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by George Stewart

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

This story will be like so many others in a lot of ways.  I can only hope my story will connect with someone, somewhere and be able to help them.

Where to begin?   I guess I will begin here:

I sat on a back porch step one spring night with my fiancé.  We were sharing stories about our lives and loves before we met.  She made me feel comfortable and at ease.  I felt I could tell her almost anything…almost.  I was holding one thing back.  This was something I had not told anyone before and I was afraid she would be disgusted by it.  I did not want this to become something between us, so I told her.  It involved child molestation.

Just saying the words brings shame to me.  I have become more comfortable about discussing the subject as the years have progressed, but it will never be something that will be easy.  There is nothing about the acts or my part in them that I can fully explain away.  I guess this is the guilt involved in all of this.

There is a desire to be loved and to love another that can be overwhelming, even when it is not a proper relationship.  You tell yourself it is wrong.  You tell yourself you should stop, but you can’t seem to.

Now, before you become too upset, I should tell you that I was not the molester, I was the victim.

The molester was an older male cousin.  It started out innocent enough, but did not stay there.  Even at a young age, I could feel something was not right.  As the abuse continued, I began to feel shame and that it was my fault.  I felt that, somehow, I had caused this to happen.  I know now these feelings are common and are actually a tactic the abuser will use to protect himself.  He will make the victim feel so guilty and ashamed that he will not report it.

After I reached a certain age, the molestation stopped.  However, the damage was done.  My self-esteem was destroyed.  I had no confidence and was convinced I was worthless.  It would take many years to begin to repair the damage done.

I haven’t seen this cousin in many, many years.  I have heard he is dead, but I don’t know for certain.  As I started to deal with all of this after the revelation I made to my fiancé, I came to know that I had to forgive.  I had to forgive him and I had to forgive myself.  I had to forgive all of the adults around me who were supposed to protect me and was unaware.  That part wasn’t too hard.  They had no reason to suspect and secrecy is a molester’s primary tool.  Forgiving me came with time.  As I educated myself on abuse, I came to realize I had done nothing wrong so there was nothing to forgive.

Now I had to forgive him.  How do you forgive someone for something like this?  How do you forgive someone who has not asked for forgiveness?  How do you forgive someone who may not even still be alive?  Should I try to seek him out and confront him?  How do I do this?

“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

After much prayer, thought and discussion with others, I have determined that forgiveness is a decision.  I don’t need him to ask for my forgiveness.  For my own mental health, I had to make the decision to forgive and move on with my life.  As long as I stayed where I was, emotionally, he still had power over me.  I would still be that little kid…scared, confused, and ashamed.  Once I made the decision to forgive him, whether he asked for it or not, a burden was removed.  I know it sounds cliché, but it is true.  The forgiveness did not make everything instantly better, but it started me out on the path to making my life whole and healthy.

Wherever you are, you are forgiven.  You no longer have power over me.

George Stewart is a writer in the midwest U.S. where also works as a warehouse supervisor and part-time preacher. George holds a Master's degree in Management, Integrated Logistics, but his real passion is in the written word. Contact George.