The Process of Forgiving Child Abusers by Pam Witzemann


This week I’m excited to welcome back to Emerging from Broken, guest writer and fellow blogger Pam Witzemann as she tackles the difficult subject of ‘forgiveness.’ In this in-depth two part article, Pam takes a look at some of the difficulties surrounding forgiveness, experienced by survivors of child abuse. Pam is a regular participant in almost all the discussions here in EFB and has her own blog; “Boomer Back-beat ~ Talking bout our generation”. As always I am looking forward to the conversation~ please contribute your thoughts and insights! ~ Darlene Ouimet

The Process of Forgiving Child Abusers by Pam Witzemann 

Part I: Defining Forgiveness; for Victims of Childhood Abuse

It isn’t easy to forgive an abuser especially a child abuser. Victims of childhood abuse need to have a right concept of forgiveness because it is so often, twisted into a weapon of abuse. This causes confusion on the part of the victim and denies them access to the freedom from the past that true forgiveness can bring.

Parents who abused their children are likely to demand their adult child forgive them for the past but may never acknowledge any wrong doing or accept any responsibility for their actions. The truth is that they aren’t interested in being forgiven. People who want forgiveness are filled with remorse and though it may hurt to verbally admit to what they’ve done, they will do so because being forgiven by the person they have hurt is important to them.

What many abusers want instead of forgiveness is for the abused person to forget what was done to them, over-look it, and not hold them responsible for it. They also need their victims to remain silent and when that silence is threatened, they demand forgiveness and declare that any relational problems are due to the victim’s unwillingness to forgive. These lies cause confusion and abusive people know that causing confusion in others, works in their favor. There is nothing that confuses a childhood abuse survivor more than the forgiveness ploy.  

All survivors desperately, want to be free from their past and in our culture, we are taught that forgiveness abolishes sins. This is true but as with all truth, abusers twist the truth into a self-serving lie. Therefore, it is important for child abuse survivors to arm themselves with a true understanding of what abuse is, what it is not, and to know with certainty, what they, as the victims, are responsible for. It is also, necessary to have a clear definition and concept of forgiveness.

Forgiveness isn’t cheap. It comes at a great price that is paid in suffering and pain. Jesus died an excruciating death, in order to obtain forgiveness from God for human beings.( I don’t want to make this post about religion but this is an important point because in Western Civilizations, the Bible is the foundation for cultural concepts of forgiveness. It is also, important because abusive people like to use religion as a club and they aren’t above twisting Biblical truth into a manipulative lie.)Though we do have some choice to forgive or to with-hold forgiveness, forgiveness isn’t a simple choice and it isn’t to be demanded of us by anyone. It comes at the end of a reckoning process and there is no way to skip that process and arrive at true, forgiveness.

Choosing to forgive doesn’t mean that a relationship can be restored by the actions of the victim alone. An abuse survivor can forgive their abuser but it is foolhardy and dangerous to continue in a relationship with a person who never acknowledges the personal damage they have caused. Abuse survivors can heal and reach the end of the reckoning-forgiveness-process without any obligation to continue in a relationship with an unremorseful, abuser. Survivors can heal, separately, from their abusers and if the abuser wants the relationship to be restored, they must apply that forgiveness to themselves by acknowledging the damage they’ve done. If this is what they truly, want, then they will demonstrate this with true remorse.

It’s simple, people who want forgiveness will say they are sorry and name specifically, what they are sorry for. People who are content to abuse and thereby, hold power over their victim, will have no remorse and will never acknowledge the pain and damage they have caused.

Abuse survivors commonly, deny themselves the freedom from the past that forgiving can bring ; This is a decision made upon the false concepts about forgiveness that so many people have. True forgiveness, isn’t given from a position of weakness but from a position of power that honors the sacrifice made, in real suffering, on the part of the survivor. It is an action that leaves past abuses in the past and denies them the power to continue to harm the survivor, in the present and in the future. Abuse isn’t a small fault to be overlooked and forgiveness doesn’t mean that traumatic, abusive events are not important enough to punish.

In fact, I believe that a survivor can prosecute an abuser for the crimes committed and still find their way to forgiving the person who committed those crimes. There are natural and legal consequences to criminal actions and forgiveness doesn’t mean that the abuser should suffer no consequences. Even though Jesus died on the cross for those who abuse God and one another, we still suffer consequences for our actions; but because of the forgiveness that He won, our relationship with God can be restored and we won’t suffer eternal, spiritual death. However, there is no way to restore that spiritual relationship without acknowledging our abuses/sins, and acknowledging the price that was paid, in order for us to receive forgiveness.

In the same way, a truly, remorseful abuser can have their relationship with their child restored by truthfully, applying the forgiveness given them, by the child they harmed, through abuse. People who are truly, remorseful are generally, resigned to pay the penalties for their actions. They will not deny those actions and try to force all who are connected to them to carry pretense and pretend the crimes they committed never took place.

A repentant abuser will seek truth and will cease from seeking cover in lies. A remorseful abuser is mortified by their behavior and will beg for forgiveness and not dare to demand it. Forgiveness is received in weakness and given in power; thereby, humbling the abuser and raising the status of the victim. In this way, a right balance of power is restored.

Equality and trust meet upon the sacred ground of life-changing, remorse and true forgiveness.

By Pam Witzemann

Please share your thoughts about this difficult subject matter. We are not saying that forgiveness is essential; this post is about understanding forgiveness and the part it may play in recovery. Stay tuned for Part II; Pam digs even deeper into the reckoning process as it unfolded for her.

Related Posts:  Forgiveness; A bit of a Rant (Click Titles)

Forgiveness and Child Abuse; when suggesting forgiveness IS abusive

The Confusion Created around Forgiveness Issues

Being Told to leave the past in the past

Pam Witzemann was born in Santa Fe, NM and is married, has raised two boys and has two grandsons. Pam and her husband have had their own business for over twenty years. Pam is a painter and a writer and hopes to make these pursuits more than a hobby in her later years. Pam authors the blog Boomer Back-Beat; a place where baby boomers find inspiration in the process of aging.

Categories : Freedom & Wholeness



Pam- Thank You for contributing this article. I look forward to part 2.
I would like to recommend a book that examines the subject of forgiveness in a way that I found very helpful. The author is Jeanne Safer, Ph.D. Title- Forgiving &Not Forgiving.
Darlene- Thank you for gifting “us” (your readers) with not only your own writing but also bringing us guest writers like Pam. I appreciate you very much and have been sharing your insight with my closet friends.


I love this truth: “Forgiveness is received in weakness and given in power; thereby, humbling the abuser and raising the status of the victim. In this way, a right balance of power is restored.

Equality and trust meet upon the sacred ground of life-changing, remorse and true forgiveness.”

Thanks for an insightful article and bringing truth that sets free, dispelling myths and lies surrounding this issue.


Dawny, Thank you. I will look into getting a copy of the book you recomend. I was beat up over forgiveness, often in my family of origin. I couldn’t understand what they were really, asking me for until I reckoned with the truth about me, my life, and the people, the adults in my childhood, that not only let me down, but abused me.Victims have to understand the truth before it is even, possible to think about forgiving. The second half of this is my personal process.

Netty, That was a wonderful, empowering, truth for me to realize and then embrace. After a lifetime of being a secondary person, in many of my relationships but particularly, my family of origin, it is amazing to have that concept of myself as being equal to those who held power over me for so long. I’m enjoying true, self-confidence for the firt time in my life. Thank you, for your support and for taking the time to comment.:0)


Hi Pam!
Thank you for this very informative and enlightening post! I am pretty sure I am nver going to get to a place of forgiveness with my mother and sisters, as the pattern you mentioned is always followed:
“They also need their victims to remain silent and when that silence is threatened, they demand forgiveness and declare that any relational problems are due to the victim’s unwillingness to forgive.”
I would hear the most insincere, “Gee, sorry!”, or, “Sorry you feel that way”, or my mother’s favorite, “Guess I can never say or do the right thing. I guess I’m always wrong!” Even my sisters will admit, the words “I’m sorry”, spoken in a sincere manner, have never been heard to come out of my mother’s mouth.
My mother never accepts any responsibility for wrong doing, indeed, is very unrepetent! So, as I understand it, there can be no forgiveness with a relationship ensuing.
I know it would be lunacy on my part to go back into any kind of relationship with this women. I caught myself before saying “meaningful relationship”, as there never was one. It is my choice to forgive, and to move on, is how I understand it.
I don’t know how to forgive these people, if I even need to, or what it entails. And how it will benefit my recovery.
If I truly forgive them and move on, I hope to lose some of the bitterness and resentment I have to honestly say is still there.



Janie, One thing I know for sure is that we can only, come to that place at the end of personal reckoning that brings with it a certain level of healing. At least for me, I had to be able to validate myself and stand on the truth, no matter what they said to knock me off. I never got an apology from them either, Janie but I did lay down a bright, clear,line as a boundary for relationship with me. Forigiving an abuser doesn’t require their participation but reconciling the relationship does. I did my part, I forgave them for the real offenses that I named, clearly but they didn’t do their part. They never acknowledged my forgiveness because that isn’t what they wanted. They wanted things to go back to the way they’ve always been. That’s unacceptable. Our relationship remains severed because they didn’t do their part to heal it. The second half digs much deeper into my personal application of what I’ve outlined here.



WONDERFUL!! SO well put!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
If I could have in my bubble long enough without more emotional abuse from others for the thoughts I was trying to express on this subject, I would have said these same things, many years ago. It is so good to see this put into words!


#6 should read

“If I could have BEEN in my bubble long enough…”
had enough personal space to think/feel long enough


Kate, I guess that is one thing that I’ve had plenty of, time to sort it out. When I started this I kept thinking I was too old to still be dealing with this stuff but now, I see how in many ways, it was the perfect time. Events in my life brought it all to a head. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I’m glad it echoes the words in your heart too.:0)



Poignantly true. Simple expression – my mother is beyond it. If she was within it, I would be reading different forums. Of course, in 48hrs, I’m learning the landscape and finally, I have the tools to face her. All forgiveness in our lives involved me apologising for reacting to the outrageousness of her. And promises to change and be more willing open and compliant to abuse. When she accepted me back grudgingly, I imagined this to be a ” new start fresh reciciliation”. Last 48 hrs- I have not approached her( part of me wants to ) and now I think – I cannot approach you for my act of forgiveness. It can occur inspite of you. Yes, I don’t want to be marginalised or ridiculed into apologising to her, while internally forgiving her. Then forgiving myself for doing it takes weeks or till next explosion. My inner environment is too contaminated by such damaging emotions.
Thank you- what a precise perceptive honest and respectful article. Absolutely agree- and feel strengthened by it. Sincerely, thank you.


Simsim, I’m glad you find strength in the words I wrote. They are born out of hard won truth. It’s so hard to continually, have the damand to forgive thrown into your face with the implication that if you just forgive!forget! and quit hurting and making such a big deal out of everything, then it will all be alright. Such behavior has no part in true forgiveness. Instead, it is scape-goating with the transfer of responsibility for the offenses from to offender to the victim. There is a big difference in being a sin-eater and forgiving wrongs from the position of power that standing on truth brings. Thank you for your support.



Goodness gracious, Pam (and all), what a heavy topic, but you articulated the path and process so very well. I really believe you have intertwined the reality of abuse and its effects, with the framework to lead the victim to safe harbor.

There is a whole other psychology to the “victim” mentality. Many victims typically get abused repeatedly. There’s usually never just one instance of abuse, then forgiveness on both sides and then down the road we go. Life is never that simple. So, victims of abuse have a lot to deal with when there is more than one disinterested party involved as the abuser. Each one though needs to be dealt with individually.

Many abusers are plain and simple, BULLIES. Bullies must be dealt with in a slightly different manner than a case of a one-time abuser. We have to accept that bullies often do not want to change and are oblivious to how their actions affect others around them. If this is the case, you dust off the dirt from your sandals and head on down the road.

Pam whacked the proverbial nail right between the eye-sockets. Unless the abuser is willing (and able) to cross the threshold of taking responsibility for their abuse (each and every instance), is willing to then work through the process of asking for and receiving forgiveness from the victim, and is willing to continue working on that area of their life, then relationship just can’t be restored, nor should it be so. If you don’t get a new tire when the tenth hole gets punctured the next one may be an all out blowout, which is very dangerous.

It doesn’t matter how much we want it, or how much we’re even willing to give or give up for it; it’s just not happening, at least in this lifetime.

What Pam says about repentance and forgiveness is the key. True repentance is not a simple process. We must first agree that what we have done is wrong, or that we have wronged someone else by our words, actions or even thoughts. We must then turn away from that action, resolving that with God’s help and the use of community resources, we will strive to not repeat the offense.

Then we may seek forgiveness, coming humbly, and meekly, to those we have wronged and ask sincerely that we may be forgiven.

Unfortunately, as I have expressed on this board before, my wife’s side of the family is for all intents and purposes dead to us. Not because we don’t care, but because we finally figured out that we can’t push the rope uphill. We still pray for these people for to God they aren’t dead; they’re just very lost.

With that said though, I do know for a fact that miracles can happen, both physically and emotionally, and relationships can be forever restored. So take whatever action you need to in order to protect yourself and your loved ones, but don’t be too quick to write the abuser off. You can still talk to them through the fence, so to speak, up until they start off abusing again…and then……well you know.

If we look at the abuser for a moment, assuming they reach the point of responsibility, repentance, and seeking forgiveness, then the ball is tossed in our court. That’s the sticky wicket Pam was describing when we as the victim are faced with the reality of granting “forgiveness”.

Unlike God, Who places our transgressions, when properly dealt with that is, as far as the east is from the west, we humans sometimes have memories like an elephant. My mother for instance, can tell you every instance of her being wronged by every person she has ever known. Is forgiveness a sore subject with my mother…..oh, ya!

So, then, if handled properly, we can have total control in the situation and have the blessings available to both grant and receive forgiveness, and exercise grace.

But then that’s a whole other subject.

I appreciate the input of those who participate and I always learn something I can use.



Pam, I cannot forgive right now. Although I keep hearing the sibs talk of it. The old adage “if you were in my shoes” fits for me. The narcissistic rage my mother exhibited to me last year was my perverbial last straw. Now I am just numb. There is no love, no emotion almost no anger even. I just know in my heart I cannot be near her or my enabling father when they come to town anymore. I am not so stupid to put myself directly in harms way again, my eyes are wide open. After she had her narc. rage on me (in my own kitchen) the parents sent me flowers. A completely obvious bribe, we know we were abusive so here’s some flowers. I almost stomped on them, but then I thought No, I’m gonna keep these I deserve them with what I went through with those people! But I need to take the power back and I am. If my siblings cannot understand me, it’s their problem not mine. I can’t keep explaining how she treats me is the issue, they just don’t get it. I just wonder now that I have left, who she will target next. Narcs have to get their supply from someone, and it will not be me. I am very excited to be a grandma this summer, I have to focus on the positive aspects of my life, not the drama that she creates time and time again. Clarity comes when you finally realise that she doesn’t love you, and then you move to realising that she never will. These are facts I have no power to change. Thanks for the great post! Peace…



I could have written your post about my own life just this year! (Except for grandbaby on the way)

“Clarity comes when you finally realise that she doesn’t love you, and then you move to realising that she never will. These are facts I have no power to change.”

Yes, those destructive behaviors are observable and are repeated time and time again.

I think that there is somewhere in the definition of forgiveness and divorce, even, the peace that comes from separating yourself from destructive behavior. You have peace. You are not trying to hold her accountable; you have “forgiven” her in that sense, and moved away from her so that she cannot continue harming you.

Truth leak! Pastor who ruled our town, our church, my family, everyone I knew, and did my first wedding, died on Sunday. The man who insisted on exposing others through the church is now having (led by his co-pastor son) a Private Visitation and Private Burial and a memorial service on Saturday (led my son) with “the family will receive friends (that’s a small group) for one hour (they were always experts at limiting their time with you) after the service.” They don’t want to hear anything that they don’t want to hear.

So funny, that my dad said to me the week before this beloved pastor/best friend just died that no one will be at my dad’s funeral. Yeah, that may be. I have thought that myself.

In lieu of flowers, how about donations to the poor and needy? The real poor and needy, not an organization, the ones in your own town.


Jim, Thank you for all that you added to this. I grew up in a very enmeshed family system where no one was allowed to be a full individual. We all played the role assigned to us as, one person. I had to define my role in that system, begin to see myself without my family of origin,name the the role I played, and then surgically, remove myself from the enmeshment. It was a long process and one that I began many times, without mindfulness but emotional gut instinct, and I failed. I always got sucked back in and it was the forgiveness ploy that was the bait. As a child, when I would ask my mom about an incident of abuse that I didn’t understand, she would tell me, oh,you just remember all the bad things. In that way, I became the keeper of the bad things that no one else would acknowledge. Like your mother, I played them over and over in my mind, was unable to validate the truth myself, and they were the root of my anxiety and depression.I quit being the family sin-eater, reckoned with with the truth about my past, which gave me the validation I needed to also, stop being the keeper of the bad things. When I forgave, I let go of all those bad things and I no longer keep a tally of them. However, my family is a long way away from acknowledging the truth, facing it, and embracing it. I’m sure they’d tell you that I’m just crazy, like I’ve always been crazy, that they did everything they could do for me but…well you know, she just can’t forgive and she’s always bringing up the past. The truth is they have denied my forgiveness and are no where near being at the point where they can receive it. The system of pretense has worked well for them and they were never motivated by my emotional needs. It isn’t safe for me to be around them. I won’t enter into any kind of relationship with them until they do their part to restore my trust. That would be a long process and I’ve had to accept the fact that they probaly, don’t care enough about me to embark on it. That was the hardest truth for me to embrace. However, it is the dose of reality I needed to be able to move on and live a different kind of life. A new life where I’m not abused. I’m no longer part of a system of abuse and I no longer accept it as love, as I was trained to do in my childhood. There comes a time when we simply have to leave the dead to bury the dead.



Melody, It sounds like you may still be involved in the reckoning. It was during that time that my thinking aobut myself and others was rewired. I had to take out all the old wiring that wasn’t up to code and replace it with proper wiring that was properly installed. There was no way I could truly, forgive before I was functional enough to understand my responsibility in forgiveness and my abusers responsibility in correctly, applying that forgiveness so, the relationship could be reconciled and healed. Forgiveness flows out of the completed process and it is my freedom from victimhood. It is a gift to the family members who abused me but that gift remains, unopened or even acknowledged. If at some point, one or all of them chooses to receive my gift and open it, then a whole other long process would begin, in building a different relationship that we ever, had before. I’m sure I’m blamed for breaking apart the family but I didn’t break the family. My parents did. All I did was pull up the rug on all that had been covered there, for so long.

Forgiveness will come at the end of your healling process. There is no pushing it, or producing it upon demand. It comes at the time appointed. May you be blessed on your healing journey.

p.s. Being a grammy is great because all grammy has to do is love everyone! It’s the best job on earth! Enjoy it!:0)


Kate, I can’t read what you wrote about the power that your previous pastor held over so many people. I’m glad you’ve escaped it. That kind of scenario is so unbiblical and so anti-christ.



I’m sorry, what do you mean that you can’t read what I wrote about my previous pastor, etc.? Did I write in a confusing way?


No, Kate. I confused you. What I meant is that when I do read what you wrote about him, it makes me cringe. I’ve experienced those kinds of people but not with the control you describe this guy as having. He is beyond the pale.



Thanks all, Reassuring words at a tough time.I’ve lived my life almost a half of century not knowing the truth about my mother. I can’t take back all if that time struggling with the parents and their games, but I can walk forward in the truth…peace…


Hi Pam

I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding going to either of your parent’s funerals.

I was at a funeral yesterday for the mother of a friend, where she was honoured with loving memories by her five children. It bought up memories of my childhood and how my mother was the complete opposite. My strongest memory lately is of the ones of the time she tried to commit suicide. She turned on the gas oven in a locked kitchen, with me and another sibling in the room with her. My father broke down the door and turned off the gas. I think I was around 8 to 10 at the time.

Talking to my daughter later in the day, I told her that I’ve heard on the grapevine that my mother was now in a nursing home and that if she died I don’t think I’d go to her funeral. I’ve been NC with my parents for nearly 20 years, apart from a week last year that was disastrous emotionally for me.

I strongly feel I don’t want to go to either funeral when either parent dies, I neither honour or respect them.


Daisy, That’s something I think about too and I don’t have a definate answer. I’m not even sure that anyone will tell me when they die. I wouldn’t want to go and cause people to focus on me and risk creating some kind of drama. That for the sakes of nephews,neices, etc. I don’t think my children will want to go so, part of what I do will be in support of them. They’ve supported me in this. I’ve not seen them for six years now and I haven’t talked to them in almost six years. I don’t know if there is any other ‘good-bye’ that I need to say. When it happens,it may change the way things are now between me and my siblings, or it may not. As things are now, I can’t see any purpose in going. Nothing about our relationship has been as it should be so, I doubt that final goodbyes will be as they should be either. It will be just another thing I have to live through, get through, and then go on. I don’t hate them, I only want good things for them. I have peace in that.


Hello Pam and Darlene and Daisy,
I am new to EFB and cant tell you how much it helps me.Replying with a comment is difficult for me.Daisy you mention that you wont go to your parents funerals,well I hope my parents live forever or until they are both well into their 100s.That they never loose their minds and anybody who they know dies before them so that they end up knowing nobody and all they have are their memories.I am 63yrs and they have always called me liar++++++ blackening my name and discrediting me for anything+++++ they can think of.Just to keep me in my place.I hope they outlive everybody.Imagine what hell on earth that would be for them. My dad is 90 living on his own and my mum 86 (in a care home). Death is too good for them.


Hi Wendy, I hear a lot of pain in your comment and I understand the anger. Learning how to use my anger to keep myself safe, stand up for myself, and unload myself of misappropriated blame, was a big step toward healing for me. EFB is a good place for you to be and I’m glad you’re here. There’s plenty of good, validating, stuff to read here and you only have to comment when you can and when it feels right. I think it gets easier with time.



Hi Wendy
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
I am so glad that you are enjoying this website. I know it can be hard to share but please feel free to do so when you feel like it.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Daisy
My daughter (age 19) and I were talking about this subject just the other day; In a nut shell, how I feel today is that if I didn’t see her living (this past few years) why would I go to see her dead? I can see my one brother under better circumstances, and the other brother I would also rather not see for the same reasons that I write about all the time on this site. =).
Hugs, Darlene

Thanks (as always) for guest posting here on EFB! I am catching up on some important things at home (both for EFB and personal stuff) and enjoying my break from the blog!
Hugs and love, Darlene


Daisy, I meant that I haven’t seen my parents in six years, haven’t talked to them in two and that my children have supported me in the decisions I’ve made in regard to my healing and not having contact with my family. They also, have issues with my parents. In my heart, I’ve said goodbye to them. I know I need to do what will help my kids work through whatever feelings they will have when their grandparents die. When things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, no one knows exactly, what to expect but I think if we determine to be truthful, through it all, it will work out.

My home is also, a place of buisness and it is a madhouse sometimes. Forgive me for answering with half my brain.lol!Next time, I’ll find a quiet corner somewhere or put off answering until things quiet down.



Thank you Pam, it helps me to hear how you and others feel about this issue.

My daughter said that going to their funeral would provide me with closure, but I don’t agree. I feel that I’ve moved on and that I no longer need closure. I’ve processed a lot of my feelings in the past few years and healed a lot of the damage caused by these people. I don’t want to give them any more of my time or energy.

I think my daughter may be concerned about the fallout from my siblings if I don’t attend, but I’m past caring what they think. In my opinion, they’re still trying to get my parents to love them, where I realise I don’t need that sort of love.

On the matter of forgiveness, I prefer to think of it as acceptance, I’m happier with calling it that. I can accept what happened, even understand why, but as Darlene says, it’s about healing the damage to me, so I’m honouring my feelings of aversion to being around them and their dysfunction.

Wendy, I was also told that I made things up, that I was unstable. It suits them to label me that way so I can be the black sheep. It makes me laugh now, I’m not that fearful little child anymore who had to line up for the beatings…


Daisy, None of us define words or terms in exactly, the same way. The important thing is to honor our feelings, the truth about what we lived through, and do what’s best for us and the families we’ve created. I’m not about pushing someone to my exact destination. We’ve all been through a simular experience but each experience is unique, too. It’s about healing and living a life free of abuse. Like you, I feel I owe no responsibility toward my parent’s memory and I’m past caring what the rest of the family thinks. They really don’t know me because they’ve never seen me past whatever need they wanted me to fill for them. I forgive them but the things they did to me are unforgiveable acts and they shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not comfortable being with people who are comfortable with ignoring child abuse and siding with the abusers. The second half of this piece digs deeper into my experience and why forgiving was an important step for me. Part of that is because of my own value system and part of that is because of the healthier, and I believe, more correct definition I have of forgiveness, than the one I was taught from childhood. The first version was used as a club and blinded me to the true power of forgiveness.



Daisy, It makes me sad to hear that you were beaten…



Thank you Pam, you’re very kind.


Pam, I love the way you word the reality around forgiveness from the abuser. The last time my mom & I spoke was during the Holidays when she was withholding my kid’s presents. She avoided coming to my house to see their grandchildren after being invited for dinner & to exchange presnets. It was about control. Her expectation that I visit her because I’ m the “child” & she is the “parent”. So I chose not to comply with her wishes & she withheld presents until this past Sunday. She sent my them by way of my aunt, who is the same aunt who’s husband molested me at 12. I just opened up to her about this trauma, which was so hard to do. I was physically sick over this. I was fearful yet I faced the problem head on. I no longer carry the bburden of shame & guilt about that incident. With this being said, I feel lighter & happier, yet my mom was more concerned with being blamed & telling me to get over it. I just found out about this buried memory this past year at 44. In light of this news & the post traumatic stress this has created for me and the years of confusion & suffering, there is no empathy. She wanted to know who it was & said she would of “killed” him and press charges. I admit that I felt some guilt after she said that & she went on to say why I did not tell her. The burden was on me again. I really believe she would of lost it & I feared I would of been blamed. I was criticized more than ever as a child if I did not measure up to their eexpectations. I now know I did not feel I would be supported or believed. Obviously not emotionally supported or comforted. It has been a long process of getting to the buried trauma & reliving those strong emotions again. Well, back to 2013 & my mom sends me a big check with letter expressing her shock & confusion over what I told her. Her focus was on the past yet she first had to say that if I wanted to sever ties with her & my dad, that is ok. She says I hate them. I never said hate & beside the point, I believe she is projecting her feelings again. I have felt anxiety & sadness all these years. Just getting to the anger this past year with my realizations. She also goes on to say that I am her daughter and she will always love me. Why is it that I’ m more confused by this declaration of love? It is what I have wanted to hear all these years, yet it does not ring true to me. I’ m accepting that she believes that she loves me in her controlling way. It is hurtful that she doesn’t love me the way I needed. I have been my families scapegoat (the sensitive & Caring one for everyone else. My whole life has been about caring more for others. I have redirected my empathy onto myself now by validating my truth and being kind. It happens on a thinking level about my beliefs about me and how I do relationship. My close friends are my family along with my husband & kids. The big check my husband & I received felt like she is buying my affection. I decided to keep it,since I can really use it to pay my bills & the counseling I need. I have been broken from the damage they did to me. Of course my mom wants me to “heal”. Just like you eloquently put they want me to overlook and forgive. How about them taking responsibility?!! Sincerely admsitting their neglect would make a difference in real reconciliation. Do not expect that to happen. I’ m starting the letting go process for myself out of love.


smd, We have a lot in common when it comes to the behavior of our parents. No matter what has happened in my life, if I share it with them, it becomes about them. To the point that it makes me feel like I don’t exist. In their eyes, I don’t exist as an individual. I’m just an extension of them, their child, a possession. Like you, I was the conscience of my enmeshed family and I carried the guilt whenever, anything went wrong. The underlying problem in all the abuse and neglect(which was the main abuse,it was emotional, medical,and then when I was a teenager and a man much older than me convinced me to leave home and live with him, I was an embarrasment, so they fed me to the wolves, by doing nothing)is irresponsibility. More than anything, they don’t want to take responsibility for themselves or accept blame for any of their actions. Whenever I tried to face a problem with them, all they could hear was accusation and that fear of responsibility takes them over. There’s no getting past it because they have no empathy for me. There’s none of what my husband calls “the she-bear instinct” in my mother or my dad and the need to protect their offspring never over-rides their need to protect themselves. The only need they are aware of is their own. They are like emotional blackholes and they can suck the life right out of me and they’re never satiated by it. Material gifts are their only expression of giving and they also, used them to buy me. They give in order to create indebtedness in the one they wish to serve them. My mother also, expects everyone, not just her children, to go to her. She reaches out to no one. The one sidedness of it all is what blocks the path to reconcilation and since it is coupled with total irresponsibility,it seems impossible to me that it would ever change. They are very emotionally, cripled people. I feel sorry for them but I can’t survive emotionally in the sick, enmeshed system that held my family together. I can do nothing to help them and simply, tolerating their sick behavior isn’t good for them or me. It isn’t good for the family I created. It isn’t like we’ve had a disagreement and if we reconciled we could just go back to the way we were. Reconciliation would mean starting over and putting in some hard work to build a relationship from the ground up. Just as I had healing to accomplish before I could forgive, they have a lot of healing to do before they could repent of their actions. A lack of empathy makes it impossible for them to feel real remorse. I can only do my part.The only path open to me is letting it go. That’s what forgiving is, letting go of all those old offenses. I’m released from the past by that action. I’m the only one who benefits by it for as long as they remain irresponsible for their actions. I think we are in much the same position smd.




I am in the same place as you. I love what you said here:

“I don’t want to give them any more of my time or energy.”

“I’m past caring what they think.”

“I don’t need that sort of love!” YES!!!

“it’s about healing the damage to me, so I’m honouring my feelings of aversion…”

“It suits them to label me”



Good for you, letting go!

As you said: (and I so identify)

“It is what I have wanted to hear all these years, yet it does not ring true to me.”

“I was criticized more than ever as a child” which is probably why you

“felt some guilt after she said that & she went on to say why I did not tell her”

and the whole way that your mother set up having gifts sent to you through the wife of the abuser really says it all!



I filled in the blank while reading this sentence, and you and I used the same word!

The underlying problem in all the abuse and neglect…is irresponsibility. And we can’t escape the correlation of personal responsibility and the ability to effectively love others.



I like this that you said:

“That’s what forgiving is, letting go of all those old offenses. I’m released from the past by that action.

And for me, that letting go means the offenses are no longer happening (or not nearly as much) because I don’t engage, therefore I can also let go of it all, even though I still deal with the affects, but less and less over time; my life is healthy and thriving.

“I’m the only one who benefits by it (this “letting go” forgiveness) as long as they remain irresponsible for their actions. (by acknowledging no wrong)


Kate, I had such a twisted version of forgiveness fed to me and used to control me and force me to take on their responsibility, that I couldn’t see that there was anything in it for me. It seemed like giving them an undeserved gift, only. Forgiveness is for the wronged party as much as what is offered to the offender. I had religion used as a club and had it drummed into me that if I didn’t forgive, then God would never forgive me! Then I saw Jesus’ words in a different way, after I’d reckoned with the truth and was able to validate myself. He said, “forgive in the same ‘way’ that I forgave you” Focusing on the word ‘way’ made me realize that I should follow His pattern. I go into this part of it, much deeper, in the second half but looking closely at that pattern helped me figure out who was responsible for what when it came to forgiveness.

I haven’t talked to you for awhile, Kate. It makes me happy to hear you’ve made so much headway.:0)Me too!:0)



Hi Everyone!
I just published Part 2 ~ The continuation of this article!
Here is the link ~ This new post is called “My Reckoning Journey on the path to Forgiving my Parents by Pam Witzemann” and in this one Pam goes deeper into her personal history on her path to finding forgivness.
I look forward to reading the conversation!


Hi Kate

I’m glad my words were meaningful for you, and doesn’t it feel great when you can feel the truth of them in your core. I’ve come a long way and it feels fantastic….



For me it was about recognising that as a child I had no confidence that my parents would do what was best for me or my siblings.

When they can’t supply that critical element of support for a child, who do you go to? The world seemed such a scary place to me, and any adults were not to be trusted.

Any attempt on my part to talk about “what happened” as an adult, was met with denial. “we only hit you when you were naughty”.


“I had such a twisted version of forgiveness fed to me and used to control me and force me to take on their responsibility, that I couldn’t see that there was anything in it for me. It seemed like giving them an undeserved gift, only. (sounds like more abuse, doesn’t it?)

Forgiveness is for the wronged party as much as what is offered to the offender.”


you had this twisted version because you were given this twisted version. And in discovering their meaning, you discovered that someone can call something anything, but that doesn’t make it forgiveness because they call it that.

I love the story of the girl going to church with her boyfriend and the elders told her that she could not have communion with them because she isn’t a member of their church and doesn’t believe the same way about communion as they did. She told them what she believes, and they told her what they believe, and her response was, “If that’s what you think communion is, then I don’t want it anyway!”

So, yeah, if that is what you think forgiveness is, then I want no part of it.


Kate, That is so, true.And yes,it was used as further abuse. It was used to confuse me and make me compliant. It worked for a long time but I’m not compliant, anymore.:0)I’m also, not stuck holding all the bagage for my family.:0):0)



Hi Everyone!
Hi Everyone!
I just published a new post about “how I believed it was up to me to fix problems in relationships”! This post includes lists of why I believed it in the first place as well as the new beliefs that I had to come to understand in order to overcome!
I look forward to the conversation there!
here is the link:http://emergingfrombroken.com/how-i-believed-it-was-up-to-me-to-fix-problems-in-relationships/
Hugs, Darlene


Thank You for the validation that our FOO are very similar in their denial & lack of empathy. It is about protecting themselves. I left out the last part of my mom’s letter that said, “Please Take Care and get the help you need and maybe some day we can get together and just talk! No yelling & no accusations, just talk and then we can both heal!”..Sounds sincere like she is making an effort, however, It leaves the healing of our so called relationship up to me again, when she says, “get the help you need”…I have been healing & anytime I’ve wanted to talk about my problems, she gave me mixed messages. She would talk about my problems, yet if I brought up anything to do with my feelings regarding anything she did to hurt me, that was not to be addressed. She would say,”All you do is talk about problems” or “misery likes company”. Master at deflecting the problems onto me and taking no responsibility or saying sorry. So, I’m not inclined to believe we can reconcile without her doing her own work & healing. She has had a lot of trauma in her childhood that I don’t think she can really face. Besides, I’m serious about keeping my boundaries tight with no contact. I have a lot to think about in terms of any relationship in the future. It can not be one sided for me. I deserve better. I have a close circle of friends that can do relationship with equal & mutual respect. We can laugh and share with each other. I’m not going to be friends with my mom. Not when she wants to be in a one up & controlling position.


smd, I know exactly, what you describe in your comment. My realtionship with my parents was totally, one-sided. My emotional needs were never recognized and it was my job to fill my mother’s emotional needs. She told me that when I was born she fantasized about my being a teenager and how we would be best friends and do everything together. I didn’t fulfill any of those fantasies for her and she has always, resented me for it. I don’t think she’ll ever understand why I didn’t remain ‘her’ child, forever. When I allowed my parents to move onto my property, they exhausted me and my husband. We did a lot of things for them but it wasn’t even that as much as my mom is like an emotional vacuum-cleaner and she sucks everything out of me. She never reaches out to anyone but she takes, continually. They are like leaches and once they attach, it’s really hard to get them to detach except, to stop being useful to them. No one needs that kind of relationship, smd. A relationship requires two, and relationship is not allowing yourself to be sucked into that vacuum that takes your emotional and physical energy and even your identity. Sometimes, I do miss my mom but I don’t miss feeling like that. I know I couldn’t go back to that because I’m different now. Every time I waver, all I have to do is go back over the steps I took in confronting them and their responses and I know, there was no other choice. I know they aren’t willing to do any of their own inner work and I can’t go back after having done mine.



New Post just published ~ is TRUST Mandatory in Healthy Relationships? I was taught a false understanding of trust. This post highlights what trust really is and how we come to believe we have no choice in the trust issue.
I am looking forward to the converstaion ~ http://emergingfrombroken.com/is-trust-mandatory-in-healthy-relationship-the-true-definition-of-trust/
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you for sharing this article!

Most people seem to believe that forgiveness means overlooking the abuse or ignoring it. They often seem to defend the abusers and condemn the victims. It took me years to work out what forgiveness really is. I was helped greatly by the Jewish (and Biblical) teaching that

1. If someone hurts me and TRULY repents (which involves changed behavior, not just pretty words), I must forgive him.
2. If I hurt someone, I must repent and ask for forgiveness.
3. If someone hurts me, I must not forgive (i.e., reconcile) him because to forgive someone who refuses to repent allows him to continue in his sin/abuse, which is a disrespect of myself and the relationship.

This goes along with what Jesus said in Luke 17: “Be careful. If your brother sins against you, REBUKE him. IF HE REPENTS, forgive him…”


TJ, There is responsibility evenly distrubuted in true forgiveness. Somehow, that responsibility is often shifted to fall only, on the victim. The false concept of forgiveness that was taught to me by parents was a major tool in keeping me quiet about their treatment of me. Everything gets distorted in the hands of manipulative, abusive people.

Thanks for sharing.



Hi Everyone!
I published a New Post by Pam and thought that the readers on this thread would be interested! This one defines sexual abuse and is a highly personal account of how Pam came to terms with what happened to her.
Here is the link http://emergingfrombroken.com/defining-sexual-abuse-and-devine-sex-by-pam-witzemann/
Hugs, Darlene


[…] The process of forgiving my childhood abusers (also by Pam) […]


Thank you for this as I have been saying this stuff for a long time.

“Survivors can heal, separately, from their abusers and if the abuser wants the relationship to be restored, they must apply that forgiveness to themselves by acknowledging the damage they’ve done. If this is what they truly, want, then they will demonstrate this with true remorse.”

Agreed yet my therapist told me months ago that you can heal together in the same household with the abuser. I said wtf?!?!? the survivors of abuse workshop I went to in 2012, all of the women said they healed away from their abuser and asked me what is your therapist smoking?! Therapist told me ‘forgiving is not about pushing it under the rug, but if you don’t forgive you always be an angry person.’ Really??! How many people in here have been “angry, bitter people” because they didn’t forgive?

I told her a story long ago that I spoke to a guy who hated his father for the abuse he did to him and his mom. He also admitted how he was angry at her for not leaving his dad that she could have gotten resources and keep her plans to herself without his dad knowing. The guy was really nice, he was successful and asked him did you ever forgive your dad? He said no, but found other ways to heal and put his energy into his job, friends, dogs, etc all the good stuff. He said his dad didn’t deserve forgiveness, but he wasn’t an angry, bitter person.

Oh, therapist dismissed that so fast lol. I told her the only reason why I am so bitter/angry is because of the mistreatment, the lack of parental help, lack of support, lack of everything, etc and if I had my own place; I could truly start to release it but not while I still live in their home.

I learned a lot about abuse when I was a kid and very intelligent about the subject. I agree about forgiveness being used as a weapon and twisting it to suit the abusers’ needs. I told my therapist if I could forgive my parents, but where does that leave me? Why do they get to keep abusing others? She said you can’t change them, no duh, I know that. I said look, forgiveness is a two way street not a one way which we have always operated as a one way society.

My parents said ‘we did nothing wrong, why are you always lying?’ I asked therapist does that sound like two people who admitted anything?!? They just said they didn’t do anything wrong and on top of that, they also said, ‘your sister is always lying, trying to make us look bad. We are great parents and you two should be proud of it, but no, you just want others to put lies in your head.’ Wow, if that isn’t straight up abuse right there – then I certainly don’t know what is!

I asked her ‘why do we always have to feel sorry for the abusers?’ Yes, we have already established that they were abused to at one time in their life. What makes them more special than the victim?’ Ohh, the silence in her office! I asked, ‘care to explain?’ We are seriously confusing people out there about forgiveness and I hear stories of them killing themselves because they may have forgiven, but their heart was still tearing up inside of them. Another thing that still makes me angry is watching how other people had a real family and we didn’t!

I told my therapist I came to terms about what happen when I was a little kid, but was still angry. She told me if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t still be there or be bothered by it. What kind of damn answer is that?!? Gee, heard of codependency? I am still bothered by it because the mistreatment is still there. Hell, I am still working hard to leave once I get a job.

I have seen forgiveness as a way to overlook or put it under the rug – let’s not discuss it anymore. I have seen all of my life of my parents always being defended by people and making me the liar/perpetrator! These people said that ‘I am committing a crime against my parents by speaking ill when all parents love their kids.’ WTF?!?!? I am making a crime against “my parents?” Really?!?? We really live in a dome (forget a bubble!) in this society!

If a person is not gonna truly admit to any wrongdoing, then what are we doing? I told people ‘that it is disrespectful to ask of me to forgive my parents, when they are being treated as Saints and Gods! I don’t think so!’ Like I always say, ‘when good is considered evil and evil is considered good.’ That is why people have such a hard time distinguishing the difference.

Has anybody watched Steve Wilkos show? Look at how he yells at these abusers and tells them ‘it’s your fault and that’s why you don’t have your kids with you – take responsibility!’ That is how these MHPs need to talk not the whole ‘oh, how does that make you feel?’ That garbage people say ‘abusers could change.’ Everybody has options to change and I agree, but how many of these abusers really change? Very small, minute number and why are we still putting hope on them?! They are not going to change – period! I told my therapist we are always wasting time on these people and this is the reason why they get away with a lot of crap whether you wanna admit it or not!


I am a little conflicted with the subject of forgiveness. My maternal grandmother? She’s always right so why bother? (This is a woman who mistakenly gave her sister kerosene instead of milk formula, and she blames the kerosene of course). For her I just chose to remain civil (Meaning I did nothing to get her to “open her eyes” I just didn’t bother to wait for the day she realises how wrong she was, in how she treated me).

My Dad, on the other hand is where I am having a little bit of trouble. He has apologised for shouting at me twice, but I felt that those apologies had the “Sorry but I think I’ll eventually hurt you again so brace yourself” kind of feeling rather than him sincerely being sorry. I don’t know, I’m sorry if I am weird like that.

Now the following situation I am about to shed light on, is where I felt a little bit more “on the edge” in this never-ending forgiveness issue of mine.

When I returned to Australia after studying abroad in Italy, my Dad wrote a comforting message on my 21st birthday card. He wrote that I fulfilled his dream of being a father, and that he was SORRY for not being the best father or the best role model that I could look up to (I agree). He apologised AGAIN and I felt really good! However I told you that I am weird. What got me confused, were the questions “Should I forgive him?” or “Is this just birthday talk?” or “Is this another trap?” I can’t seem to forgive him even if the words were there! Maybe it’s because I was expecting the “Actions speak louder than words” approach to this (Just like what he did when he apologised for the shouting, but only this time with an ounce of sincerity).

Or maybe it’s because he’s still the same self-righteous ass that he was (I am still seeing the “same-old signs” and I have been cautious to avoid trouble). The reason why I am all over the place, is that this is the third time he apologised, which makes this the third time (I am not seeing the third time’s a charm situation), that I am going to give forgiveness and I don’t want it to be put to waste! My thoughts are like “I want to, but I should be safe” It sucks to have a choice that you want to make but at the same time you’re like why even bother?.

Sorry if this was all over the place, but forgiveness and I aren’t really the best of friends so yeah.

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