Compulsory Forgiveness


CN non descriptive mention of childhood sexual assault

I was raised Christian, with a firm belief in the importance of forgiveness. It wasn’t just what God commanded us to do; unforgiveness was a spiritual opening that a demon could exploit, a weakness in our spiritual armor we needed to fix.

The first person I couldn’t forgive was the man who molested me. No one told me it was okay to hate him if I needed to. Instead they told me that he was probably a molestation victim himself. I think the pervasive fear that I would therefore grow up one day to also molest a child was what set off my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I wouldn’t have diagnosed for another thirteen years.

I got it into my head somehow that forgiving him was necessary to keep me from becoming like him. So I would try. Over and I over I prayed that God would soften my heart, and make me capable of forgiveness. I wrote his sin on scraps of paper, buried them under crosses and burned them in fires, tried to pretend what he did was forgivable.

This spiritual burden plagued me until I lost my faith, and now I have no fear of it. I know that I would never hurt a child, and that I have no desire to. I know that intrusive thoughts of horrible things I would never do is a symptom of faulty brain chemistry, not an accurate prediction of the future. And I never forgave him. I didn’t have to. The narrative that my forgiveness was required or healthy was a lie.

One thought on “Compulsory Forgiveness

  1. At least one of the parables of forgiveness that Jesus speaks in the Gospels has a man first begging for forgiveness. But if a true Christian must also forgive people who to our knowledge aren’t sorry for what they’ve done I’m not willing to be a true Christian. I mean like you’ve demonstrated Angie, that type of forgiveness really hurts the forgiver. I guess some would argue that when you march up to your unrepentant enemy and say you forgive them you might make an emotional impression on them of some sort, but then again your forgiveness might be totally mocked by your enemy, leaving you emotionally worse off.

    Frankly I don’t think that Christianity does a complete job of explaining forgiveness and how it can be used. I think it is true sometimes that when we are angry at someone’s crime, we recall our own crimes and it takes away our anger leaving us feeling better. But there are many circumstances where it’s impossible to accept that our own crimes against others were anywhere near the crimes against us. The Christian parables talk of forgiving others, just as God has forgiven us for our crimes. Frankly it would be nice if recalling the forgiveness of our own crimes, made us feel more forgiving of the crimes against us, but it’s ridiculous and harmful trying to convince ourselves that the crimes of a child were anywhere near as bad as those of the child’s assaulter.

    There is the question, “What does a person have to do to earn forgiveness?”. Certainly I don’t think forgiveness should come as cheaply as some Christians expect. The idea behind the the crucifixion is that “God” put himself through hell in order to forgive mankind for their sins, but how could a mere mortal expect to do that and why would they even want to? I understand the idea that Christian redemption isn’t necessarily a cheap gift, because many people are overcome with grief at the though of somebody suffering for their crimes, but generally I think this is all spiritual, philosophical stuff, not to be taken too seriously. In cold hard reality I think all should be expected to do something to earn their forgiveness. I don’t think that people should put themselves through hell so as not to feel anger at people who have hurt them. I don’t think there is any real pride in doing that. At the same time though if you genuinely do sympathize with your enemy, I don’t necessarily think that you should put that down as weakness. Maybe understanding your enemy can help take away your anger and make you feel better. Even if your enemy still isn’t sorry. I do still think you should make your enemy do SOME of fence-mending though to earn your forgiveness.


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