No one sits you down and guides you through the process. It just exists.
Raised as a Christian, attending catholic primary and grammar school, it was just a ~value we are all apparently meant to have. Whether it's a product of good parenting, teaching or something we figure out ourselves, the ability to forgive isn't one I'd really questioned until recently.
There's no doubt that being able to forgive is an extremely hard act. I'm in awe of people who can find the strength to genuinely overcome feelings of resentment, even hatred towards someone or something that has wronged them.
I've been thinking a lot about it recently. Did I ever really move on from the people who made me dread waking up every morning? Did I want to? Is my lack of forgiveness now actually hampering my ability to move on?
I think I know the answer to that last question. But it's just passed 12 years since I took an overdose and I still don't think I'm ready to. Deep down, I'm not sure if I even want to.
Along the way I thought maybe I had somehow managed to 'forgive and forget'. I was doing things I loved, getting on with life - and dealing with the hurdles and pitfalls along the way. It's now, after ~celebrating my 27th birthday, and really thinking on something I read recently, that I wonder if I do need to "get over" the past - for my own sake.
Even having typed that though, I find myself resenting it. I do know that I am responsible for my own life; I enjoy the good moments, I suffer the bad moments. Maybe as I get older I'm slowly realising that this forgiveness business is as much for me as it is for them. The people of the past aren't losing sleep over me, they're not plagued by my sense of failure, of regret, of self-hatred for having been defeated by own mental health so often. They're probably not still afraid to once again live in the town they were born in for fear of seeing faces that remind you of downing pills at 1am on a Monday morning.
I don't think I'll ever be the kind of person who could receive a message from one of those people and offer my genuine forgiveness. I'm well aware that that might not be a good thing, but I can't imagine what one of them could say that could make up for the situations I've found and continue to find myself in. I have no qualms in saying outright that I absolutely hate them for how they derailed me. I hate that they made me weak. I hate that they still make me weak. They probably don't even remember my name, but be it weight jibes, comments on sexuality or a simple surname joke, I know exactly how every word of theirs added to the trauma.
I take responsibility too of course. I know plenty of people have overcome their bad experiences, and can share inspiring stories of sticking two fingers up at the bullies with their later successes. I've still managed to achieve things which I am incredibly proud of. There are plenty of other factors at play which have led me to where I am right now - things out of my control, not influenced or otherwise by apologies. Looking back, Autistic tendencies made me an easy target when I and they didn't know exactly who 'Ryan' was. I'm just glad that I understand me a bit more now.
Thankfully I've never been on the receiving end of one of these ~apologies where the once-victim is expected to hear how their bully was a product of circumstances at the time, how he didn't know any better, how he might have been in the closet himself and lashed out. Sure, maybe I'll feel different if I was to find myself in that situation, but right now, I just cannot imagine allowing any of them to explain away their behaviour. Some victims don't survive their desperate attempt to escape. Will the apology and excuses cut it for their families? If it does, fair enough, they have my utmost respect.
Would an apology from a teacher, who for no apparent reason despised everything about me, help me fix whatever it might be that causes me to stumble when things are going well? I doubt it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not plagued by a need to hear 'sorry' from these people. I very rarely think about them on a day-to-day basis. Through the process of CBT and counselling last year, I wondered if I needed to forgive them or myself. Perhaps both? I'm not sure if I could (or want to) do either. Am I hurting myself because of that? Possibly. I don't know how to change it though. The sessions reached an end. Once a week for three months, you've had your shot kid, there's a long waiting list.
Victim blaming, victim shaming. The culture of forgiveness. Along with Stephen Fry's indefensible comments on self-pity recently, I thought more about how the two sit alongside each other. Is forgiveness really necessary to stop his bemoaned culture self-pity and allow people to move on? I'm not a victim of sexual abuse either as a child or an adult, so I hesitate to even begin trying to imagine how someone who is felt reading his comments. I was angered even by the suggestion that this is some kind of self-indulgence that I or any others take pleasure from.
Perhaps it's because of my own experiences that I feel we are so surrounded by this attitude these days. The victim must be strong. He or she must forgive and forget. "Be the bigger person," we are told. Sure thing, let me just put the last 12 years of medication, counselling, fear, anxiety, depression and struggling to survive aside and make sure that those poor bullies can sleep well tonight. And then maybe we can all live happily ever after... just because I was the bigger person and did what society expects of it's victims.