what happens when we know the harasser?

On Wednesday many watched NBC’s “Today Show” anchor, Savannah Guthrie, struggle to maintain her poise as she announced the firing of Matt Lauer due to alleged sexual misconduct. Shortly after 7 a.m., Guthrie announced the termination of her professional peer and personal friend.

“… As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this…

… We are heartbroken.

I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many, many people here.

And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

Guthrie was visibly, emotionally shaken.

In recent weeks accusations have been made toward many. Primarily toward men at this point, the alleged bad behavior knows no bounds, as its been accused in men of all ages, races, parties, etc. — even in men who have long claimed to be advocates for women.

One respected friend of mine, who has long professionally advocated for women and victims of abuse and domestic violence, was asked this week if she was surprised. “No, not at all.” For years she’s heard stories; for years she’s worked with victims. For years she’s been aware of the probability of kept secrets by our favorite anchors, actors, teachers, business owners, etc. Even by our friends.

That’s the challenge; is it not?

There is no defense for the man who harasses a woman. (True, there is no defense for the woman who harasses a man, but such is not part of the current cultural conversation.) But what happens, when the person who behaves badly — like Lauer and Guthrie — is known and loved by us?

What happens when we know them?

As Guthrie stated at the end of her announcement, “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”

Does knowing the person — and knowing them well — change anything?

It certainly does not change the lack of defense (… and on a total tangent, I’d really like to see our defense of the person not alter or be more or less grace-giving pending party affiliation or fear of losing that person’s potential vote… wrong is wrong is wrong…).

But here’s the challenge… There will be a “next.” There will be a “next” for Matt Lauer, a “next” for Kevin Spacey, a “next” for Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and all those accused. There’s a whole list of accusations; granted, we don’t know at this point if they are all true. But if to the extent that the allegations are true and the abuser is repentant and remorseful — if they humble themselves and change from their wicked ways — do we allow them to have a “what’s next”?

Do we allow them to serve their time, so-to-speak, and then positively contribute to society once again?

Or are they now deemed incapable? … we’re simply done with them, and they just need to be quiet and fade into the backdrop of life so we never hear from them any more?

Or… (and this is a big “or”) does it depend on if we know and love them?

In other words, assuming individual repentance, do we only forgive those we know? Or do we forgive none of them?

This is today’s zillion dollar question, friends. And it’s a tough one. Please know, too, that forgiveness never equates to an absence of wise boundaries, an ignorance of consequence, nor pretending that the offense never happened. Forgiveness instead means we release our anger and resentment toward a person, recognizing how the fiercely holding on primarily only hurts us.

Are we selective in our offering and withholding of forgiveness and acceptance?

Or again, as Guthrie states, “… How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”