The Toxic Relationship Between Religion and Forgiveness

When turning the other cheek means looking the other way

Kathy Parker
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readDec 7, 2023

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Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” ~ Matthew 5:39

“Turning the other cheek is for people who want to look the other way.” ~ The Suspect, Michael Robotham

It is sometime in the early 2000’s. I couldn’t tell you exactly when, or what month, or even what kind of day it was. I vaguely recall heat on the dashboard as I drove to my mother’s house, so perhaps summer, but memory is, as said by Carolyn Jess Cooke, too complex, too tentacled, to boil down to a linear narrative.

I arrive at my mother’s house, stand on the front porch and knock on the door. She is not expecting me and this shows in her hesitation as she unfastens the lock and tries to hide the surprise on her face. I’m not sure what I say at this point, only that I probably ask to speak to him — the boyfriend who beat me ten years earlier as she watched, and did nothing.

He comes to the door, stands in the archway of the stone house and his presence does not seem to loom as large as it has in my mind all these years but still, I am unnerved. I clear my throat; inhale a shallow breath as words begin to tumble from my mouth in disjointed apprehension.

“I wanted to tell you… I’m here because… I just need to say that… that… I forgive you.”

The words land into the chasm between him and I and there is a pause and he weeps and my mother weeps and they are not weeping because I have granted forgiveness but because I have granted what they perceive as acceptance of their relationship and I walk back to my car and there are no hallelujah choruses; no trumpets nor hymns of praise nor beams of light shining from heaven and to be honest, I am feeling jaded as fuck.

This wasn’t something I did because I wanted to. I didn’t actually forgive him, or her, or them. I was merely ticking the box I believed was required to be good Christian girl earning her ticket to heaven. It didn’t feel good, or honest, or true. All I felt I had done was absolve the guilt of someone who had never apologised for the gravity of his crimes against me. I…

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