When I was twenty-two, I was raped. When I think of the man who raped me when I am meditating – and I do even now, years later, when I’ve heard the story of another woman who has been raped – I see this man and myself held by the heart of that which is larger than and yet a part of myself. I breathe, and I let the larger heart that has always held me, that is embodied in my essence, hold my pain and my anger. And when I do this, I catch a glimpse of the suffering – the anguish – there must be inside the human being who has violated another. Knowing this I cannot help but remember that this man was once, like my own sons, some woman’s child with hopes and fears. And it is not as impossible as I once thought it would be to pray and cry, not just for myself, but also for him.
In no way does this excuse rape or other forms of violence. But it is to say that “we” are in trouble when violence escalates – all of us – even the perpetrators. I did not ask for nor cause the rape that happened to me – not on any material or spiritual level. But I did choose (eventually and with help) to let the pain of what had happened split me open, to let that which was larger than myself hold me AND the man who raped me. I do not want to see him again – have no need or desire to do so. But, after all these years, it is not hard to pray for him.
Genuine forgiveness is not a “should.” When we allow our wounds to be tended and to heal, forgiveness arises. It’s not a mental decision – it’s an innate capacity of the human heart. And it is one of the best things about us – that we can forgive and be free.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer