As a Christian, forgiveness is an important aspect of my faith.
It's not always easy. I will be the first to admit that I have held onto grudges longer than I should have. I didn't forgive a kid until we graduated for calling me fat in fifth grade, so believe me when I say I know that forgiveness is a lot easier said than done.
Recently, I uncovered some information about myself that really tested my faith in forgiveness. It wasn't until I was weeping in church praying that God take away my pain, that I realized I hadn't truly given my troubles to Him. Yes, I had asked for His guidance, strength, and comfort, but I was carrying this hatred in my heart for someone that had caused me so much pain and suffering. I was allowing my utter disgust for them to fill me with an intense anger, leaving me bitter and unhappy. When I finally... Truly... Gave my anger to God the bitterness subsided and I started working my way toward happiness.
I believe it is vital to your psyche to forgive the people that harm you.
But, forgiving someone and letting your own pain go doesn't mean that person should get a pass for abusing you.
If this is your first time reading one of my articles, this is the fifth installment of a series entitled "Small Towns, Big Secrets." The series discusses domestic violence in small towns and is narrated through the stories of Mae Matthews, Lynn Mitchell, and their abuser Cody Smith. My previous articles detailed Mae's story of survival. They were together for four years, and in that time, he physically, sexually, verbally, psychologically, and financially abused her. He ripped the hair from her head, he isolated her from her friends and family, and the breaking point was when he beat her while holding their 5-week old son. Mae is the definition of a survivor.
I have no idea why or how, but Cody has over 4,000 friends on Facebook and depending on the content, receives anywhere from 15 to 100 reactions on his posts. Most are riddled with grammatical errors and profanity, and some simply don't make sense.
I am not friends with Cody on Facebook, but all of his posts from 2017 onward are available to the public. Previous to the release of the initial article, I began monitoring his page.
He makes a lot of Facebook live videos and in the majority of them, is clearly driving. I don't claim to know the specifics of the laws in this state, but I can't imagine filming yourself while driving is a safe decision to make. Some of these live videos also take place with him out and about after his curfew - a violation of his probation.
But, for me, the most upsetting content on his page are the posts concerning his current on-again-off-again girlfriend who is pregnant with his child. It's not so much the overly gushy posts when they're together or the scathing posts when they're not that bother me. It's the fact that the Facebook interactions between this couple are eerily similar to the posts and comments made when Cody and Mae were together.
I worked with Mae for four months, and during that time personally witnessed Cody's abuse. We worked right next to each other and joked that her baby, Giovanni, would probably know my voice more than Cody's considering we spent so much of our time together. So, Mae would confide in me when the two were having issues. I noticed a pattern.
Leading up to a split, they would both post overly romantic appreciation posts about each other... Professing their love and thanking each other for being the "best". A week or so following these mushy posts they would break up. Mae would stay off social media, and Cody would double down on his unintelligible rage posts.
It was during their breakups that Mae would give me glimpses into their relationship. She would have to get a new phone number following a breakup because he would flood it all day with harassing phone calls and texts (all of which were later used in his criminal case). During their biggest breakup that I witnessed, the time that he locked her out of their apartment (which she paid for) leaving her only what she had on that day, she told me that he sometimes hit her. When I gently told her that that was not okay, she would immediately backpedal and say it wasn't that big of a deal. I knew that wasn't the case, but I couldn't make her tell me the truth. It was clear she was being abused, but she didn't have the strength to speak out yet.
When they got back together, the lovey-dovey posts returned.
Watching the exact same pattern play out on social media with his current girlfriend concerns me. Even though Mae was trapped in a cycle of abuse, her social media persona sung Cody's praises.
So, in theory, wouldn't it be safe to assume that his current girlfriend is dealing with similar types of abuse?
Recently, there has been a theme to his posts: father's rights.
There is a 13-year order of protection in place for Mae and Giovanni. Following his six month incarceration, Cody and his family filed to have the order of protection lifted. This was subsequently denied and Mae was notified.
Naturally, these posts concern Mae. Especially when comments are made by his family members like, "Stupid B*TCH!!!!", "YOUR DAY IS COMING SON(sic)!!!!" and "A-Fckn-MEN." She is terrified he will try to get custody of Giovanni.
Fathers do deserve to be in their children's life. But, when that father continuously abused the mother of his child and put that baby's life in danger, he loses that right.
Cody, sharing videos or attention-grabbing posts about the plight of a father after a breakup and using them as a tool to garner sympathy and praise from your Facebook followers does not undo the years of pain and suffering you inflicted on Mae.
It doesn't undo the time you bashed her face off the dashboard of your truck or the multiple times you choked her until she was gasping for air. You didn't care about your daughter who didn't make it out of the womb when you suffocated her mother with a pillow. You weren't thinking about your yet unborn son when you repeatedly hit, beat and spat at his mother. You didn't care about your son when you shoved his mother into the wall, punching her while she held your 5-week old son.
Posting statuses about how much you miss your son or plastering his hospital pictures all over your page don't make up for the fact you didn't contribute (financially, emotionally, physically) AT ALL during her pregnancy or the five weeks you were in Giovanni's life.
The stories of his abuse are unbelievable. There is simply not enough time to recount every abusive act he inflicted on Mae.
And that is why they were granted a 13-year order of protection against him.
Sympathetic posts are not indicative of change. Character is, and he remains the same egotistical shallow man that he has always been.
I have no idea if Cody will try to petition for custody again. But, if he does, I will be standing right behind Mae and will do everything I can to prevent that from happening.
Mae has forgiven Cody. But, that does not mean she should have to hand her child, her entire world, over to that ticking time bomb of a man.