Is forgiving forgetting?
I recently read a news article about a 90 plus man who was accused of brutally assaulting his children in their younger years. The children have finally overcome their victimized hesitance and the trial is in process. It isn't my place to say one way or the other whether or not he is guilty. I want to address the process itself.
Should an aged abuser face prison time? After all, he or she is frail and the abuse took place so long ago. There are those who feel the answer should be no. The victims want to see justice done so they can move on with their lives so their obvious reply would be yes. What do I think?
It's deeper than just a simple yes or no. We need to analyze the whole picture. Here we have the abuser. He or she was in their right mind (for the most part) when they performed the abuse. And then there's the victim/victims. They are scarred and damaged--sometimes too damaged to stand up and address the abuse immediately. Sometimes it takes years to see clearly enough to even acknowledge that their abuse was wrong and not their fault. And then we have time. They say time is a leveller of all things. Not necessarily so. Time give the victim a longer space of victimization--unless they choose to forgive. That's not an easy task when the abuser is still walking free. And then the abuser is left feeling he/she is not accountable--no matter how old they are. And then there are the other possible victims that can fill that space of time. So should this old man be imprisoned?
In my view, if he is found guilty--yes. My mother, on her deathbed, said something so profound it has never left me. Through a wrinkled face yellowed with jaundice she whispered, "I still feel like I'm 20 inside." In that brief sentence, she reminded me that age doesn't change views--choice does. If the evidence points, without a shadow of a doubt, that this man abused his children, he should pay the penalty not because of law verses grace but because we all need to understand the consequences of our choices. And because the victims need to see that someone is championing their victimization.
Can they forgive him? Can society forgive him? Most certainly and Christ would tell us to do so. And in forgiving, the victim can find healing and freedom from the ongoing after effects of abuse. But to trust him is another story. To blindly release him from the consequences of his actions is opening a door to allow other abusers a chance to ignore the cruelty they have performed on another human being. In imprisoning this one man, if he is found guilty, the judicial system sends a message to all who abuse. The message is this: "We will not tolerate this. In any form. At any time." And the Christian can still try to reach him through the consequences of his actions.