Young women search for forgiveness in cycle of violence

Once a week I run a program out of the youth custody centre in Burnaby.  I work with a group of girls who experience a wide range of life challenges; most of these challenges relate to some form of violence against them. They have found a false sense of authentic power by creating or engaging in violence, in and around their own lives, resulting in incarceration.

In the program we work through a coaching series that helps the girls self-identify and understand how they fit into the world, rather than how they need to fit themselves into the world based on external pressures. After self discovery work, group building, and skill development they create a project they deem important to them.

This week I asked them to start brainstorming ideas for their project and the concept of forgiveness came up. One girl was particularly vocal. I was so intrigued that I asked her to explain.

As background, I feel it is important to mention that this girl has been incarcerated for two years. Many would describe her as articulate, thoughtful and really silly at times. She is respectful and strong. Her crime, due to being under the influence, reflects none of these qualities.

We all make mistakes in life, she explained, and some of these mistakes have some pretty serious consequences. She carries so much guilt with her about her (past) actions, she added. She wished that she could be absolved of the pain she caused to her own body, her spirit, and to the people that her crimes affected.

Her goal is to learn how to forgive others. “What if there was a day or something we could put together where we could create a chance for us and others to get or give forgiveness in our own way…” she paused, “… so we can change for good.”

What powerful insight - to give and to receive forgiveness each in our own way.

I started thinking about my life and how forgiveness has played such an important part in my journey and in the lives of so many of the young women with whom I’ve worked.

Violence and its pain simply breed more of the same.  We all carry something with us, regardless of whether we are considered “at risk” or whether we just have some challenges in our lives. We want to change.

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