Forgive Me for Being Unforgiving
DEAR EXENE: A friend of mine recently warned me that a former close friend who recently got out of drug rehab is trying to "make amends" with me after two years of not seeing him—it's part of his rehab program to reach out to people he hurt. This guy—we'll call him "Chris"—and I were good friends from childhood and knew each other for most of our lives. Several years ago, while we were in college, Chris lost his job and fell into a depression that led to drug use. Eventually, he was fully hooked on meth, and I tried to slowly distance myself from him. One day, he came to my house while I wasn't home and tried to break in and steal some of my grandmother's jewelry he knew I'd stashed away. I caught him while he was inside my apartment, and he totally snapped on me and threatened to beat the shit out of me with a crowbar before running off empty-handed. I was terrified. I can still picture the anger on his face. I personally don't want to talk to him, but I know it's really important to him. I just can't bring myself to do it. Is it wrong of me to avoid him and deny him whatever closure he's looking for? I just feel like any forgiveness on my end wouldn't be genuine.
DEAR SARAH: Chris can make amends by writing down what he has to say and handing it to your mutual friend, who then can hand-deliver it to you. Then can you accept his amends, without any face-to-face contact. You don't have to read it, and if you do read it, you don't have to respond. You seem very compassionate, so that might be a good way to handle it. Something more important, though: You say you "tried to slowly distance myself from him." You should have rapidly distanced yourself. You probably sensed there was something off with him since you were very young. If you did, you were trying to protect yourself, which is good. But after he broke into your home, tried to steal your most cherished possessions and threatened you with a crowbar, your story ends. Did you call the police and press charges? If not, why not? Too much compassion, maybe? Or maybe too scared?
Chris got away with what he did to you. And then he probably went on to do it to someone else because he wasn't stopped. I know many women who have endured brutality at the hands of men and were just too scared of retribution if they went to the police to press charges—including me. That has to stop. The women who came before us have had to fight hard for every right they have. And we should honor them, ourselves and our daughters by not being victims, by standing up for ourselves, by overcoming our fear, and by fighting back, too.
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