My name is Darlene J. Harris and I was raped in my early teen years by my boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, rape is a life changing event and if it had not been for the rape I would not have received the help I needed to Forgive my mother. That was an event!
I never understood the relationship between other girls and their mothers. I never experienced the bond between mothers and daughters. I never felt the love that flowed between them. To hear my girlfriends talk about their relationship with their mothers was strange to me.
Short Story Version You see, my mother was pregnant with me and gave me away to her sister before giving birth to me. Based on her story, she wanted to be with my father who had disowned me too. She cried nine months; the entire time she carried me. My hidden question: What made him more important than me?
It is a bad feeling to know that you were about to enter a world where the people responsible didn’t want you. Nevertheless, she felt she could not take care of me and this was the main reason she gave expressed for giving me away before my birth. My aunt and uncle had no children. My aunt raised my mother due to the early death of my grandmother. When I arrived (I was so cute) she decided to keep me; yet, she took me to my aunt and uncle’s home and left me to go to work.
I was 5 years old before I remember living with my mother in my aunt and uncle’s home. She came home because I was sick. Before and after I was born my mother was a live-in maid. We lived together until I was 14. When she couldn’t find work in the small town where we lived, she left again to work as a live-in maid. In my mind I hated my mother. I didn’t want her to touch me.
I was over 40 years old before I openly told her I loved her. That was very hard for me. What I need you to understand is that I had a profound respect for my mother. When she would leave on Tuesday morning to go to work I would cry. Crying never made sense to me because I didn’t love her. Needless to say, I was very confused — my emotions and my feelings did match. I believe in God and the redeeming grace of Christ and the Cross. I remember preachers talking about forgiveness but I don’t remember being taught an accurate understanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness always seemed to be “if you don’t forgive you are going to hell.” The teaching came across as frightening. Therefore, I accepted the fact that I was going to hell. Later I would learn that forgiveness is about my own well-being and foremost my relationship with God.
When I moved to California I was running. One doctor told me “you’ve been running from the same lion for too long.” His diagnosis was anxiety. I was choking and I needed some reprieve from my mother and aunt. You know and I know you can’t escape and in my case I had to turn and face the lion. I’ve faced a lot of things about myself over the years. I went to counseling, and after facing rape and my abandonment issues I learned different methods to change my thinking. I learned to accept myself. Accepting the part in me that hurt and nurturing it ha s made a big difference in my life.
My mother became very ill. I had to make several trips home to see about her but there was one trip when the change in my heart was more wonderful than I could have imagined. God allowed me to see and experience a wonderful change. I was able to see my mother and even my aunt, whom I loved, in a very different way. I had mercy and not hate for my mother. The picture included more than a self-centered only child.
Forgiveness allowed me to see more than my hurt. I began to see my family dynamics. Forgiveness enabled me to understand it wasn’t really about me and my hurt was no longer the center of the universe. It included others and no matter what had happened it wasn’t the same anymore. I’ve always known that my mother loved me and my aunt adored me. My mother was abandon by her mother because she passed when my mother and her twin brother were only six months old. My mother lost her twin brother when they were eight years old. Her first child passed at the age of two years old. I consider myself blessed because she gave birth to me. My aunt raised my mother and my mother trusted her to raise me. This was a blessing.
I began this article about being raped but know that if it was not for being raped which forced me to get counseling I would not know the blessing of being there for my mother during her sickness. I would not have made those trips home. So much changed my heart and life through forgiveness. If you ask me what helped me most it would be obedience! I grew in my obedience to God and to my counselor. Also, a few select friends were there for me acting as my hedge. My counselor gave me different exercises to do and one was writing about the different experiences in my life. When I wrote about my mother and the hate I felt, I found that I didn’t hate her I hated what she did. Leaving me; always leaving. When she passed away, the first words I uttered were “you left me again.” I caught myself and I knew she had been called home to be with the Lord.
Other than a willingness to be obedient to your resources of help, the only other suggestion I have is to seek out a church that teaches 1.) Forgiveness is immediate 2.) Healing and recovery is work. Understanding the need for forgiveness is critical and no matter the voices you may hear there is one who whispers you are doing good, I know it hurts, just keep it up.
The Forgiveness Institute does fascinating work and I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with Dr. Robert Enright for a long time. Incorporate the Institutes work into your journey. The journey into forgiveness is not easy but the end result is worth the pain. You will be able to be more effective in your life. Your impact and influence will make a difference in the lives of others. You begin to experience life differently. You will have a different perspective about things that happened to you. You will approach life differently in the present and in future. You will be hurt but you will handle it differently. You will learn to communicate with others and build strong relationships. Dialog will help resolve a lot of issues and hurts before they become deep seeded hatred and bitterness.
May the God of Abraham, Isaacs and Jacob be with you. God was there when it happened and He is waiting for you to ask Him for HELP! Taste and see that the Lord is good and allow your cup to runneth over. Dr. Enright, thank you for remembering me and giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts on Forgiveness.
Darlene J. Harris, is the Editor of “And He Restoreth My Soul” which provides an extensive view of sexual violence and its impact on survivors and society. This is a collaborative project of highly recommended professionals, pastors and others working towards healing; spiritual, emotional, and mental.