On twitter today, someone asked me: “Have you spoken to (and asked for forgiveness from) any of your rape victims? Do you think about them and their healing?”
This person seemed surprised when I said yes, of course I think about that, that I had spoken and apologized to some, but that a) I had not asked them to forgive me, and b) I had not encouraged people to try to make amends with their victims in my writings (which is why she assumed *I* hadn’t).
In fact, my stance on forgiveness evolved not long ago to being something completely personal to me. I don’t ask other people to give it to me and I don’t tell other people when I’ve forgiven them, anymore.
“Will you forgive me” is a way to pressure someone into accepting your apology, and the only reason I’d need to ask it is if I wasn’t -actually- apologizing to them in the first place.
“I forgive you” is a backhanded compliment that’s actually an attack. Incidentally, the last time I used it was to someone who had raped me, while I was still ignited in hurt and anger and in the same email was also telling him I would be removing myself from his life indefinitely.
Since then I’ve realized that there’s better, more accurate and authentic language to use around accepting the faults of another and making the decision to work through and past the hurt they’ve caused — language that doesn’t come off as me being a self-righteous tool.
This person’s take on twitter was that it might be helpful to the healing of the people I’d hurt to hear from me as the perpetrator that they weren’t at fault for what happened to them. And my response, essentially, is that sometimes the people we have hurt are not also the people we can help.
I know, for my part, that while I could handle it, I don’t particularly want to hear from people who have raped me. Especially about how they raped me. I am actively distancing myself from those people who had remained in my life, in part because most of them aren’t ready to own up to what they did.
But even if they were, even if they were just like me and turning a massive corner, the last thing I want is for someone from my past who is in my past for a reason to come out of the distant blue to ask me to fucking forgive them for having raped me a lifetime ago.
Here’s the thing: “might help” is relative to the relationships I shared with these people, and whether revisiting them is wise. In most cases, it’s not, and often the relationships were mutually abusive and damaging in multiple ways.
In some cases, though I can see where I raped and have opportunity to make amends, the abuses I suffered at their hands make it completely unsafe for me to approach these people at all. And sometimes, I was such a fucker to them that enrolling them in my healing process is not even remotely respectful of their path which diverged away from me.
My admissions and the steps I’m taking to right them are public. I have no doubt that people I’ve effected in my past have access to this and may have in fact already read what I’ve written. From where I stand, if these people want to talk with me, if there is some way other than what I am doing to right how they’ve been wronged, they will. It’s up to them, not to me, whether they want to open themselves up to that interaction or not.
But let me say, in response to the thought process this woman’s questions on twitter spawned for me today: if you are one of those people, and you’re realizing at some point that I hurt you, and you want to come to me about it and resolve it with me: I want to hear from you, and I want to make things right with us.
I didn’t much know how to right things very well for a long time, I didn’t much know how to deal with people being angry with me for something I’d done, I didn’t much know how to deal with being hurtful, and it might even be that I tried to resolve it before, and made things worse. It might be that I don’t even remember what I did, or know that there was anything to resolve in the first place.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about having hurt your feelings. If having me involved in your process of letting that hurt go will help you, then I want to be a part of that process.