Mercy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
While continuing to process my past traumas, my spiritual teacher asked that I consider offering mercy to the boy who raped me 29 years ago.
Oh, to free me from the shackles of pain and trauma that hold me in place, that prevent me from experiencing the happiness and love I could receive from God if my heart was fully opened and healed would be miraculous!
Yet, my body’s initial reaction was a defensive one—my heart raced, my face and jaw tightened, and my fists were clenched. I felt pure and utter defiance at the thought.
Mercy for someone who knowingly and purposely hurt and assaulted me, stripped me of my dignity and cast his nasty shadow over a better half of my life? Hell, no.
As I listened to my spiritual healer, my emotions ranged from anger to hurt/pain and from fear back to rage again. I was on an emotional roller coaster ride, and as it raced down the steep hill I was catapulted back to the exact day I was raped.
I kept trying to say stop, but I couldn’t get the words out. He was on top of me, and the room that was once dark as night was now filled with lights so bright. It felt like I was in an operating room, and at the mercy (no pun intended) of a sadistic surgeon with a flesh knife.
I prayed for it to end.
I closed my eyes and tried to check out, but the lights, the laughter, and the pain would not allow me to lose consciousness any longer. I couldn’t move. I was powerless.
I was shattered. I went to bed that night broken, spiritless, and wondering why me?
He destroyed me. The heart of that young, naive girl, who just wanted to have fun with her friends, was now a three-dimensional cardboard cut out of the girl giggling and laughing no less than 24 hours before.
He not only stole away my security but also feelings of safety, trust, love, and now I am asked to bestow mercy upon him?
I want him to pay for what he has done to me. I want an apology, but guess what? He probably doesn’t remember my name, or who knows, maybe he does.
Maybe he does feel remorse, but that’s hard for me to believe.
His voice, actions, and treatment of a young girl (that was me) is not the embodiment of someone I believe could have remorse or insight into his own behaviors.
As I write this passage, my stomach is twisting into knots, and little bits of heartburn are seeping into my throat in disgust over the past and the crossroads I face in life today.
I have to make a decision: remain shackled to that event and live the next 50 years of my life just as angry as the last 20 have been, or figure out a way to make peace with this and offer this man mercy.
I weighed the option of mercy and still felt it did not apply to this situation, and as such, I sought to further investigate the concept to see if I could, in some way, come to an understanding of the concept of mercy.
Instead, I found grace.
Grace is defined by Your Tango as a spiritual gift that involves love and mercy given to others, even when we feel that they don’t deserve it.
Grace seemed more fitting because I came to the realization that I cannot punish or harm him, nor do I wish to. Ideally, I want him to ask for forgiveness and acknowledge his wrongs. I know that is an unrealistic desire, so what options do I have?
Should I remain trapped while staying under the control of a monster, yet instead of him physically holding me down and drugging me, his actions are still controlling me by way of nightmares and triggers?
Do I continue to allow my nights to be filled with flashbacks of his eyes, those of which have burned a hole in my soul and left nothing but blackness surrounding my heart—a fortress I built to prevent myself from ever being truly vulnerable again?
What good has this done me? None.
I begin to search for a reason—a justification—as to what would ever make a young man want to hurt someone like that?
What happened to him, and how could he hate females so much? What kind of mother and father did he have? Maybe his parents were abusive. Do an abusive past and the horrible actions he inflicted upon me excuse him? No.
An intense debate ensued within my mind.
If we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, he must have had some terrible things happen to him to make him mean, violent, and angry, right? Wrong.
There are plenty of people who have suffered at the hand of bad parents and don’t set out to assault someone.
Maybe he was so caught up in peer pressure and being cool that he was trying to show off similar to gang mentality? I will never, ever know.
And then I had a revelation.
What if this were my son? He is now about the same age as my rapist was when it happened.
What if he had made a terrible mistake because he was not in his right mind? What if one night he had way too much to drink and his judgment was completely diminished, and he got caught up in something so horrible and did not even realize how awful it was in the moment because (as many college kids do) he had way too much to drink?
What if a situation just as this one haunted him for the next 20 years of his life? But rather than his life being full of fear and anxiety, it was filled with guilt, remorse, and self-hatred?
Would I want forgiveness for him? Would I want mercy or grace?
I would want all three for my son, and seeing him suffering would ultimately be causing me pain as well.
So I think of this boy who raped me, and I think of his mother, and then I think of me—a wife, a mother, and now a grandmother—a woman who just wants peace. And I came to the realization that it is time to forgive and let it go, not for the boy who hurt me more than words could possibly describe, but for me, for my family, and for his mother—someone just like me. Someone who also, at one time or another, probably yearned for peace and love.
And in that very moment, I felt a weight lifted from within my chest. I took a deep healing breath, allowing it to fill my lungs with life, and opened my heart as I envisioned the fortress begin to crumble.
At that liberating moment, I no longer needed an apology from him, nor did I need to seek revenge, because, through my own form of forgiveness, I was granted a life free from anguish and pain.
God wanted this for me. God wants this for all of us. So tonight, I am heeding God’s call to forgive and setting myself free.