Archive for December, 2015

Can I forgive without trusting a person?

Yes, you can forgive without trusting a person. Oftentimes, we forgive people, but then do not trust them in certain areas where they have weaknesses. A compulsive gambler can be forgiven and yet you watch your wallet, as an example. It also can be the case in which you forgive a person whose character is weakened to such a degree that you cannot trust him or her in many areas. In such a case, you might forgive, but then not reconcile if he or she refuses to change and is a danger to you.

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Is it even possible to forgive without reconciling? It seems to me that the resentment or at least some anger will always be present if there is not true reconciliation.

Yes, it is possible to forgive even if reconciliation is not possible. You can see the person as possessing inherent worth. You can feel some compassion for the person as a person, even in his or her weaknesses. Even if you have some anger left over, this does not mean you are unforgiving. People can forgive, reduce resentment, and still have some anger. As long as that anger is not dominating you and you are in control of that anger, you can be forgiving.

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I don’t want anyone to hurt like I did. . .

Even before she reached her 18th birthday, Darlene J. Harris had been raped twice and survived several other near rapes–secrets she carried around with her for years and years. As a result, she suffered not only emotionally but also physically. Medical problems caused her to undergo several surgeries including a hysterectomy at the age of twenty-eight.

“My boundaries were destroyed and my trust was violated. Out of my fear of being hurt, and not feeling wanted, I clung to fear, anger, and shame,” Darlene says. “These emotions became my constant companions.”

RestorethBookCoverBut through her faith, an enlightening counselor, and forgiveness, Darlene turned her world around. Her recovery has led her to a full-time life of providing workshops for women on sexual abuse and molestation. Read her amazing story (an IFI exclusive) in her own words at Your Forgiveness Story. 

Today, Darlene is a sought-after speaker, author of “And He Restoreth My Soul,” and the developer/leader of workshops and retreats for women. She writes primarily on the topics of sexual abuse and molestation. 

To learn more about those topics, visit the website she created and manages: And He Restoreth My Soul. Her compilation book by the same name includes case histories and contributions from physiologists, prevention experts in the field, ministers, and other professional counselors. The book offers the guidance necessary to protect the abused and to counsel the abuser. It is available on Amazon.com. 

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Does Forgiveness Have a Place in Contentious Regions of the World?: A Case for Forgiveness Education

Over at the maverickphilosopher.typepad.com website, we read a thoughtful post on Friday, December 4, 2015 in which the writer makes a compelling case that the “pacific” virtues have no place in the public sphere, in civil discourse, as compared with the private sphere of the family, for example. Why? It is because if one turns the other cheek, then those bent on destroying you will gladly take that cheek and all elseEye for an Eye which you have to offer.

So, then, given that forgiveness is one of the pacific virtues, does it have a place in the public sphere, and especially when societies are at war? I think that the answer is a yes. Please let me explain.

Let us suppose that Society A has done all that it can to suppress the voice of those in Society B. Further, Society A is oppressing those in Society B to such an extent that the people in Society B cannot make a living wage, own a healthy horse, or purchase a plot of land that is not rocky and barren.

Does it make sense to talk of forgiveness for the people in Society B? Justice first, otherwise, forgiveness could be the opiate of the people (as Marx said of religious faith) and lull them into a spiritual stupor, a disastrous situation from which they may never recover. And thus, centuries of ennui and passivity and continued oppression occur. . . .albeit with a smile on the faces of those oppressed because at least now they are having happy thoughts about their oppressor.Justice3I could not disagree more with the ideas in the paragraph preceding this one. Here is why. Yes, the people in Society B have suffered a great injustice. Do you realize that they have suffered a second injustice, which too many fail to see? Go ahead, I dare you: Find the second injustice. I will wait for you.

The second injustice is this: The people in Society B have now been given a disease by those in Society A and that disease is resentment, the persistent sense of ill will that can live within a person until it takes his or her life and then, like the virus it is, it jumps to another host to avoid extinction. And thus, the disease of resentment can be passed from generation to generation to generation to. . . . . .

Society A, if its intent is to oppress, has now done so twice, once in the original oppression with its unjust laws and treatment and second in its giving a disease to Society B.

Forgiveness will not solve the original injustice. Only justice can do that.

Yet, forgiveness is a cure for the second kind of injustice, the disease of resentment.  Forgiveness cures the disease of resentment. So, you do not believe me. I am not asking you to believe. I am asking you to examine the science on this issue. Go to the “Research” page of our website (by clicking on the “Research” link at left). Then read the many (but not exhaustive) peer-reviewed studies showing that forgiveness gets ridResentment3 of resentment. It cures the resentment.

And thus, we are no longer left with the burden of two injustices, but now only with one, the first one described above. Free of disease, the people in Society B now can have more energy, see and think more clearly, and act more wisely to persevere and persevere and persevere in righting the first wrong.

If we fail to see this, then we are engaging in an injustice ourselves—the failure to see and to act definitively in helping Society B to heal from a crippling disease.

By the way, do you know of anyone caught in a Society B situation? Here is your quiz for the day: What can you do to help rid that person and that society of a disease that can kill and keep on killing across time and across people?

Our failure to act is unjust and we want to be virtuous people. We need forgiveness education and forgiveness therapy in contentious regions of the world………..now.

Robert

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Darlene J. Harris

Editor’s Note: Darlene J. Harris is a sought-after speaker, author of “And He Restoreth My Soul,” and the developer/leader of workshops and retreats for women. She writes primarily on the topics of sexual abuse and molestation because by the age of 18 she had been raped twice. “I don’t want anyone to hurt like I did,” is the mantra that drives her. This is her story in her own words.

Too Young to Have This Secret. . .
and Too Old to Still Keep the Secret. 

The Question – Would Forgiveness Help?

You see, rape was my secret, the secret that almost became my death.

I wasn’t able to stop playing the charade game with my friends and family for a year or two, waiting to graduate high school and move out on my way to college.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ, the lover of my soul, the lifter of my head, and the light of my life.  Nevertheless, I did not trust Him with the whole problem.  I remember making this statement the morning after the rape: “Lord if You keep me from getting pregnant, I will take care of the rest.”

I had made my first bargain with God! I didn’t know the magnitude of these words: “I will take care of the rest”, nor the effect it would have on my life.  “I will take care of the rest” meant I will control all future situations.  I will keep families from falling apart; I will keep members of my family and the abuser’s family from killing one another. I could do this.  And I wouldn’t let anyone hurt me ever again, ever.  Nevertheless, I didn’t have the type of control I thought I had.  My future held a second rape, near rapes, and a lot of pain.  I now know if I had known more about God, His power, His understanding, and most of all His love for me that my life would have been different.

Darlene J. Harris

Darlene J. Harris

Nevertheless, by the time I was 40 years old, I realized I was not handling life very well.  I had moved to California, running away as far as I could before I had to turn around and look at me. I looked at the tired me, and the hurting me, realizing that I could no longer escape. Yet, God met me with favor, mercy and love. He walked back through history with me and cleared a path for me to have a future.  Most of all, He took me through a journey of the “F word.”

The Affirmations From Rape that Affected My Life

  • My rapist was an African-American boy with a very dark skin tone. For years later, the sight of dark-skinned men represented fear, hurt, and pain to me. If they tried to get to know me, I distanced myself from them, whether a friendly or personal approach. For the next twenty years, I limited myself to associating with men whose skin tone was lighter than mine.
  • My rapist continued to ask me, “Is it good?” I now know this question set me up to believe I had to be good to keep from being hurt. This question became my question in my future intimate relationships.  I had to be good to avoid being hurt.  But deep down I knew I could never be good enough to take back those nights.
  • My boundaries were destroyed and my trust was violated. Out of my fear of being hurt, and not feeling wanted, I clung to fear, anger, and shame. These emotions became my constant companions. The decision I made that one Sunday night, determined the next twenty years of my life. They moved in and made themselves at home in my damaged spirit for over twenty years.
  • In my twenties, I also suffered physically. Various medical problems that caused me to undergo several surgeries that included a hysterectomy at the age of twenty-eight. I continue to suffer from irritable bowel and/or digestive problems.  Medically speaking, these symptoms are often reported by women who may have a history of sexual abuse or assault. 

“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord

But He, The Lord, didn’t act fast enough for me, at least in my eyes.  He didn’t take His fury out fast enough or long enough to justify my pain.

After ten years, I saw my rapist once again. He had come back home for his father’s birthday.  I stopped to visit with the family, and at that point I didn’t know what to call him. The charade was still alive while in the midst of the family. Nevertheless, he and his brother decided we would all go to the neighborhood bar and have a drink.  We were standing in the kitchen, and his mother was cooking, warning us to be home in time for dinner.  At that moment, I felt this “hot” hand on my behind, and it was as if another person suddenly rose up in me, a very (concealed) angry person.

We went to the bar, found a seat, and we begin to talk while his brother went off to talk to some other people he knew.  At that moment, remaining surprisingly calm, I asked him, “Why did you rape me?”  He answered, “Because another group of boys told me they had already had sex with you.”  Needless to say, I was surprised he just blurted out his answer.  He didn’t even have to think about an answer. I couldn’t believe he didn’t deny raping me and justified it by blaming others.  He had given this act of violation a “name”….RAPE, and had given it some thought during the past ten years and was able to answer as calmly as he did, without any remorse.

That angry person, that rose up inside me, set out to go on a mission—a mission to cause as much pain as possible because of the pain I had hidden deep in my spirit for so long.  Oh, and so this was my plan: I now had my own apartment, and later that evening I invited him to see where I lived.  I excused myself and dressed for the occasion, and now it was time to pay him back. I cannot tell you, how I thought my plan of seducing him would be a payback.  Nevertheless, that was how twisted my thought process was at the time.

I was out to seek vengeance.  My heart was hurting and needed healing. The mind, the thoughts that took over became very dangerous.  To my amazement, I didn’t feel any better—not the satisfaction I was seeking after seducing him.  If anything, I felt a deeper shame and disgust toward myself. No wonder God says, “Vengeance is mine….” God was the only real warrior in this battle.

Forgiveness?

I didn’t understand forgiveness.  I didn’t want to let the rapist off the hook.  First, from being a product of Christian teachings, forgiveness became the “F word”*.   My therapist urged me to at least consider the “F word”.  I researched it in an educational, mentally logical manner, and that didn’t help me.

If I’m truthful, I didn’t want to understand Forgiveness. However, during the time I was in therapy, I was also attending a church that understood and taught about the freedom that Forgiveness brings to one’s life; and I love my freedom.  I listened, prayed, studied, and talked to my therapist. My relationship with God became important to me, and most of all, I wanted God to know I was sorry for all the years and hurt I caused others and myself.  I want nothing that would cause separation between myself and the GREAT I AM.

For once now I understood that Forgiveness was not about payback for hurting me, but that it was about freedom for me. I asked God to forgive me and then invited Him into the healing process.

When I look back, I was in darkness for a long time.  I needed Forgiveness for the pain I caused myself by holding hate and anger in my heart.  I also needed Forgiveness for the pain I caused others.  I had to come before God because of the serious condition of my heart.

Revenge

Definition: The action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands

I cannot write about Forgiveness without including my thoughts about Revenge.  I wanted to hurt my rapist.  In my heart, he deserved to hurt as he’d hurt me.  However, no matter what plan for revenge I thought about, it was never good enough.  Revenge backfired in my face, and if it is a plan you are considering, it would be prudent to learn from my experience.

God The Great Avenger

Romans 12:19 New International Version:  “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Vengeance delays God’s intervention.  Vengeance delays Forgiveness, and it delays healing because it is a problem, deep in the heart.

Reminder:

Forgiveness can be immediate, yet it is your choice, but healing is a process.

Where was God?

Where was God? is always a question from survivors. “Why me? Why didn’t God stop him or her from hurting me?” For many survivors, it becomes a nagging, yet very important question.  It connects to your belief in God, and this is critical because it questions the foundation of your belief system.

What I know is God is ever present, and that God was present at the time and place of my rape.  He was my witness. God cried for me. God was angry. God felt everything I couldn’t feel and everything I did feel. God saved my life during and after the rape before I was forced to look at me and say,“Lord, I can’t do this by myself.”

Free will is a gift from God to you and me

Definition:  Free will is the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

Free will is what God gave to man at the beginning of time. God didn’t want to force a man to love Him.  God wanted to give a man the opportunity to choose Him, to love Him, to worship Him.

In my story, God didn’t take away the rapist’s decision to rape.  God could have stopped him.  He knew the thought was there. He knew the plan and set on the sideline watching once again, as it were, for the purpose of testing my faith.  Yet, God is true to His word, and will accomplish His plan, only to bring glory to Himself.

Romans 8:28 New International Version: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called, according to his purpose.”

I know in my heart this verse is tried and true.  God worked anger, hatred, and vengeance out of me.  When I tell my story now, my rapist has the beautiful smile he always had.  The picture changed, and so did my heart.  Forgiveness gave this to me, and my healing follows.

Where Am I Today and What drives me?

What drives me was quoted in the December 1995 Edition of the L.A. Valley Times and still holds true today:  “I don’t want anyone to hurt like I did.”

Through my adversities, God has provided me a ministry.  A ministry that includes a book project entitled, And He Restoreth My Soul.  This book serves as a resource guide for those helping abused survivors who are struggling to put the pieces of their lives back together in the wake of abuse.

Above all, I have a life and a certain peace I would not have if I had not forgiven my rapist.
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*The “F” Word was taken from an article by Dr. Suzanne Freedman entitled: The “F Word” for Sexual Abuse Survivors: Is Forgiveness Possible?

Visit Darlene Harris’ website.

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