by Leslie Tolly
It’s Sunday, November 6, 2016 and today I forgave you. It’s been 5 years since the last time you physically harmed me… it was time. When I first sat down to write about my experience, I wrote about what happened. I put on paper every heart wrenching detail. When it was time for me to go back and finalize this memoir I just couldn’t bring myself to it. I didn’t want to rehash those memories in my mind over and over again. So, I never finished writing my original piece. Since I started writing, it’s been a process. I felt like I no longer wanted to share with people that I am a domestic violence survivor. I felt like that label was keeping me wrapped up in what happened between us. Instead I just wanted to bury it.
But today, I felt this pull to go to church. I am not a perfect every Sunday morning church attending Christian. I actually only go about once every other month. But this morning, I was guided there for a reason. And after listening to the sermon, I realized those horrid memories would constantly resurface if I did not forgive you. Because when I forgive, I win. Sitting there amongst the church community, I bowed my head, and as tears ran down my face, my forgiveness of you, freed me.
I forgive you for the following:
It was just a short 2 years that we were together but I look back at pictures of me during that time and see sadness in my face. I know that my kids felt that. Kids know everything. I realize when I am happy my children are happy. I can’t get those years back for them but I can guarantee they will never see their mom unhappy again due to a man. Today, they are so filled with joy. Today I am showing them a wonderful example of what love should look like and feel like. Today they have a man in their lives that loves them and treats them as his own. I forgive you.
Over the past several years when I heard certain songs playing on my iPod, I could see you in my head sitting on a stool, strumming your guitar and singing these tunes. My stomach would turn at those reminders as I would drive my car and listen. I would have to change the song. But today, I can turn the volume up and sing along and appreciate those songs for the messages behind them. I can find joy again in the subtle things in life that my mind may connect with a memory of you. And today I can move on from those memories without bitterness. I forgive you.
I can go out for a girl’s night without any fear or guilt. I no longer have my cell phone in my hand waiting for a harassing text asking me where I am and why I would want to spend my time with my friends. I am no longer accused of “being out on the prowl” by a jealous man. I no longer have to keep my eye on the time to make sure I get home before my partner does. Today, I am fully engaged in the evenings well spent with my girlfriends, the conversations we have, and the memories we are making. I forgive you.
How I dress is completely up to me. I no longer have to dress to represent another person. I dress to represent myself. I can put clothes on and know I will not be told I look frumpy or fat. I don’t ask my spouse if he likes what I am wearing. The smile on my face and the look in my eyes is the attire he prefers. I forgive you.
My body is mine and how it is touched and handled should be with love and kindness. I used to look down at the scar on my shin that was a result of your misuse and tear up. The fear that I felt during those times of physical abuse would come back to me. But today I see that scar, and I thank God every day I have a man in my life that loves me and every wrinkle, scar, or belly role I may have. He kisses my body with tenderness. That scar is confirmation that I am now truly loved. I forgive you.
This morning I heard the following quote by Warren Wiersbe:
“The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others then we are only imprisoning ourselves, causing our own torment.”
I realize that some people may not understand why I am forgiving you. You may not even care or understand yourself. What I realize is that you have a stain that you will never be able to get rid of. No matter what good you do in the future, your abuse of me cannot be erased. And I feel for you. But with forgiving you, I am allowing myself to choose happiness and joy. I had been prisoner of your abuse for long after it ended. Today, I released those shackles. And I shall pray that all others that you have hurt, will find in their hearts forgiveness for you as well.
Note: This is one person’s story of healing and moving on from abuse; this process looks different for everyone. If you have experienced abuse at the hands of a partner or family member, or if you are concerned about someone you know, please call 1866-834-HELP to speak to a domestic violence advocate near you.