99 Reasons to Forgive by Geoff Thompson (www.o-books.com)
Forgiveness: a metaphysical power
I wrote and staged a play called Fragile.
It was the most difficult piece of writing I ever undertook.
I completed the work in two days, but it took me forty years to find the courage to sit down and write it.
It is an autobiographical narrative about how I was sexually abused when I was eleven years old.
It is not a comedy.
Actually, in truth it is less about sexual abuse, and more about the crippling aftermath of emotional abandonment; the psychological and spiritual scars that, if left untreated, can bloat and infect for decades post assault.
The play examines the cause and effect of trauma in forensic often disturbing detail.
I wrote it so that I could speak my shame, name my abuse and free my soul.
When we staged Fragile at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 2013, the newspapers were unanimous in their praise of what one reviewer called the prefect production.
The five star reviews were littered with adjectives like raw…uncompromising…brutal… earth shattering…poetic.
Another reviewer said it was the only play she had ever attended where the theatre had deemed it necessary to station The Samaritans at the door.
She was not joking.
It is a challenging story, but it is also overflowing with truth and vulnerability and love.
Ultimately it is the story of how I was able to forgive my abuser.
People are understandably suspicious, even angry when you talk about forgiveness: did I really forgive my abuser, or did I just let him off, and in doing so indirectly condone his actions and leave the way open for further abuse?
The accusatory nature of such enquiries is unkind, and the subtext is loaded with judgment and implication.
The dilemma of a victim.
This is the dangerous naivety and presumption of the observer who sees only two options in sex related abuse: a day in court or a violent revenge.
Forgiveness is not even in their lexicon, they fail to see its potency.
I tried the legal route. But, as a wizened policeman told me, they have to practically catch them in the act these paedophiles to secure any kind of conviction.
And in my adult life – cognitively damaged, dangerously insecure – I walked the path of violence. I spent a decade working as a nightclub bouncer, cracking skulls in a displaced and futile attempt at redressing a balance and avenging my lost innocence.
When you have tried and been failed by the judiciary and blood-lust turns you into a monster, what are you left with?
Where do you go from here?
When your enemy still lives at large in the world and more worryingly, some 30 years after the abuse, your enemy is still living it large in you as a warring bundle of groomed perceptions and fearful beliefs, where or to whom do you turn?
Having exhausted every other option my last bastion of hope was the bibles. I read all the big books in my search for knowledge; The Bhagavad Gita, The Holy Koran, The Five Books of Moses, The Toa Te Ching. They all contained profundities, and each proffered balm, but it was The New Testament that spoke to me loudest, more specifically Saint Paul in his letters to the Romans. (12:20)
When your enemy is hungry feed him, when he thirsts give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals fire of on his head.
It is muscular instruction and it is empirical, it came from the quill of a man who had enacted every violence before his conversion on the road to Damascus.
I decided to give forgiveness a try.
I had nothing left to lose.
Almost as soon as the decision had been made, serendipity placed my abuser before me.
I was sat in a café alone. He entered and sat on an adjacent table: I trembled with three decades of fear and rage as I walked across the No Man’s Land of uncertainty and stood before him.
You abused me when I was a boy, I said, but I forgive you…I forgive you.
I said it twice, and he crumbled before me this demon.
I forgave a paedophile…but I did not let him off.
I forgave him…but I condemn his actions.
I forgave for me, not for him or for anyone else: I did it in order to be released.
Forgiveness is pragmatic. It offers healing and closure: it is a metaphysical force.
Abuse infects, it is a virus: forgiveness is the antibody, it ‘identifies and neutralises the bacteria of perversion’.
I know because I have the proof; I am cleansed, and my abuser is dead.
He ended his own life at the end of a rope in a lonely hotel room in London.
Once I exorcised him from my mind – and be in no doubt, abuse is a possession – I cleansed my wound, by kissing it with forgiveness again and again, ad infinitum.
I knew that to win complete victory, I must follow the first attack on my suffering with a second and a third, so I gave public talks, I mentored other victims, and I wrote about my experience.
I made two films about my trauma (Romans 12:20 https://bit.ly/3jpC4ZA
and Retaliation https://bit.ly/3HS6ehD), attracting a bonafide Hollywood icon (Orlando Bloom) to our cause.
I even gave a Ted Talk https://bit.ly/3REf06g
I told my story in various formats in order to clean again, and clean again and once more clean again every last poison left by the heinous actions of a depraved man.
Like a pin in a crab shell, I needed to remove every last morsel of his abuse from every dark corner of my being.
I exposed my suffering to light, so that what was exposed to light, may itself become a light.
It would have been easy for me to fall into tabloid-hate and make my life a delicious vendetta.
But hate is darkness, and there is not joy there.
I tried hatred.
It failed me.
I could have remained a victim, a boy wheel-locked in the body of an ill functioning adult.
But it does not honour me to allow the man who decimated my trust to also steal my life.
Or, I could do something radical, something extreme and rare, I could do something biblical, something brave.
Like the alchemists of lore, I stood before the shame and the rage, and the dissonance and I bled my suffering through the nib of a pen; I re-imagined and reshaped my trauma and converted it into blocks of pure life force.
I gave my horror story a brand new narrative, a kinder arc, a happier ending. And in doing so I created an allowing for other sufferers (they are out there, and they are legion) to speak their shame, name their abuse and free their soul.
99 Reasons to Forgive by Geoff Thompson is available from www.o-books.com and from wherever books are sold.
BOOK LINK: https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/o-books/our-books/99-reasons-to-forgive