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Innocent Bystanders

Recently, I saw something that rocked me to my core, a face I never expected to see accused of a crime I never expected to hear in the local news. When we hear news of criminal acts, our first response is often anger, repulsion, a desire for justice, punishment or even revenge. When victims of such acts are those without a voice, such as children or animals, our response is magnified.

All too often we forget the innocent bystanders.

When these stories are told, it is usually only the perpetrator and victims mentioned. The families of those committing the crimes are not. They too, are victims and now bear the weight of shame simply by being related. Families are left forever changed. Those who chose to be loving spouses, children and grandchildren are forever marked with the choices of another. Shame leaves a residue. Its cost? Friendships, jobs, their home, their peace, their trust.

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

This brought to mind an event from my early years. Trust and innocence stolen at the hand of a friend’s father during a sleepover. This was almost forty years ago, when you waited all year to watch your favorite movie on one of three television channels. My favorite movie aired that night. During the movie is when it happened. I have yet to watch that movie again.

I didn’t speak about what happened that night for fear punishment. Keeping these stories hidden often leads to deeper wounds in the victims. Most of the time, hiding the truth only protects the ones who do harm.

I struggled for many years with forgiveness. I thought it meant I was letting him off the hook, saying his behavior was okay. But that’s not what forgiveness is.

Forgiveness means you are releasing the fear, hurt and anger from your body, heart and life. You release shackles keeping you stuck. You release layers of shame so you can rise in the way you were meant to. Forgiveness sets you free.

I think back to the friendship that changed dramatically that night all those years ago. I withdrew for fear of it happening again. That night, my friend was an innocent bystander of her father’s actions. I wonder how many friends she lost at the hand of her father? Did he do the same to her? How much did she suffer because of his actions?

And I realize, I have to forgive her too. Each day we are faced with a choice—to act and live from a place of love or fear. Regardless of our choice, our actions have a ripple effect. One path edifies while the other destroys.

Harmful actions have far-reaching effects that extend beyond the perpetrator to their families, their workplace, their friends, their community. Fear puts others on guard and they close their hearts a little more. Pain and scars run deep. We may be tempted to lose faith in humanity, wondering why bother with good while there is so much bad. In a way, I guess we all become innocent bystanders.

In moments like this, it is imperative we hold fast to our truth and continue shining our light. For those of us called to stand for light, the time to stand is now, to shine how we are meant to. In our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplace. No job or position is insignificant, no voice too small. Whether you are a parent teaching your child how to be a decent person amidst all the indecency or a neighbor helping another neighbor in need, it all counts.

Love and healing is needed, forgiveness in its time.

We need to have the difficult conversations. We must bring these issues into the light. The silence has lasted too long. For those of you who suffered at the hands of another, you must realize and understand that even though acts of darkness were committed against you at a time when you had no voice, you are not that darkness and now you have a voice.

You may have been victimized, but you are not a victim unless you choose to remain so. Yes, healing is needed. Time and space is needed. But you are not meant to remain in this place. Do whatever you must to find peace and forgiveness in your heart. Forgiveness is not about them, it’s about you.

Sometimes we are called to be the voice for those who are kept silent. We must lead with light. This is not easy by any means. When you choose to forgive, feelings and emotions will still rise up within you. This is a normal part of the process. When they do come up, you must choose again to release them. You do this over and over, until one day you realize the pain is lessening and the wound is healing. This is the work. It is a battle of the mind in every sense.

Hanging onto pain will keep you in this place. Until you confront the darkness within your mind, you will remain as you are—stuck, chained, frozen. You alone hold the key to your freedom.

To become free, you must surrender.

It is counterintuitive, I know. If you’re like I was, you fear falling apart if you loosen your grip. Yes, you might fall apart, but you won’t be destroyed. You will come back together, stronger than you ever imagined. You are created for more, dear one. You have been gifted with this one big glorious life. It is meant for you to live fully.

Here’s a few things that helped me on the path to freedom…

Choose your focus carefully. Wherever you put your focus grows. If you continue to fill your mind with fearful and angry thoughts, you will remain fearful and angry. You can't change the past, but you can change how you respond in the present. Do things that make you feel good, that make you feel love. Volunteer. Paint. Go for walks in nature. Cuddle an animal. Helping my rescue pup heal from his wounds helped heal mine.

Get some help. Find a trusted counselor or coach to help you get started and walk with you as needed. Friends are great and are an essential part of your support team, but sometimes it’s helpful to have an unbiased third party to help you see things from a fresh perspective. They also have tools, techniques and most importantly, training to help you take the steps to heal and live an empowered life.

Get in tune with your inner voice. This is a biggie. You know yourself better than anyone else. Unfortunately, this voice may feel silent, like it’s buried beneath a pile of muck. As you do the work, this voice will grow clearer and stronger. Listen to it. It will guide you on your path to healing. How do you recognize it? It’s the voice that speaks with love to you at all times. No judgment here.

This is your time to heal, to allow yourself to live your life fully. You were never intended to remain on the sidelines, only supporting the dreams and lives of others. Unbury your light. Shine as only you were created to.

But, if you are the one doubting the power of good, if you have lost hope and feel there is simply too much bad in the world, do one small act of kindness today.

I dare you.

No, you won’t feel like it, but you will gain something from it. In doing a simple act of kindness, you begin to restore your hope from within. Your finite humanness houses the infinite, but it is up to you to allow it to come forth. It requires your action to manifest. It is the intention, not the size, of the action that matters.

Say hello to the store clerk who is numbly going through the paces, unseen by others before you. Treat a friend to coffee who is going through a tough time. Reach out. Make a human connection. This little infusion of light reminds others that goodness still exists. It gives them hope.

You may wonder, What if I get embarrassed? What if it’s for nothing?

No matter how small you think you are or how insignificant your reach, every act of kindness counts. Genuine human connection is at the core of healing our world. Every act of good raises the collective vibration of the planet. Even if someone laughs at you, ignores you or even gets angry with you, I guarantee you will give them pause. You plant a seed.

Start with you. Be kind to yourself so you can shine your beautiful light.

Everything you seek begins with you.

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