and rebel that everybody hated, and was actually pretty cool-as lame as that sounds, hahaha). I was an athiest for all of my youth, than started learning about all kinds of evil to the point where I couldn't doubt anymore that there is pure evil and pure good. And that there is something going on behind the scenes spiritually. After all I've learned and continue to learn, I just couldn't deny it anymore. I will never go to a church in my life again(forced my whole childhood,etc)(unless funeral, wedding,etc) but I do try to make my heart & soul right because this earthly journey is only temporary. I can't take any of this physical shit with me, it's just me, myself and I when I'm gone. I hope this doesn't sound all preachy...not my intentions.. :P Again, I hate religion. So, it sounds weird to speak of God without sounding preachy but I feel like I am more free because of it, and don't just lay it all on myself. Because holy shit, this world is a fucked up place. the end. :P

Lara said...

I bookmarked this post when you published it and have thought about it on and off for a long while now.
Fuck those people right in the face. Seriously.
I was forced to go to Southern Baptist school for 9 years (for the good education since I was in a bad district) and was the black sheep since I didn't go to church BUT as much judging they threw my way, they were the biggest hypocrites I've ever seen. So so many secrets. One teacher cheated on his wife who also worked there, with one of the female students. Forgiven. One teacher beat the hell out of her kids. Forgiven. Yet, gays were going to hell, my grandfather was going to hell because he wasn't Baptist. THEY can go to hell.