Last week I wrote about the good that’s sweeping our country with the #metoo campaign. Truly, something good has begun and I want to see the momentum continue.
But momentum can also get away from us, carrying us to places we don’t want to go. If our aims include individual healing, true justice, and healthy relationships in a healthy community, we have to take care how we handle momentum.
The anger coming out right now is an example of this.
Anger is a good and right response to sexual assault and abuse. For the victim, anger can help us move from silence to telling someone, from shrinking back to reaching out for help. For the larger community, anger can move us from passivity to action, from denial and minimization to facing the hard truth, acknowledging our part in the problem, and working together toward change.
But where the momentum of anger moves us into seeking vengeance, seeking to hurt back those who have hurt us, then the movement becomes a destructive force.
Some signs that anger is sliding this way include:
Assuming guilt without fairly hearing all the information.
Insisting that the guilty cannot change, and so should never be trusted again.
Treating sexual assault or abuse as unforgivable, irredeemable sins/crimes.
Casting doubt or judgment on everyone who resembles the guilty (e.g. all men, all leaders, all priests, all athletes, all those in power, etc.).
Refusing to face one’s own wrongful reactions to the abuse they’ve experienced.
This kind of anger may feel like a protection and a comforting balm, but in the end it denies those who have been wounded what they need most.
Anger may help pull down what’s wrong, but anger cannot put things right. This is why Scripture teaches us, “For the anger of man cannot produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Goodness is needed, compassion is needed, justice is needed, healing is needed.
And for these to come, forgiveness is needed.
Fleming Rutledge, in her book The Crucifixion, observes: “Only those who are forgiven and who are willing to forgive will be capable of relentlessly pursuing justice without falling into the temptations to pervert it into injustice.” A scan of human history reveals many angry oppressors who began as oppressed ones.
Any movement, even the best intended, if it refuses forgiveness will come far short of true and thorough healing. And for the individual person who has been wounded by sexual abuse, the road to true healing and freedom must go the way of forgiveness.
From the wounds of Jesus, forgiveness flows—to all of us who need mercy for the wrongs we’ve done and to all of us who need mercy for those who have wronged us.
Next week, I’ll write specifically about forgiveness as it relates to those who have been sexually violated.
Question: Do you agree that anger can get away from us? Do you have examples?