When I was a child (around 8 or 9), there was a girl at my school who would seemingly randomly pick out another girl and beat her up. I couldn’t understand this person’s criteria for choosing who she wanted to beat up. There didn’t seem to be a reason. I couldn’t see the logic in what she was doing. But being pragmatic even then, I thought I better be ready in case she made me or my sister a target the next time the urge to bully struck her.
I was clear that I did not know how to fight because I had sisters and they fight with words, not fists. Nevertheless, I decided that if I or we were faced with the threat of being beat up, I would learn fast.
I carefully considered my options – kick, hit, pull hair, and bite. I also knew that she was bigger and meaner than me, but that was not going to stop me because even though I recognized that she would take me down, I also knew that she would go down with me – that I would not be the only one left with bruises. And so, I filed away my plan and as it turned out, that girl never bothered me. And, I knew that she did not approach me because I was ready.
Today when I look back, I realize that the “bully” girl was emotionally wounded and that is why she angrily picked on vulnerable people. She felt vulnerable herself.
As a child I only knew to react in kind to this kind of situation even though I did not consider it a great choice. As an adult I can see beyond the surface and recognize her pain acting through her bullying tactics. And this is what I know about people who are mean-spirited and act out in destructive ways. This includes addicts who seem determined to destroy themselves. They are wounded.
I don’t know how, or who, or why that is and I don’t need to know. What I do know is that I can see beyond the wound and forgive them because they are not just the perpetrator of abuse, they are also the victim. In their destructive behavior, they project their pain and distrust to others. They also don’t feel safe.
Therefore, in my work I see them as they truly are – wounded – and for my part I forgive.
The thing that happens when there is non-judgment and forgiveness is release. First, I am released and then the other is released. A space of safety is created. I am not their adversary. I am a healing presence. Forgiveness begins a healing process.
It may take a while, but time is one of the things we have. I forgive. I lead the way and then they can forgive also (themselves, everyone who has ever hurt them, the world, and so on.) Healing happens on many levels, and it starts with forgiveness.