Should I Forgive My Abuser? Can I Forgive My Abuser?
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Abuse is something I have known since I was a little girl.
I do not know what life would be like without it.
I know people that have struggled with abuse in their life and I have seen many people become prisoners of abuse.
I have learned that to be truly happy you have to learn to forgive.
I use to wonder if I could forgive my abusers.
I had to learn how to forgive.
How to allow myself to move past it and how to use it as a positive in my life.
For years I was a prisoner of abuse.
There was even a time I blamed myself for what I had been through.
I felt dirty and ashamed.
But I have learned that forgiveness is possible. It is healing, it strengthens. It brings blessings.
It changes lives.
Forgiveness can even break the cycle of abuse.
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works.
Most assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We may also think that we have to be friendly with them or go back to the old relationship. The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
What is Forgiveness?
The Greek definition for Forgiveness is “to let go”.
We forgive others when we let go of resentment and give up any claim to be compensated for the hurt or loss we have suffered.
I realize how hard it is to let go of something that literally chokes the life from you. But I know that once you make the decision to let go a weight literally lifts off your body. Forgiveness is release. Not just for your abuser but for yourself. It is releasing yourself from the pain, allowing yourself to no longer be tied to it.
Some people may see forgiveness as a weakness or allowing the undeserving person to win, but it has no connection to weakness or even to emotions. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what he or she has done to you.
You could also say that forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt someone because they hurt you.
What Forgiveness does not mean:
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurt occur, it’s what we do with them that counts.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with them again.
- Forgiveness does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
In the process of forgiving, the first barrier you have to remove is within yourself. You have to decide to let go of the offense along with your desire to punish the offender. Often the decision to let go has to be renewed daily, hourly, or even more often. The bigger the offense, the more challenging it can be to let go; but the less you ruminate on the offense and feed your anger, the easier it becomes.
Understanding forgiveness as a decision to let go is important because we often confuse forgiveness with our emotions. While forgiveness affects and can bring relief to our emotions, it’s much more than an emotion. Forgiveness is a decision, a declaration, a once-for-all-time pronouncement.
Why Should I Forgive?
Studies show that forgiveness is good for your emotional and physical health.
Anger, Bitterness, and Hate are emotions that weigh heavy on your body and thoughts.
When you don’t release these emotions they remain trapped and can cause physical ailments like stomach aches and high blood pressure. It can also worsen depression and anxiety. When you forgive and let go of a grievance, you are freeing your body and your mind. Forgiveness isn’t the only way to let go of negative emotions, but it’s one of the best.
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself and it can help you heal, but why is it so hard?
There are several reasons: You’re filled with thoughts of retribution or revenge; you enjoy feeling superior; you don’t know how to resolve the situation; you’re addicted to the adrenaline that anger provides; you self-identify as a “victim”; or you’re afraid that by forgiving you have to re-connect—or lose your connection—with the other person. These reasons not to forgive can be resolved by becoming more familiar with yourself, with your thoughts and feelings, and with your boundaries and needs.
Now that you know what forgiveness is and is not and why it’s so hard to do, ask yourself: Do I want to forgive?
Do you want to let go of the pain?
Do you want to allow yourself to heal?
Take time to think about what happened and accept it.
Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of the abuse.
Can you use your experience to witness or help someone else that has been or is being abused?
Sometimes sharing your experience is healing in itself.
Focus on the present. Now that you’ve reflected on the past, realize that the past is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes problems — unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What are you doing now? What joy can you find in what is happening right now? Find the joy in life now, as it happens, and stop reliving the past. Btw, you will inevitably start thinking about the past, but just acknowledge that, and gently bring yourself back to the present moment.
Forgiveness allows you to put the hurt behind you.
You will not forget but you will no longer be bound by it.
You will learn what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries and how to better care for yourself in the future.
Forgiving the abuser is a wonderful way to honor yourself.
I hope that this has helped you in some way.
That you can allow yourself to move forward and seek happiness in the present.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave more tips on forgiveness.
Everyone see’s it in a different way.