How I Forgave The Unthinkable & Came Out Stronger 

“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the inside.We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves. Forgive… Forgive.” -Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet In Heaven

 

He was dead.

Two weeks before the news became international and shook the world, I was running around with my cousin Chris on the jungle gym after church.

He had shown me his brand new puppy he was so proud of, and we circled around the playground giggling and laughing like six and eight year old children do.

And now, the brown haired little boy with flushed cheeks and eyes of wonder was murdered, laying mutilated in a shallow ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas.

You may have heard of it. May 5, 1993. The news rang around the world and became known as “The West Memphis Three” and still is, over twenty years later.

It was the first time I’d ever experienced the cold feel of death creep against my skin and the hot pain of anger burn inside my chest. He was my cousin, and he was my friend, and he was gone.

And at six years old, there was so much I couldn’t truly grasp, but I remember a little part of me feeling like it had died in the ditch that day, too.

Several years later, I felt the same sting of anger and confusion when a brother of my friend slid his hand down my pants and touched me where I’d never been touched when his sister went into the house for towels. She came back and we got out of the pool and no one ever spoke of it again.

Another time, at a different friend’s home, her brother, who was eight years my senior, molested me on two separate occasions during sleepovers. I was a child when all of these events happened.

In fact, I’d never even kissed a boy when I was taken advantage of by these men. And after a while, it all just started to feel like too much.

My life was altered forever. Truly. These events changed me in a way only those who have been through abuse and trauma can relate to.

And there it was, that seed of bitterness and resentment and anger and pain, lodged firmly into my heart and refusing to move.

So how does one do it? How do you overcome murder and sexual abuse and trauma before you’re even a teen? How do you learn to forgive for your own good?

The truth is, for many years, I didn’t. I couldn’t talk about it to anyone (much less publicly on a blog). I wrote about it, but those words were scribbles in journals for my eyes only. I turned to alcohol, drugs, smoking, and more. There was a point I was suicidal.

But now, many years later, I can say I’ve truly come through to the other side. I’ve forgiven all of these situations. It’s why I can talk about them freely, and find lessons in places I was never meant to see.

So, here are three truths on forgiveness and healing that I learned over time, ones cultivated over a lifetime of ache, and I truly hope they will be a blessing to your journey in healing as well.

    1. The offense, whatever it may have been, was not about you. What someone did to you, or to someone you love, was a reflection on them, not you. Their character, their heart, their morals, their decisions. If it wasn’t you, or someone you loved, it would’ve been someone else (and in turn, someone someone else loves). If you were abused, it doesn’t mean you are or ever were less. It just means you were in the path of a monster. You were worthy then, and you’re still worthy now.
    2. Forgiveness is not a free pass to the perpetrator, but a gift to yourself. For many years, anger and pain and bitterness lived inside of me like old friends, always ready to remember what had been done. Because they lived where I lived, I continued to see my perpetrators at times. Not by choice. We’d simply run into one another at Walmart and all the feelings I’d try to forget would crop back up and leave resentment in my heart. But over time I learned that forgiveness frees me. No one else. It does not excuse what has been done, but it does open up my heart to joy and freedom. My thoughts are my own. My feelings are my own. My lessons, my victories, my triumphs, all mine. He has no power over me. Forgiveness freed me.
    3. Beautiful scars can come from ugly wounds. It’s a secret to no one that I walk around with scars on my heart. But now I see them as beautiful. My life was impacted exponentially in my formative years by lessons I didn’t want to learn. They were painful. I was used. But now, I use them. I used them to write a novel that discusses abuse, one that is now an aide in schools and rehabilitation centers that promote healing. I used them to empathize and be a sounding board for many people who have come to me over the years with their own stories of ache and pain and abuse. I used them to teach, to enlighten, to empower, and to free. Remember this: tragedy can be turned into triumph. You have that ability, because you are the most powerful person in your life. Not your abuser, not your pain, not your wounds. Maybe a part of you has felt dead, but remember, your life isn’t over. You have a choice. You can get up out of your own ditch, just as I did mine, and feel the sunshine on your face once more.

 

You are the author of your own story.  How are you going to make it a beautiful one?

 

Until next time, lifers.

XO,

Emily

 

 

 

About The Author

Emily of The Life With Less

All things productivity- with an emphasis on simplicity, beauty, and embracing grace. CEO, Blogger, Author & Screenwriter. As Southern as sweet tea.

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