I was recently reading a blog about abuse and how the victims of emotional child abuse are often blamed for their anger and told to forgive without any regard for their feelings.
The author was angry, and understandably so. She vented about why should she forgive her abuser who firstly did want forgiveness and secondly wouldn’t even admit to any wrong doing!
The truth is that forgiveness is often glibly trotted out as a solution to all of our emotional problems and traumas.
Unhelpful clichés like
“Oh get over it, you need to stop being so angry”
“You just need to forgive them and get on with your life”
are frequently voiced by often well-meaning but ill informed friends, family or colleagues.
To victims of abuse or any sort of maltreatment or wrong doing at all, this sort of brush off is incredibly hurtful and deeply lacking in empathy. You can’t just forgive the person who abused you or flick a switch in your head and “get over it.”
They will most likely be hurt and made angry by this sort of unsympathetic, invalidating comment.
Worse yet, it can force them to bury or bottle up their feelings, leading to worse psychological problems and further pain and trauma down the road.
Having been in this situation myself I can honestly relate to how painful and unhelpful these statements can be.
And yet, I do believe that forgiveness is the answer.
But forgiveness itself is not what you probably think it is.
The problem is that forgiveness is often mis-portrayed as a weak and pitiful thing to do where we essentially let somebody off the hook or let them get away with what they have done.
Apparently that’s the “Christian” thing to do.
But is it really loving to enable bad behaviour in such a way? To become a doormat in the name of forgiveness?
That is not true forgiveness. At best it’s compromise and at worst it’s condoning or enabling bad or abusive behaviour.
True forgiveness does neither of these things.
Forgiveness is not weak, it’s radical.
The true act of forgiveness is not in any way for the benefit of the purportrator of harm, it is 100% for you.
Forgiveness is an act that allows you to throw off the shackles of pain and anger, to remove the victim mantle and take back your power. To face life again knowing that you are stronger and free from the past.
Holding on to the anger is allowing that person or people to live in your head rent free. These painful thoughts will continue to hurt you until you choose forgiveness and kick them out!
Anger is necessary at first, and to deny your feelings would be counter productive in the healing process. But holding on to the anger for too long and never letting it go is just as harmful. Allowing it to fester and eat away at you, forever spoiling your life, destroying trust and keeping you bitter and sad just doesn’t make sense.
Forgiveness is healing yourself.
When you deny another forgiveness, you are only hurting yourself. It becomes a self punishing, masochistic act.
Now just to clarify, I do not in any way condone any sort of abuse nor am I suggesting that you should contact or make friends with the person who abused you. That would be highly inappropriate in most cases not to mention counter productive. I’m not suggesting that you should attempt to reconcile or trust them again.
Forgiveness does not require that the other person knows that you’ve forgiven them.
Forgiveness does not let them off the hook, it does not condone what they did and it certainly doesn’t give them a clean slate. It gives YOU one.
So when you’ve had enough of the pain, the anger, the depression and the myriad of other painful feelings, you may be ready to give forgiveness a try.
Forgiveness is when you decide that you’re no longer willing to be a victim and live in the shadow of what happened to you. You’re no longer willing to let it affect your life.
Forgiveness is when you choose joy and freedom over anger.
And the person who wronged you no longer matters.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, in most cases I’d say it’s probably one of the hardest challenges in our lives. It takes time and effort.
The path to forgiveness is long and it may take great strength and personal growth to go follow it, but it leads to a better place.
Forgiveness leads us to the peace and healing we’ve been longing for all along. To freedom, once and for all.