It took me twelve years to forgive someone who ought to have known better. This was someone in authority who, when notified of the wrongful actions of someone under his chain of command, turned on me instead. I was the problem, not the person who failed to follow proper procedure and who lied and badgered us about something that shouldn’t even have been an issue.
I’m keeping the details covered up here to protect the guilty. I wrote a letter of complaint, and the person in charge called me to say that I needed therapy and that my perception of the event was totally wrong. (Note: it was not wrong. I had this pesky thing called facts to back me up.) Eventually I agreed with the guy just to get him to shut up, and then my Patient Husband wrote a stronger-worded letter, stating that a) the higher-up had been rude to me, and b) that the organization hadn’t addressed the problem. The higher-up then called me back again and was really rude, condescending, abrasive, and just-short of verbally abusive on the phone.
And I took twelve years to forgive him because if you’re entrusted with authority, you damn well should exercise it to take care of the people you’re supposed to be taking care of. I tried any number of times, but I kept thinking things like, “God, well, I guess if you want me to forgive that stupid jerk for his self-centered and nasty…” which pretty much indicates that forgiveness isn’t happening. I brought it to Confession and eventually I just asked the Holy Spirit to forgive the person in my name, and I’d catch up later. Like, lots later.
Sometime this spring I finally was able to say, Look, just take it off the books. If he did that to me, then he did it to other people too, so nail him for them, but not because of me. And if he never did it to anyone else, then he probably doesn’t deserve to be nailed to the wall for me either. So I’m asking you to wipe out that entry in the record books. It’s done.
A couple of days ago, when someone else was in a similar situation, I googled the authority-person out of curiosity, just to see if it was the same man. And I found him.
Last May, say the news reports, the person was reported to his organization for a small infraction. When the organization conducted an internal investigation, they discovered something far worse. Like an actual crime. Something dating back to 2002. Something they then turned over to the attorney general’s office.
This person is no longer in his autority position.
This happened after I forgave him.
Forgiveness is scary. It’s one of the most amazing powers we have, right along with receiving forgiveness. But justice is scarier, and this is not the first time I’ve forgiven someone for something huge only to have everything come down around the person’s ears a week or so later.
I’m sure God doesn’t really work that way, holding His wrath in abeyance as long as we’re feeling the anger for Him. That’s a Stupid Human Trick (per Harriet Lerner’s “Dance of Anger” books.) Refusing to forgive someone isn’t going to protect them from God taking steps to right the scales. It’s far more likely that God knew I’d need to forgive this dude before I found out about the other stuff so I didn’t walk around chuckling because now everyone knew this guy was a snot.
And yet…I wonder. I wonder if all along, God was waiting for me to get out of the way.