What Does Forgiveness Look Like?… What Is It Totally?… What Does Forgiveness Mean?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-1-07-07-amTomorrow, I’m gonna share a story of talking with Cory Booker kind of, sort of about this idea.

Recently on the blog I’ve been talking a lot about the election and about sexual assault.

And talking with Cory Booker about sexual assault in the days following the election kind of weaves in both…

But before I talk about my talk with him tomorrow…  (Goodness, how many times am I gonna use the word talk in a sentence?) Can I just ask you… What does true forgiveness look like to you?

If you’re familiar with the story and want to skip the recap, skip on down to the next time you see a line like this:

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For those unfamiliar with the story, the very short story (of course missing a bunch of details), is this man I super trusted sexually assaulted me when I was still pretty new to New York.

I tried a million times [hyperbole, but still a bunch] to talk with him – was dismissed, ignored, etc.  Finally, I was able to have a “real” conversation with him about it about 6 months later. And when I asked, “Was I not loud enough, not clear enough? Did you really not know?” He said, “I knew you didn’t want to, but you needed to.”

That was right around the time The Nightly Show was ending, and I was losing my apartment all at the same time. So to add the cherry on top that this man I’d considered my close friend was basically admitting to assaulting me and not even caring – It fell like my whole life was falling apart around me.

And while I have decided not to reveal this man’s identity, the one thing I say (to give some context, to hopefully make some things make at least slightly more sense) is that he is in the musical theater community.

And for various reasons that I choose not to delve into deeply here, I decided I wasn’t comfortable with going back to BMI this year.
(I had to make that decision soon after hearing, “I knew you didn’t want to, but you needed to.”) And I just purely wasn’t ready, unfortunately. (And yes, that makes me feel weak to say that. And I am sorry.)

So, it feels like this man is taking a lot from me – including a part of my dream. I have a whole entire post coming up dedicated to all the areas in my life where I struggled (because we can’t get them back if we can’t identify them). So, I won’t keep listing them here, since we’ll get to them in full.

In one of the handful of in-person conversations this man and I had after the assault, he told me he’d never been happier (not because of the assault, but his life was just working out exactly the way he wanted right now). He regaled me with talkes all about how perfectly wonderfully his life is going.

It almost kind of felt like he was bragging. It seemed almost intentionally hurtful. And that maybe is a little paranoid or overly-upset, or I don’t know. But whether it was meant to hurt me or not, it was so hard to hear, because I was (and am) still struggling with being able to sleep without nightmares. I was (and am) still struggling with allowing men to even kiss me sometimes.
(That doesn’t mean I never have sex. I do. But it’s not always easy… (Just ask the poor men who’ve had to see me cry in bed when I get a flashback, or it just feels like too much… Oh, goodness…So embarrassing. And I feel so bad about that. Anyway…)

I am having potentially the worst time of my life (weirdly, in the midst of the best time of my life), spurred on by the act he perpetrated. So to have him tell me right to my face how super happy he was when I was so the opposite (in a conversation after I’d cried myself to sleep every night for a month just waiting for him to talk to me again, since he decided to give me the silent treatment after assaulting me)… it made me a little sick.

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And he’s still out there, totally unscathed, unencumbered, unapologetic… He gets to live his best life, and I am in therapy for the first time in my life, and missing out on BMI, and a little afraid of sex which is something I used to love, and often running away from New York which is also something I used to really really love. (And I know some of this is in my control and I can choose to run away less, etc. And I will… But the point is, he has suffered no consequences (as far as I can tell). And I have suffered many.)

Sooooooo what is forgiveness? What is my goal with how I think about/treat this man? Am I hoping to get to the point where I purely just feel apathy (as opposed to upset, or any strong emotions)? Or am I hoping to get to the point where if I see him do well in the world, I feel happy for him? What does forgiveness really mean and encompass?

I am *not* in any way about to equate the horror of losing a family member to gun violence to my situation… They’re not the same and I’m not trying to say they are… But as I’ve thought a lot about forgiveness, one of the things I think about is the people who can look a mass murderer in the eyes – a man who shot their loved one – and say, “I forgive you.”

I mean, my goodness! If they can do that, how can I not?

But then there are people who seem to think I don’t need to forgive sexual assault guy – who think that I don’t need to want to see this guy happy – partially because he’s dangerous. He hasn’t only done this to me. There’s at least one other girl I know of (that he told me about).

Am I supposed to root for someone who’s committed assault against more than one person… who might do it again?

If I didn’t know him (but still knew of his behavior), I’d feel crazy for rooting for him. You know? I’m not over here hoping Bill Cosby gets a new sitcom.

(Note: Even though I’m pretty angry with this man, I know Bill Cosby is a really strong example that involved drugs, so potentially not wildly fair. But you get what I’m saying.)

Anyway, I’m not 100% sure of the answer of what’s “right,” or what fits correctly with, “When they go low, we go high?” Or, even if we forget all that broader stuff of trying to be the “best person,” it’s like what is the healthiest thing for *me*? How can I best get through this?

And then when I get worried that that’s too selfish of a thing to think… What is the kindest response? (And on and on and on, things I wonder.)

So many questions – for which I really don’t know the right answers.

I’ll be sharing what Cory Booker had to say about this tomorrow. But tonight, I’d truly love your opinions! xoxoxo

2 thoughts on “What Does Forgiveness Look Like?… What Is It Totally?… What Does Forgiveness Mean?

  1. Kevin

    Great post! I don’t think you ever have to “forgive” this person, and you certainly won’t be friends, but hopefully you can get to the point where you just don’t care.

    Not sure if I even mentioned this, but I had an episode a good number of years ago where I and someone I worked with (NOT a student!!! And not anyone else where it would violate any rule.) were really good friends for years, then it got romantic. A few months later, it ended badly from my point of view. (I was told that everything was great–and it really felt that way–and then 4 days later got dumped with zero warning.) Obviously that’s degrees of magnitude less bad than being sexually assaulted, but I was really pissy about it–it wasn’t like we were romantically involved for all that long, but because we’d been good friends for years it felt really intense, and that we would be extra honest with each other.. (Bonus points that she immediately started dating another professor and would talk about how happy she was.) I had to bite it all back and not say one bad word or give one stink-eye because we still worked together and one complaint by her potentially could cost me my job. So I gave her no excuse to complain and, to her credit, she didn’t make up anything to hurt my career.

    It wasn’t like I thought of nothing else, but for months probably once/day those feelings of hurt and betrayal would well up. I’ll admit to being ECSTATIC when, 10 months after things ended, she announced she was leaving Berklee for a different job.

    It was maybe a year after that that I realized I hadn’t though about her in over a week.

    And here we are, years later, and I’m thinking about her for the first time in months. You could tell me just about anything that she was up to–is she with that same guy? Someone else? Is she single and lonely? Is her career awesome? Is she unemployed? And you know what? I really wouldn’t care. Though admittedly I’d still be a bit uncomfortable if I had to be in her presence for extended periods of time.

    That friendship we’d had before, which I’d really thought would last a lifetime because we just >clicked< on multiple levels, was incinerated to ash. But the coals are no longer hot and they no longer burn.

    Does that mean I "forgive" her? Not sure–you tell me. But it's the best I can–or care to–do. As stated above, what I went through is SO MUCH LESS bad than what you went through. It's good that you're doing therapy and practicing conscious self-care, and it'll likely take you longer to recover. But maybe your aiming point needs to be "don't care" If the concept of "forgiveness" is important to you you can round apathy up to forgiveness.


I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?