While forgiveness is a step of healing when the individual is ready for it, until they are at that point, it can be quite hurtful and harmful. To clarify my statement, I'm referring to the mix-up in how forgiveness is often perceived and what it actually is to many people. In all reality, forgiveness is not as cut and dried as people want everyone to believe. It comes with a great deal of baggage that makes it one of the most difficult aspects of healing.
In my early days of life, I was raised in a church and forgiveness meant something totally different than it does in a healthy situation. Forgiveness meant that you were to no longer talk about the "transgression or sin" that the person did. It meant that event never happened of if you know it did, that you are now required to no longer see it as something that once happened.
Forgiveness meant that the slate of the "other person's transgressions" were wiped clean and clear. It was taught that God forgives us and forgets what we did, so we should do the same thing to to those that do unspeakable acts upon others. There was plenty of justification in this twisted logic, but again when you grow up in a religious situation such as this, these things are beat into you in many ways.
It isn't just a few words taught to you, but a way of life and a way of thinking that was forced upon you. It is the way you often experience love and affection. It was demonstrated over and over to you by your family members and those in the religious organizations and churches. The minister repeated words and examples in case you happened to stray from the point of forgiveness. In every thought and viewpoint, it truly meant "just get over it".
The only thing is these people were never held accountable for what they did. Their actions to get themselves absolved of their transgressions were nothing more than mere words meant to deceive the faithful followers. I've seen this play out over and over so many times, I can't recall them all. In fact, I know one of my abusers just did this bait and switch action on those that he wants to think he is some great loving and nice person in that community.
Of course forgiveness in these situations often means "don't you dare tell me I did something wrong, because I've been forgiven by God". After all, if you still harbor anger and hatred towards the person for what they did, it is your problem now as dictated in this forgiveness scenario. To the person that did these things to a victim, God no longer sees their sin, so why should you? Unfortunately at no point in this entire forgiveness process did the abuser take responsibility for their actions. The sole source of any action is place upon the victim for what the abuser did.
You may be thinking, but forgiveness is not about what the abuser does to you, but how you let go of it in life and move forward with your healing. While you would be correct, you have to realize that for people who have undergone these examples of forgiveness, it is anything but easy to unbrainwash yourself from this lifetime of twisted logic.
I feel for people who get so angry when someone tells them to forgive because I was one of those people. I wanted to slap a few people for suggesting that to my face. I even had one church have a bunch of people who put their hands on me and prayed for me to forgive my abusers. You talk about feeling conflicted and twisted after that - need I say more?
It took me a long time to start to learn what forgiveness meant and how the correct meaning of it applied to my life. Until a person is ready for this, don't push them. Don't tell them that they have to do this. Let them find it on their own because the more you push, the more they will resist. You've got to see it from their perspective and show them that it is possible without pushing them into it. I believe each person will discover this on their own and in their own time. Remember someone that has been abused went through hell and back many times over.
It angers me the way I see churches twist the logic of forgiveness to allow abusers to continue their horrendous acts. Too many in churches are so gullible to allow this to go on and get swept up into the evil practices of an abuser. I'm not just talking about the Catholic church either, but all churches and organizations.
Most likely there are many who are struggling with this issue as well and for them to make it in life, they need victims to be quiet. They don't need them to be questioning stuff within themselves because it brings up far too many nightmares they wish to forget. So, instead of them dealing with this in their own life, they tell people to forgive and move on - thereby making it easier on themselves, but not necessarily for the person sinking in pain and despair.
I will repeat this again for those that are struggling through the healing process. When you are ready to embark upon the journey into forgiveness, you will know it is time. You will find your way through this just as you have to this point in your healing. There are others out there that have walked in these same shoes and make sure you look for them along the way, because they will be there to support you. Yes, it may mean you have to grow and struggle through some very difficult moments, but in the right time, it will all come together.
I say this not some pie-in-the-sky philosophy, but from one that has been through this. I've struggled through the forgiveness part of healing and even at times, it is still difficult for me. Forgiveness I found, is not an end point, but a progression of learning how to let go and release all the abuse that was done to you. It is a step-by-step ongoing process that you will discover in just the way you need to. It is a visceral release to the core.
Blog Post And Images (c) 4/28/13 by Don Shetterly
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