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    Brian Klein

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    • [THIS CHALLENGE IS: ACTIVE] This debate will be aired on one of our upcoming CWH shows it will be an interesting show, please remember to criticize 'ideas' not 'people' above all, please remember respect and restraint as you post your thoughts. Best of luck to you: "To the victor go the spoils." Please Note: We ask you start your post by simply posting the following before anything else: "For Atheism" or "For Christianism" on it's own line without the ["] Above all else make sure you vote!
    • My lovely mum always said that I inherited her nerves. Certainly, I was a sensitive kid, and felt the lash of depression from an early age. My first encounter with it was when I moved to senior school. The transition overwhelmed me and I felt threatened at every corner. In a bid to win some courage I started training in martial arts. My martial arts instructor was a charismatic man who took me under his wing. I was in awe of him and after a short period of subtle and insidious grooming, he asked me and some of the other boys to stay over at the club to help fix the aikido mats. That night I awoke to the feeling of a hand on my bare leg. The level of the sexual abuse that followed was not extreme, I was not raped, but the level of betrayal proved to be catastrophic. Most of that night is lost to my memory but I remember waking up the next morning knowing my childhood had ended. I have visited this place in my mind many times since but those hours still remain lost. All I remember was waking up the next day with the darkest depression squatting deep inside my breast. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone – especially not my mum. She had always warned us never to bring shame to her door, and I had made it my raison d’être never to cause her pain. What this abuser taught me implicitly with his actions was that no one could be trusted, not even those who loved you. This, of course, had a detrimental effect on my malleable mind. An incident that puts you out by a small degree as a twelve-year-old, is enough to send you completely off the grid by the time you’re thirty. At 14, I was kissing a girl in the farmer’s field and her face contorted in to the face of a man. At 15 (and for many years after) I had uncontrollable and unwelcome fantasies about the abuse. This triggered a lot of guilt and shame in me. It was only many years later, after studying psychology, that I understood this was my mind’s way of trying to gain some sort of control over my angst by re-imagining the abuse as a pleasurable experience.  As an adult I developed psychotic jealousy, imagining that every girl I dated was cheating on me. At 28, I became a nightclub bouncer in a bid to mold myself a bit of spine. I was a man with a lot of underlying rage and I displaced my anger on anyone that stepped into my orbit. It took a decade of extreme violence before I realized that I was out of control. When I nearly killed a man in a car park match fight, I knew it was time to leave. I wrote a book about my exploits, left the doors and renounced violence. During my violent days, I thought forgiveness was weak and meant letting people off. That changed when I started teaching forgiveness to my martial arts students. Certainly, I understood forgiveness intellectually but I didn’t understand it in practice until, one day, I was sitting in a café and saw my abuser sitting on the table opposite. For a split second I was twelve again, quivering with fear. But then I walked over to him.  I introduced myself and told him what he had done to me as a child and how it had affected me. He was a big man, and he tried to stand up and protest. I put my hand out and told him to sit down. He obeyed immediately. I told him that despite what he had done I was going to forgive him. I told him twice. He looked totally broken. It was as if my forgiveness shattered him. As I went to walk away, he put his hand out. I hesitated. I wanted to be free from this man’s memory and I knew that the only way to be free was to properly forgive him. So, I shook his trembling hand. When I walked away from that cafe I felt the most powerful man in the world. I had taken all my power back from him. Years later I heard that he’d committed suicide. His past caught up with him; the police were finally on his trail after thirty years. There was no celebration from me. I felt only sadness. There could be no justifying his heinous crimes but I had a lot of compassion for him. He was a man with potential, and he wasted his life. I came to realize that if someone abused me twenty years ago and I did not forgive them, they were still abusing me now, today, in fact they were literally holding me in stasis. Forgiveness gives you power not only over the here-and-now and over the future, it also deems you impervious to your past. It literally allows you to dismantle historical trauma. Post the Jimmy Saville affair, people are understandably suspicious, even angry, when you talk about forgiveness in connection with a pedophile: did I really forgive my abuser, or did I just let him off, and in doing so indirectly condone his actions and leave the way open for further abuse? The nature of such enquiries is unkind, and the subtext is loaded with judgement and implication. This is the dangerous naivety and presumption of the observer who sees only two options in sex-related abuse: a day in court or a violent revenge. Forgiveness is not even in their lexicon; they fail to see its potency. Forgiveness is pragmatic. It offers a real and lasting vengeance. - Geoff Thompson
    • My dad was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. He was the head of the house – what he said, went. My sister was a goody-goody, because even though she was ten years older than me, she was afraid of him. But I never was: if he told me to make him a cup of tea, I’d say, ‘haven’t you got legs?’ And I’d get a beating. Because of that, I never listened to him. My older brother was psychotic and I never got on with him, but my little brother was my support. He was always trying to look after me. I left home at 17 and begged my mum to do the same. She used to say, ‘I’ll leave when you are 18’, and then she’d look at my little brother and say, ‘I’ll leave when he’s 18’. But one day she rang up and said she was ready. She’d suddenly seen how my dad was dictating her life, and she wanted her freedom. We found her a little place near to where she was born and I moved in with her and my brother. Dad came home one day and his wife and son were gone. Mum and I started having the relationship we’d never had before. She was so happy and relaxed, and we’d go for coffees and just talk. She got in touch with my dad via my sister, just to let him know she was safe. She told me that she still loved him, but for who he was; not for what he had done to her. One day he called to say he had a load of post for her to collect. She had been thinking about going back for a visit anyway, so that my brother could see his old friends. But it was as if she knew something would happen, because she told me the night before that she thought he was going to kill her. Yet somehow she talked herself into it. I made her promise to wake me up in the morning so I could go with her. But she didn’t. I woke up the next morning to the police at my door and I knew instantly what had happened. My first reaction was that I had to see my dad. I had to know if he had killed her deliberately, or if it was some kind of accident. I wrote him a note saying, ‘I know what you’ve done. It’s OK. I love you and want to see you’. I signed it, ‘your daughter’, hoping he would think it was my sister and agree to see me. When he saw that it was me he burst into tears. I made up my mind there and then, that as long as he told me the truth, without a word of a lie, I would stand by him. I know that if I had been a mass murderer, my mum would still have visited me every day in prison. I tried my best to do what she would have done. He was the only link I still had with her. Throughout the trial he kept his word and never lied about what he had done, and eventually he was sentenced for manslaughter with diminished responsibility and sent to a psychiatric hospital. While he was in there we started having a proper father-daughter relationship. I’d come to him for advice on all my problems. I called him ‘Papa’, and he would tell me he loved me. He was the dad I always wanted. But he knew that if he ever started up the old behavior, he’d never see me again. My sister just couldn’t understand what I had done. She took my little brother and brought him up, but she pretended to everyone that our parents had died naturally. I never pretend. For me, it is much easier to forgive because then you can be free. She’ll have to live with her anger everyday for the rest of her life. Or worse, it might turn into regret. I’d already lived most of my life with hatred for my dad. I didn’t want it anymore. Forgiving him was such a big release. I’ll never forget what he did – but forgiving has brought me peace inside. When my dad got really ill with cancer and we knew he was going to die, my little brother asked to see him – just once, so that he could get some closure. The weak, bed-ridden figure he saw was nothing like the military man who used to bully us all. My dad told my brother he could die in peace now, knowing that his youngest child had forgiven him too. We can all make mistakes – that was the best thing my mother taught me. I now automatically look for the good in people I meet. I still miss my mum everyday; but I think she would be proud of me. - Natalia Aggiano
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