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As my weekend came to an end, I relaxed in knowing that I’d completed and checked off everything on my to-do list. I felt content and ready for the new week to begin—or so I thought. I went to the gym early that Monday morning to squeeze in a quick workout before meeting with my first client. In the midst of my reverse crunches and tricep dips, there he was, the guy who in the course of one drunken night had changed my life forever: my rapist. Looking older and heavier, yet possessing the same unforgettable features, he stood only ten feet in front of me with his trainer, seemingly unaware of my presence. Memories began to flip through my mind like the black Rolodex that used to house all of my important contacts; memories of the weeks he had relentlessly pursued me, watching me, waiting for the right time.

“Does he have any idea of the immense pain he caused me?” I wondered. Did he know I’d quit my job shortly after what had happened, tormented for weeks on end, wanting to quit my life, too? Surely he was completely oblivious to how I’d blamed myself for being drunk and alone that night.

As I sat there on the bench in the gym that Monday morning wanting to take full advantage of this special moment I had been given, I asked myself, “What do you feel, Shawn? Honestly?” I felt relieved; I felt thankful. I had seen my rapist around town several times over the years since that awful night. Each time I saw him, I felt angry. Never once did he acknowledge what he had done or take responsibility for his actions. He even denied it when I and others close to me confronted him. Even though I was easily able to recall the memories of that horrible event, there was no denying that seeing him this time was noticeably different. I didn’t experience the rapid breathing pattern or the sensation of wanting to run and hide from the shame as I had done before. No, things had changed. Most importantly, I had changed! My endless hours of prayer, deep emotional work, and therapy have established me in a much better place. I didn’t feel the anger any more. “Are you sure you’ve forgiven him?” I thought. Well aware that forgiveness is not a feeling but a choice, I made the decision once again to forgive, just in case there was any piece of me that had not. I inwardly asked God to help me let go of any remaining residue of pain and to have mercy on this one who had hurt me so deeply.

FORGIVENESS is the healing ointment to the aching wounds of disappointment; the key that unlocks the prison door of anger. FORGIVENESS is the medicine that cleanses the soul from the poisonous toxicity of bitterness and resentment. To choose FREEING FORGIVENESS is to choose LIFE.

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