For a long time, I’ve struggled with the idea of forgiveness. Some things that happen to us feel completely unforgivable. There are people who have bitterness in their hearts because of the people that wronged them. Some people are murderers, or cheaters, but my most significant encounter was with an abuser.
When I was 15, I was in a relationship with a young man, and for his protection, let’s call him Paul. Now Paul and I were very happy in the beginning; the honeymoon stage was full of late night calls and wish-you-were-here’s. In my head, I was extremely lucky to be adored by someone who cared for me and it was a great feeling. The last guy I had “dated” had only been for a short month and even then, he dumped me because I was moving away. So this relationship made me feel like, at first, that I had struck gold.
But then something changed. Paul wasn’t telling me how amazing I was anymore or really asking me how I felt. He accused me of using him because he thought he was a real catch. He told me I was lucky I found him and that I could never leave. He demeaned me as not only his girlfriend but as a human being. I took it because I knew he was mentally disturbed, even though he verbally abused me over again.
Then things got worse. He started forcing me into situations I was uncomfortable with and tried multiple times to sleep with me. I told him I wasn’t ready and wasn’t comfortable, but he didn’t listen. At one point, he choked me on the couch and tried to force me into it. He pushed me around and I took it because I had never been so afraid of another individual in my life.
Over the next year and a half, we went through a cycle of breaking up and crawling back to each other. He had broken up with me through a text message, which I saw as an opportunity to tell him to screw off. And I sure as hell did. But a month or two later, in my loneliness, I crawled back to him. And he took me back because he wanted it too. But despite my want to believe that he wanted me because he loved me, I knew deep within myself he just wanted to use me.
After some time, I got up the courage to break up with him. It was one of the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. He was what I thought was my first love and I wasn’t sure I could let him go. But thinking back on the nights of tears and all the heartache, I knew it was the right thing to do. For so long I had tried to fix him because I thought it was right to do, when really, I was just hurting myself. So I tried talking to him, and when he refused, I just dropped him a note, “we’re done,” along with an obscenity or two.
Once I had told my close family and friends about what had happened, I felt a huge sigh of relief. I felt so free knowing that someone else knew. I had hid it from even my closest friends in high school, so this was a big deal. For a while, I felt pretty good. However, once that feeling faded, I felt more anger and sadness than I had felt before in my life.
My dating life became exponentially more difficult because I just couldn’t open up to anyone. I had gone on a few dates, but nothing worked out until I went out with my current boyfriend, Jordan. We had an incredible first date; we talked at the restaurant for three hours, and honestly, nothing had come to me so easily in my life. We both felt like we just fit together naturally, which was the way I had always wanted my next relationship to be. And even though my past has caused problems, we’ve found a way to work through it. Jordan has been extremely understanding about it all, and he knew that the weight on my shoulders was becoming too heavy.
Now when I talked to Paul some time ago, he started off being extremely nice. He asked me how college was going, we had some small talk, you know, the usual civil conversation. But when I told him that I was working on forgiveness, the claws came out. I had recently told our friends about what had happened because I really trusted them. I wanted to let them know that the reason why I was cold wasn’t because of them. It was because of how I was struggling in my own life. After dealing with the abuse, rumored cheating, and my suicide attempt, I thought they should know. So Paul accused me of lying to our friends and that I made everything up. Every time he hurt me, he said, was a lie. It was a, in his words, “figment of my imagination.” In response, I just said, “Well, this is my truth and honestly, I’m not going to be the one judging you at the end of your life.”
After that conversation, I prayed over the next two years to have forgiveness in my heart. I wanted so badly to not feel the burden of hatred upon my shoulders. I tried to become a better version of myself and be kind to those around me. And, as it turned out, it worked. I didn’t have to hold on to the anger, sadness, and hatred; I knew that in that case Paul would win. In some sort of way, he taught me a lesson that not many people get. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us, as human beings, to do. And without forgiveness, we cannot truly move on with our lives and become happy. I can now readily love and have truly found peace and happiness.