Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Forgiveness Isn't

I believe forgiving those who have wronged us is a vital part of healing, but I regularly encounter abuse survivors who are harmed by some well-meaning counselor pushing them to quickly forgive their abuser. I've also talked with many survivors who do not have a clear understanding of what forgiveness means.

Over the years, I've learned what forgiveness isn't. True forgiveness:
--does not assert that the abuse was "no big deal"
--does not claim there is no pain
--does not insist that the abuse is forgotten
--does not pretend that the abuse never really happened
--does not shield the abuser from natural consequences
--does not require telling lies to keep the abuser's reputation untarnished
--does not "fix the family" or "hold the family together"
--does not mean recovery is completed
--does not terminate feelings about the abuse (including anger & sorrow)
--does not change the abuser into a caring, responsible person
--does not demand that the survivor be a selfless martyr
--does not by itself make a survivor whole
--does not grant trust and access to the abuser
--does not have to be spoken to the abuser
--does not result in the victim feeling re-victimized

On the next post, I'll share some thoughts on what forgiveness does involve.

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Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft