From experience, I know that the old saying that every man is a dog is simply not true, but I have, unfortunately, met men who qualify as curs, mean and cowardly persons, as unfriendly as mongrel dogs. Having been raised only by women, and never having lived in a house with a male and female in a relationship together, I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for in a man who would treat me in the right way.
I just had no clue what a good relationship looked like, so, I had to learn by trial and error, and that leaves much room for making huge mistakes in the choosing of a mate. But, one thing that I have learned as a woman of God is that even the most cowardly and unfriendly man need God’s love, if he is to change and find enough peace in his life to stop hurting others.
When I was in the hospital after months of being beaten, I remember just being glad to still be alive. I asked about the man who put me there, and I found out that his sisters had taken him back to their hometown to keep him from going to jail. Many people, including one of his sisters, saw him hit me so hard that I landed on the hood of a car parked nearby and bounced off onto the ground. His sisters understood that there were too many witnesses for him to avoid being arrested, so they loaded him in their car and hightailed him back home.
I did not see him again for over 40 years, but over that time period, I had come to hate him with a passion, and it was my deepest desire that one day he would hit the wrong woman and she would kill him. I wanted him to get a taste of his own medicine, to feel the same fear, anxiety, and physical and mental pain that he had inflicted on me. And not just him, but also my first husband who had nearly strangled me to death. I could not find it in my heart to forgive them. I just wished them both the worst lives possible.
As someone who had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was nine years old, I had heard so many sermons on forgiveness, and for years, I would have told you that I had long forgiven them both. Yet, when I went out and spoke on domestic violence and recounted the stories of my abuse, if asked about what happened to them, I could feel myself hoping that nothing good ever happened in their lives. The anger and bitterness was still very much a part of me, and when I heard myself suggesting that women aim well-placed kicks in men’s most vulnerable place, I knew that had to find a way to let the hurt go, so that I could be at peace.
It was as though they still had some kind of power over me, affecting me physically, mentally, and spiritually. One day, I realized that the only way to take back my power was to truly forgive them. But, how do you forgive someone who has never asked to be forgiven? Doesn’t forgiveness require the person to say they are sorry and then repent of their sins against us? Not necessarily!
What I did was pretend that they were in front of me listening as I recounted what it was like being mistreated, and then I said to them, “I forgive you, and I hope that you can find the peace you need in your life so that you don’t feel that you have to hurt other people.” It was then, and still is, my hope that they might find the salvation of God, for even the most cowardly person needs the love of God in their lives, if they are to change and become truly human, complete with compassionate attitudes and desires to always treat people as they themselves wish to be treated.
What it took for me to get to a place of healing and letting go of the anger and hate in me was for me to really read the passages on forgiveness in the Bible and truly let the words seep down into my heart and soul. For example, Ephesians 4:31-32 states, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God through Christ forgave you.” And, Colossians 3:13 reminds us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Thank God for the forgiveness of my sins!
I wrote before that I met the first guy again after 40 years, and as he complimented me on my still-beautiful smile, I felt so sorry for him, for he was in a wheelchair, having lost a leg to diabetes. I prayed that he might find peace and joy in Christ Jesus, and have a good life. I was able to be civil and polite to him, realizing that he had no more power over my emotions. I have not seen the other one in over 32 years, but I hope he is happy and that he has Jesus in his life.
Forgiving others cleanses us and gives us the ability to find the peace and joy that God alone provides to His children. Until Christ returns, there will be curs, people who are mean and cowardly, folks who enjoy hurting others and who have no compassion in their hearts, just as unfriendly as a mongrel dog. But I would argue that the mongrel dog, or cur, simply needs to be loved for him or her to change. These are the people who need God in their lives the most. So, as people of God, we must continually pray for these lost souls, forgiving them for the pain and havoc they bring into our lives, for it is God’s expectation. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus told the disciples to forgive “seventy times seven.” That’s a lot! But when we forgive others, it opens the door for God to do a necessary work in their lives and in our lives.