Someone recently asked me if I believe in forgiveness for those that have abused me or others. I write about abuse frequently enough that this is a question I am familiar with. It’s also one that has no easy or quick answer but I will try and tackle it here.
First, let me say that there is no right answer. Forgiveness itself is a moving target and for me it is a (possibly lifelong) process. I have experienced various types of abuse by various people. Some I have had an easier time forgiving versus others.
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When your trust and boundaries are violated as a young child it is very difficult to forgive the adult that perpetrated the abuse. The manipulation that took place, the grooming, and the various bullying tactics that accompanies the trauma is a lot to not only understand but attempt to forgive. The long lasting effects of child abuse make that process even more confusing as time passes.
For example, I thought I was able to forgive people that abused me as a child when I was a teenager. But then the anger set in and the forgiveness evaporated. As I grew older and realized how the abuse was still impacting my life, that anger resurfaced. It has been a constant effort on my part of acceptance, healing, and letting go that sometimes circles back around to the start without warning.
I absolutely believe in the concept of and beauty of forgiveness and hope that I achieve it one day with all of my past abusers. I am positive that forgiveness itself brings many people a sense of closure and peace. This closure and peace is something I long for and work very hard at obtaining- but I’m not completely there yet.
I refuse to feel guilty about not yet reaching that place. Victims are made to feel guilty about so many things. The last thing we need is to take on inner resentment over the inability to reach a state of forgiveness. We need to give ourselves the understanding and patience we deserve. Most of all, we need to put forgiving ourselves as a top priority.
Whatever it is that we carry because of the abuse- be it blame or shame of any sort- is what needs to be resolved and let go of. I believe only then should we focus on forgiving those that perpetrated the trauma.
I realize there is pressure from society to forgive those that have wronged us. I have felt it and been a recipient of it from strangers and family alike. I understand the concept completely but I think we often forget that that’s exactly what it is- a concept. It’s not something tangible that we can reach out and hold in our hands. It’s something that takes time and the end results don’t always look the same to each individual.
I don’t agree with anyone placing pressure on a survivor of abuse to heal or think a certain way. It is our individual journey to take and we encountered enough pressure as children. If you are able to reach a place of forgiveness now, great. If you can’t, you need to know that that is also perfectly okay. It does not, by any means, make you a bad or sinful or hateful person.
The blame rests solely on the shoulders of the abuser for what they did and how you currently feel. You are not to blame or at fault if you can’t forgive the acts of others that drastically altered your childhood and life. Nobody is perfect and nobody’s journey with healing and forgiveness is perfect.
The fact that you have survived and made it this far? Now that, my friend, is pretty perfect no matter where you are in your journey to forgiveness.