A Cry For Healing

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest and by different male relatives. The reason I am writing is to share my experience, strength and hope. I was thirteen when the priest molested me. I’m not going to get into the sordid details. Let’s just say that I was touched inappropriately by the priest. Anyway, I spent years drowning my problems in alcohol and other drugs. What I learned after I got sober was that I was a very angry, hurt individual who covered up the feelings of vulnerability and shame. The point of writing to you is to tell you that I had to forgive the men who molested me so I could move on with my life.

I feel like God let me be abused not to punish me, but to teach me. He taught me to overcome my pain and to forgive others who hurt me. The first thing I learned about forgiveness is that I have to ask others for their forgiveness of me as well as being willing to let go of my identity as a victim. I had to be willing to look at my part in the wrongs that have been done to others. Maybe God knew how strong I was and let me be abused so I could help others who have been abused. If I follow in Jesus’ footsteps I will realize and accept the fact that I had to hurt before I could heal. Forgiveness is another word for “letting go.” If I want to be forgiven I have to forgive others first. It really has nothing to do with the sick people who hurt me. It is all about reclaiming my power and not constantly finding others to blame for my problems…

Some nights I like to walk in the rain, feeling God anointing my face with raindrop kisses. He is the best companion that you or I could ever have or hope to have. There is so much I want to do to answer God’s call. I think he wants me to be part of a special ministry for the LGBT community in and out of prison. If I can ever do anything for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. When I began reading the Catholic Catechism, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Instead of clicking my heels three times to return home to Kansas, I have to pray to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to return home to heaven.

Did God let him be abused? Did God ‘teach’ him through this? More likely, through his pain God is teaching him the enormous gift of forgiveness—of others and himself. Maybe even helping him forgive God Himself! The main point here is to notice how God is working in this man’s illnesses and addictions to bring him close in a relationship of love. He even wants to serve God some way. Surely this can make us feel empathy for someone so afflicted. Bart shows us some of the key components of moving towards healing through acceptance and forgiveness. In a recent pastoral counseling conference I attended, “Forgiveness Steps” were described. Forgiveness is, we were told, a choice (using Worthington’s R.E.A.C.H. model). These steps are:

Recall the hurt and the emotions associated with it. (i.e. acknowledge it, and don’t rush to forgiveness.

Empathize with offender. (Ask: what factors contributed to their action? Tell yourself the story from the perpetrator’s perspective.)

Altruistic, look back at times you have been forgiven. Forgiveness can be seen as a gift you give the offender.

Commitment to forgive-Make the choice! Forgiving is an integrative step; it is not forgetting. It does not requiring reconciliation to continue a future relationship (which may involve continued abuse).

Hold onto forgiveness. We must persevere, and develop and maintain the power to forgive. Anyone who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.

Written by Fr. Paul Morrissey, OSA