I was recently advised by my spiritual director to write a letter to the man who groomed me. What I ultimately wrote was something that I did not foresee.
I had never realized, or perhaps let myself realize, how much my teenage self admired and loved the man who ultimately used me for his own gratification. In hindsight, I can see that’s exactly why he was able to use me in the way that he did. This letter was the product of repressed grief stemming from that affection. I taught myself to hide from this grief for nearly a decade. But you can only hide from yourself for so long.
One of the very reasons I was vulnerable to abuse in the first place was because of my tendency to hide within myself in moments of stress or trauma (kind of like Adam and Eve when God came looking for them after the fall). My healing process has been a process of learning to live completely in the light. For me, this letter was a major step in doing so and ultimately giving all that was previously hidden to the One who can make me new.
What is written below is my teenage self finally having the ability to articulate all she was feeling through the mind of her twenty-five year old self. I now know that there is a vast difference between the capabilities of those two brains. I share in order to help all who may feel uncomfortable accepting the feelings that were evoked in them by those who had power over them, just as I did. Perhaps, your reaction to what happened is completely human. In recognizing your humanity, maybe you can learn to love yourself more. I’m beginning to love the teenager I once hated and she needs that.
Sections and details written in the original letter have been omitted for the sake of identity concealment and prudent disclosure:
I distinctly remember the day I met you. At the time I couldn’t understand why you stood out to me so much. But perhaps God was giving me some sort of spiritual insight I would later need. We first met when I was 13 years old. You were at my parish for the
…. …, when I looked at your face and at your eyes, I felt extremely sorrowful and empty. I couldn’t get it out of my head for a while. However, something about you also made me joyful and it was very confusing. I had forgotten about that moment by the time you started messaging me 3 years later. But as I’ve reflected on everything that occurred the past several years, it came back.
I have no idea how to say what I need to say to you. Maybe I can start with the fact that I was in love with you for a long time when I was just a teenager. I don’t think those feelings will ever go away but the feelings have changed as my understanding of love has. I was so angry with you. For years I went between wanting to you punch you in the face and wanting to give you a long hug on a daily basis. Do you have any idea what you did to my heart? Do you realize how much you meant to me and how much affect you had on me? Did you ever love me for who I was? Or was I just something you were attracted to. I desperately wanted you to love me.
…..I was so mad at myself for feeling the way I did about you. I knew it would end with me hating myself. I hated myself so much.
As I’ve grown into adulthood, I’ve began to understand why I felt so strongly about you. You gave me attention when I didn’t feel like anyone else genuinely cared. With the frequency and content of your messages its no surprise to me know why things happened the way they did. My teenage brain wanted to believe you. The horrible thing is that I was smart enough to know what was happening but not strong enough to put an end to it. I left for college with a very conflicted heart.
…at Cal I met ….He ended up completely breaking my heart. This heart break was the final straw that led me to change my life. During my first semester I …began attending a bible study and met two friends who would play an important role in helping me let go of you.
I met a group of people who were pursuing a life of chastity. They were the most joyful people I had ever met in my life and I wanted that so much. Eventually I was able to attain it, but it took a lot more than just putting an end to the things that were sexually inappropriate in my life. I had to replace those things with something that would give me lasting joy. I found that in an authentic relationship with the Eucharist. Previously, I had resorted to sexual sin when the desires I had to be loved and known were not being met because of my fear of vulnerability. I think that’s what you do to whether you are aware of it or not.
Cutting off communication with you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It literally took an act of God to make that happen. He saved me from your inability to protect me from yourself. I definitely didn’t have the ability to protect you from me. I tried. The day I stopped talking to you I felt like my soul was bleeding. It took everything I had to push send on the message I had spent days drafting which I’m not sure if you ever actually saw. I cried so much. I felt like I was dead inside.
Because of you, I began going to adoration every day with greater intentionality and authenticity. I had to learn how to speak to Jesus with complete vulnerability. The ache of your absence lead me there. And Christ began to mysteriously fill the wounds in my heart that I previously used you to hide and conceal from myself.
Had it not been for you and this chaos– I wouldn’t have the amazing life I do now. I think you did to me what someone once did to you,
….And I am so sorry.
……………I forgive you for everything.
Those who abused you do not define who you are and they never did. You know who does. He thirsts for you way more than I ever did for your (authentic) love. And I know that’s unbearable.
Forgiving him is not something that I could ever do on my own but only through redirecting the distorted affection towards love for Christ. In Christ filling the wounds of my heart, as discussed in the letter, he can now act through me if I remain in Him. This is what He does for us and this is our path to freedom.
Writing this letter has been one of the most healing experiences of my life. While I realized a long time ago that direct contact with my abuser would be extremely harmful for my mental and spiritual health because of the mental power he has over me, I made the decision to give this letter to someone who I know could get it to him. I have no certainty if he will actually receive it (and maybe he’s not supposed to) but if God wills it, I know it will happen in His time.