Friday, January 25, 2013

30 Days of Truth: Days 3 and 4

Something you have to forgive yourself for

Hmmm... three days into this thing and I'm already unsure about how much I'm willing to share. The point of this challenge is to be totally honest, to write like nobody is reading; and while I'm really making an effort to do just that, I feel like sharing too much on this particular topic has the potential to hurt other people. 

There are things that I need to forgive myself for and I believe that in time, I will. But forgiveness (even self-forgiveness) is a process, and I'm not at a point of absolution just yet. There are demons yet to be faced and things I'm not quite ready to share with the world.

So, all I'm going to say for now is that I'm working on this one. Every single day

Something you have to forgive someone for

I'm generally a very forgiving person. I don't carry grudges often. I've been known to give second, third, and even fourth chances even when they're not very well deserved. Very simply put, I figure that the people worth having in my life are also worthy of being forgiven. We all make mistakes, I get that. To withhold my own forgiveness when I so often ask for that of others would just be ridiculous. It's always been fairly easy for me to wipe the slate clean... most of the time, that is.

As I thought about this post, something immediately came to mind. Years ago (close to ten years to be exact) there was someone who hurt me and I don't think I've ever truly forgiven them. 

I grew up very active in the Mormon church. Somewhere between the ages of 15 and 16 I'd begun questioning whether or not I truly believed in the church's teachings. I had a lot of very real questions, as I think all of members of the church do at some point, but I had made a conscious decision to really try to figure things out. I was studying the scriptures and praying harder than ever before. I was attending all my church activities and I rarely missed a day of Seminary (even though everyone in my high school knew it was the one period you could sluff and totally get away with it). I was honestly seeking answers for myself instead of relying on the testimony of my parents and friends, but I was struggling. 

During this same time, I met a boy. He wasn't a member of the church and just about everyone in my life at the time told me he was bad news. Looking back I realize he was exactly the kind of boy I wouldn't want my 16 year old daughter dating, but I was young and incredibly dumb... and date him, I did!  He was a cowboy which made my little teenage heart swoon. He was also nice and funny and, sure, a bit of a "bad boy", but we sure had a lot of fun together. And contrary to popular belief, it was innocent fun! I was still going to church but began missing the weeknight activities to spend time with him, cruising the dirt roads with the windows rolled down and the music cranked up in his old Ford pickup or hanging out with his family (seriously, we did it all the time). 

And that's when the rumors started. 

The simple fact that I was dating a "rebellious" cowboy was enough to really get people talking. I'm not even sure what all was said or how bad the rumors got (the little bit I heard was pretty awful) but I do know that things began to change for me. The girls at church and a lot of my friends from school, people that I'd been friends with since childhood, started treating me differently. They wouldn't speak to me or even make eye contact with me in the halls at school, but once Wednesday rolled around, there they were - flashing their friendliest smile as they invited me to the Young Women's activity that night. I felt as if I had become their project. "Everyone be sure to invite Jenny, we need to get her back on the straight and narrow!"

I started to feel very uncomfortable at church each Sunday since nobody would talk to me there either, including most of my leaders. I was still honestly trying to find my footing in the church, so one day I told my boyfriend that I was actually going to attend my Young Women's activity instead of ditching it for a date with him. 

It was pretty quiet when I entered the activity room that evening. People seemed genuinely surprised that I had shown up. The experience was just about what I had expected - some sort of craft followed by refreshments; me awkwardly trying to make conversation with people who used to be some of my closest friends. As the evening came to an end, one of the leaders asked several of the girls if she could give us a ride home. We all piled into her van and she began dropping us off one by one. I noticed that the route she was taking would make me her last drop-off. I also realized that this meant she wanted to talk with me alone.

I rubbed my sweaty palms on my jeans as she pulled into my driveway. I was nervous, but actually looking forward to talking to her. I was hoping this conversation would help clear the air, maybe settle some of the rumors. I figured that she would put her arm around me and tell me that everything would be okay; that we all question things sometimes but that it was important to keep pushing forward. I wanted (and expected) her to be caring, to be kind, to be my leader

We sat there in silence for probably a full minute. When she finally looked at me with tears in her eyes, she said grimly, "I think it's about time you had a talk with the bishop, don't you?" 

I didn't say a word, just let myself out of the vehicle and slammed the door shut as I walked away. I realized in that moment that she believed all the rumors. She assumed, like so many other people, that I had gone off the deep end and was doing... who knows what? Instead of asking me what was going on or offering any words of wisdom, she told me it was time to confess my alleged "sins" to the bishop. In a moment when I was vulnerable and in desperate need of something to grasp onto, instead of being my leader or my counselor,  she was just another accuser. 

I stopped going to church soon after that. I also started intentionally making some of those rumors come true. I figured that if everyone already thought I was doing it, I might as well be. I really, really lost myself for a couple years and during that time I made a lot of decisions I wish I hadn't. And for a long time, I blamed it on the people at church... especially her

As time went on, I was able to sort through some things and I realized that none of my decisions could be blamed on anyone but me. I came to terms with the fact that people are imperfect and can't be expected to say or do the right thing in every situation. It also became clearer to me why everyone made assumptions about me the way they did. I realized how my own actions came into play throughout the whole experience, and I was able to move past a lot of the hurt I had once felt. 

I never did become active in the church again. As an adult and as a person who is continually searching for goodness and ways to connect with God, I can honestly say that not being an active member of the LDS church (or any church) has nothing to do with that particular woman, or anyone else I used to go to church with for that matter. I am happy with the path I'm on right now and I don't have any negative feelings towards the church. I am no longer bitter about that time in my life and I no longer blame anyone but myself for my choices. 

So why do I say that I still need to forgive her? 

Because no matter how many times I tell myself I'm over it, no matter how hard I try to forget that night, the memory of those words and the accusation in her voice still cut like a knife. 

"I think it's about time you had a talk with the bishop, don't you?" 

I could have reacted differently. I could have calmly explained to her that I knew some of the things that were being said, but that they were not true and I was deeply hurt by them. I could have chosen to keep going to church and keep looking for the answers I needed, despite the way other people chose to treat me. I could have cried out for the help I needed at that time. I could have changed the course that my life took for the next couple years. All of that was my responsibility.

But the fact that her words and their implied accusations caused me to second-guess everything having to do with the church and the gospel; the recollection of her breaking my heart when I so desperately needed a leader and friend... those feelings have been pretty hard to get over, I guess. 

I still see this person occasionally. Not very often and usually just in passing, like at the grocery store or post office. We exchange polite smiles and a friendly hello but inside, for just a tiny moment, I feel like that 16 year old girl all over again: lost, alone and completely let down by someone that should have been there for me. 

So that's it... that's my something I really need to forgive and forget. I've held onto it for entirely too long. 


This post is part of the 30 Days of Truth challenge. 
For a list of all the prompts and corresponding posts, click here.
If you decide to participate, please link to your blog in the comments!


  1. Jenny,

    I continue to be absolutely amazed at how well you write and can put your thoughts into words so eloquently. You have the gift to inspire others no doubt.

    It's sad that this leader wasn't there for you at such a critical time in your life but it is good to know that you have forgiven and moved on even though you were hurt so deeply.

    A great post and ranks up there among one of your best.


    Larry (GA)

  2. Thank you, Larry! I really didn't know how much of that story I was going to share, but as I began writing, the words just kept coming.

    Writing about this experience was good for me, and I believe I was able to get just a little more closure as I wrote those last paragraphs. That in itself is reason enough to treasure this post myself, but knowing it's also enjoyable for someone else read is always nice. :)

    Thank you, Larry, for your continued visits to my blog and for your always thoughtful comments. Your kind words mean so much to me!

  3. Wow - what a harsh and painful experience for an impressionable teen girl. I think I would feel scarred by that, too! In a completely different way, I had a very rough experience with a leader (seminary teacher in this case) in high school and it took me a LONG time before I was able to feel at all ok in my heart about her. It's still a little odd on the rare occasions I do see her (in my parents old ward in NC)...


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