Forgive the Abusers? A bit of a Rant

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Forgive the abusers?

A whole book could be written about this subject. There is so much “baggage” around the whole concept of forgiveness that I hesitate to even go there, however…. there have been a few discussions lately on the facebook page for Emerging from Broken; some to do with my last post “Emotional Healing and the Will to go forward” and it is time for me to post just a little bit about this huge topic for forgiveness. Please remember that this is just one blog post. One little snapshot of truth; one little view in to a very large subject. 

  • First, a note about blame: In my view, blame is about placing the responsibility for the trauma where it belongs. In my recovery, blame was necessary and part of the natural progression on the journey to wholeness. I am not suggesting that we need to stay in the emotional part of blame forever, just that it is an important stepping stone in this process of emerging from broken.

So, fasten your seatbelts because I feel a rant coming on. I hope that you will join in and express your own feelings about the kind of invalidation that we and so many others have suffered.

Forgiveness; What I am suggesting is that we are taught to skip a step in the whole forgiveness arena. We are told to forgive before we are even validated that we have something to forgive.  Some examples of this are when we have been abused emotionally, physically or sexually; (abuse is abuse) and we are ignored, not heard, discounted, not given a voice. Our trauma and our grievance is invalidated.  I have heard people told in for example, church situations that they must not take an accusation outside of the church but that it must be settled in the church ~  and then the situation is swept under the carpet. These are just a few of the stories that I hear over and over again; I have heard wives told that they are being beaten by husbands because they have failed to submit. I have heard of wives who have been raped by spouses being told that it is not rape and that it is a husbands right. I have been told when a husband is cheating sexually that it must have something to do with the wife not meeting his needs. This is all abuse. And then these same abused people are told to “get over it already” and that they “must forgive” Something foundational is missing in the forgiveness advice. These people were invalidated by the abuser and then re-invalidated by the ones they sought help from. And this is not at all unique to the church. I am just using that example because it seems like most of the people that tell me to “just forgive” come from that background.

Children are equally devalued. As children, IF we even realize that it is wrong to be called dumb, stupid and useless, IF we even realize that being beaten on a whim or because someone else is in a bad mood is wrong; IF we somehow figure out that adults having sexual relations of any kind with children is illegal, and IF that victim child tells and is ignored, called a liar, OR anything else other than protected and validated, then the child has an extra layer of abuse to deal with. When this child grows up IF they ever disclose the abuse, they are SO OFTEN met with more invalidation and unhelpful instruction such as “you must forgive”.

Are you getting the picture about why so many people DON’T tell? Many keep the secret in the dark recesses of their minds ~ so convinced that the guilt and shame are theirs to bear and that they must have somehow deserved this kind of mistreatment and added on to that is the whole insistence that forgiveness is the only answer which makes many of us reluctant to disclose abuse least we be seen as unforgiving!  

SO let’s just say we finally DO talk about it and then we are told to jump ahead to forgiveness. HOW the heck is that supposed to be possible?   This ticks me off. It isn’t possible to “just get over it and forgive”. I tried it for years! It didn’t work this way for me.

When we are encouraged to try to understand the abuser, it is worse. Why should we try to understand something so incomprehensible? WHY do we need to understand them when we have not been encouraged to understand our own feelings yet? This is so backwards. I spent years trying to understand them, even fooling myself that I did understand, and that I did forgive, and looking back I realize that in doing that before I even validated myself and the abuse that I survived, I became my own abuser. I became the one who discounted myself, picking up where they left off… oh it is so twisted how this all works.

I was told that forgiveness was for me, and had nothing to do with the other person, but I was told that as though forgiveness was just an easy choice. No one offered me any assistance on HOW to do it. (just do it ~ duh)

So why all the panic about forgiveness in the first place? This is a HOT topic all over the place. I had to stop and think about that one; right off the top of my head; I had this idea that if I suddenly died, and I had not forgiven (my abusers and oppressors whom I didn’t even realize were abusers until much later) that I would instantly be cast into Hell.  I think that was where my desperation to “forgive” came from. I had this anxiety about it and today I don’t believe that anymore; I see it as ridiculous.

So my point is not to put the blame where it belongs in order to stay there in that anger or resentment, but rather as a stepping stone to healing. I have no resentment anymore. I am not angry about my past because I have worked my way through it. But I HAD to go through the stage where I was really angry, and where I did not think forgiveness would ever be possible or necessary. I had to give myself permission to be angry, permission to speak, to have a voice, to vent and rage and FEEL all the emotions that I was not allowed to feel before as a victim.

Forgiveness for me came as a result of the work I did for ME. It came as an unexpected bonus ~ it was something that I didn’t consciously “work on” and I actually put the whole concept of forgiveness aside and tried not to think about it when I was in the depth of my process. Not forgiving had its own guilt and shame attached to it…none of which was MINE and in the healing process I had to get a really good grasp of what was mine to deal with and what wasn’t. 

It is with mixed emotions that I hit the publish button on this ~ for the most part “unedited” rant.

Love is my biggest motivator..

Darlene Ouimet 

One of my readers sent me this great video by ex-psychotherapist, Daniel Mackler  on You Tube, about this subject of forgiveness.

Related post: What about forgiveness?

258 response to "Forgive the Abusers? A bit of a Rant"

  1. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 25th November

    Nordy, forgiveness does not mean “handing the abuser a free card to do it all over again.” My journey to forgiveness meant making the abuser accountable for the abuse and meant removing myself and my children from within his reach. It meant telling others about the abuse so this person could not abuse again.

    Forgiveness is not denial of what happened. It means no longer blaming myself for the abuse. It means getting angry, sad, and grieving for the loss of my childhood and my innocense. It means not continuing to attract other abusers to myself.

    In feeling all of the rage that I carried around inside of me, I was able to finally feel everything else that was getting blocked from my life as well such as joy, laughter, happiness and love for myself and my family. As long as I was holding on to the rage, there wasn’t room for anything else.

    I was finally able to see how unhappy I was and learn that I could change that, if I wanted to. I used to think the rage was powerful. What it was was destructive to me and my body. I used my rage to hurt others and myself. I was afraid for many years that if I let the rage out, I would kill someone with it.

    I was afraid of my own feelings. I used 12-Step meetings to talk out the rage and found out that I didn’t have to hurt myself or anyone else with it. 12-Step meetings were a safe place for me to do the work of reconnecting with myself, my feelings and my body. Today, I thank God that my dad was an alcoholic or I might never had found out how to do my own work of growing and changing into the person that I love today.

  2. By: nordy Posted: 24th November

    To me, forgiveness has no meaning. It’s like asking, “How big is orange.”

    The therps like to tell you how good it is for you. Few of them have experienced anything like you have. While they preach forgiveness, they never tell you exactly how you do it. All the talk is this vague stuff about “letting go.”

    I will never forgive because I’m not capable of forgiveness. All it sounds like to me is handing the abuser a free card to do it all over again.

    And I’m sick and tired of being lectured about it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th November

      Hi Nordy,
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      I put the whole concept of forgiveness aside while I sorted out my life in the process of healing. There is no reason why we can’t just do that. Who gets to say what we HAVE to do? I did forgive in the end, but it was nothing like the word or concept that I had come to understand my whole life. It was more like I just stopped being controlled by the people who hurt me. I just didn’t have all the anger anymoe. But as for the how part, it was something that came as a result of doing the healing work. So just telling ppl. to forgive is really not helpful at all. They don’t say HOW to do it because they don’t KNOW HOW to do it.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 1st November

    Krissy, you are very welcome. Helping someone else to see something in themselves and the healing that I get from telling my story are the only reasons that I choose to be so brutally honest about my own journey. Helping each other heal is such a blessing.

  4. By: tegan Posted: 1st November

    As my husband and I had children, my oldest son was about 9 when he started to show some very aggressive behavior and had problems in school, at the time I seriously thought it was my fault that he was that way come to find out that the teacher was being abusive to all the kids and he thought that if he told he would get in trouble and not the teacher because she is an adult (I thought that way too!!! see the pattern?) Anyway we switched schools and he did fine after a little counseling too! he told his dad that it made him feel good that we believed him when he finally told us about the abuse, at 17 he is a joy to see him growing into such a excellent young man. Its all about girls, his truck and sports!!! LOL school is definitely in last place.I am not big on holidays but I tolerate them because I love my family and they help through those times. You folks are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. By: Krissy Posted: 1st November

    Tegan and Patricia, THANKS so much for your comments. It really gives me hope for my kids too. When I left my abusive relationship, it was not just my rage that came to the surface, I saw the same thing in my teenagers and it wasn’t pretty. Downright scary. I realized then that they had only poor role-modeling and none of us knew how to express our anger except through rage. It was when my counselor helped me see that we had a lot in common and that I should come alongside and work through that common ground rather than see them as abusers in the making that needed to be rejected, that things began to change.
    I will never figure out why some people are aware and want to change and others, like my ex, refuse to look at their behavior and just make excuses, project, blame, deny, etc. Not to say he didn’t keep me hoping by being remorseful once in a while and saying that he was going to change. Then he would do nothing to initiate the process, and I wouldn’t dare to question him or he would explode again. He kept me trying to figure it out, doing all the hard work and blaming myself for a long time before I realized that it had nothing to do with me. Now I can see that it is not just his actions that need forgiving, it is his lack of will and his deception that he really really wanted to change that need forgiving too, because it is that deception that kept us with him. People who really want to change eventually end up where you are, Tegan and Patricia.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st November

      Hi Tegan,
      Welcome and thank you for sharing this piece of your story. Another story of how the victim is labelled as the problem. These kinds of stories always stun me, no matter how often I hear them. I guess this is partly why I write a lot about that missing link between being abused and being responsible for your own life as an adult.. when all we ever know is being punished for both compliance AND for retaliation. We just can’t win. Thank you for shedding light on another aspect of this whole thing.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: tegan Posted: 1st November

    Not proud of what I did, by the time I was a teenager my abuse was an every day ordeal when I turned 14 I had about enough and I beat my mother nearly to death in a fit of rage. She was in the hospital for about 6 weeks and my uncle tried to discipline me for doing that but I told him that if he touched me I would kill him, he left me alone had to go to court and they sent me to a residential treatment center for anger issues for a long time after words I went to live with my grandparents and my grandfather was a pervert. He tried to touch me one night and I told him to get out of the room. The next night he tried again only this time I was ready I stabbed him in the hand they kicked me out of the house and told every one I was possessed.(my grandfather was a deacon in the church) The pastor tried to talk to me about forgiveness I told him to fuck off! My grandparents have since then past away and I have absolutely no contact with my mother. My older brother, he is 10 years older, raised me and he provided a good home for me and made sure that I got the help that I needed to survive. Many years have past I am now married to a wonderful loving husband and my in-laws are absolutely the best!!! I determined in my heart when I was about 20 that I WOULD NOT let my past predict how I was going to be as a person in the future. After many stumbles and falls along the way I am really doing good I have alot of love and support from my family. I had lot of questions over the years like why didn’t anyone help when they could see the abuse but since no one could truly give me an answer I did not have to come up with one of my own. I would like to say that I have forgiven them but honestly I don’t think I really have totally maybe some day I will have a definite answer and then I AM A SURVIVER!!!!!!!

  7. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 1st November

    Arja, over the past few days I wrote another post of my own about forgiveness in which I wrote that you can’t just “get over it,” that you can’t go “under, over, or around” the pain that you have to go through it instead. I love the similarity of our thoughts on the subject. I worked on my post over the past 3 days before finishing it early yesterday afternoon. The post will come out on Tuesday morning (Nov. 2).

  8. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 1st November

    Krissy, You are very welcome. For the first time, probably because of the comments here that I have been reading and the fact that October was Domestic Violence Awareness month and the shows that I watched on Dr. Phil, I have actually thought about my actions toward my husband as incidences of domestic violence, also my sarcasm that I used to let out my hatred was a form of domestic abuse. I never before realized that words could be domestic abuse too. I know that emotional abuse can be more damaging than physical abuse in many ways. Threats of hitting without the actual hitting can also be domestic violence because they produce fear. I grew up with a lot of threats. Yes, I carry guilt about the 3 hitting incidences and about the sarcasm. When I heard my children starting to address their dad with sarcasm, I realized it was time for me to stop. Sarcasm teaches disrespect. I wanted my children to respect their dad so I stopped. I wanted to respect my husband so I stopped. He deserved my respect, not my sarcasm. He was not my dad or my mom. He was himself, the man that I loved, the man who taught me to laugh and to love.

    I have never agreed with the abused children grow up to be abusers in domestic violence cases, as an excuse. It does happen. Yes, some do grow up to abuse, but so many, many others don’t. Many more abused children grow up to stop abuse in their lives rather than carrying it on as adults. I think conscience is the difference. As you said, I felt guilty about my 3 times that I tried to slap my husband and I learned to control and release the rage so that it would never happen again. I don’t think my dad ever felt guilt, if he did he didn’t express it. My husband didn’t silently stand by and meekly allow himself to be abused. He blocked the slap all 3 times. I thought I had broken my own arm one time because I hit his arm with such force. I have never been proud of what I did. This is one of the few places that I have ever talked about it. Rage is never an excuse to hurt someone else. My husband and I have talked about all of this and healed it between us. Secrets have to be acknowledged and worked through to heal.

    Working with my anger, acknowledging and feeling it before it can build and become rage is how I learned to stop raging. Tackle the anger before it becomes rage. One of the most difficult parts of healing, for me, is acknowledging how I did some of the abusive patterns from my childhood when I became the adult. Seeing those patterns of behavior is how you change. Until you see – awareness – you can’t change.

  9. By: Arja Posted: 1st November

    I’m so glad you hit the send button too. I have been following this discussion and have been gaining a lot too……especially from you, Chalet.
    You have a lot to contribute to all of us…..and even though you might feel invisible, you are not.

  10. By: Arja Posted: 1st November

    Chalet / Genesis, your comment about your therapist makes me think of how angry I felt when I realized that it hurt the first time around and now reliving it I had to go through the pain again…….so not fair! So wrong to have to suffer twice or three or more times for the same thing. My therapist just let me verbalize this, not responding with anything more than an I’m sorry look.

    He has told me more than once, for sure, that the only way past the pain is through it. You can’t avoid it and heal. You can’t go under it, over it, around it. You have to go through it to get to the other side. It hurts so bad you think you’re not going to make it…..and you often don’t even want to make it if it means feeling that level of pain. Yet, somehow you do. You come out the other side. You look gratefully at the treasure of a person who was willing to sit with you through those tough times and support you through it all.

    I know that your therapist is that kind of a treasure of a person. I think you know it too.

    Hugs to both of you.
    Arja

  11. By: Lisa Posted: 1st November

    Christmas is loaded for me too. I have learned to love other holidays-particularly Thanksgiving, in my case – because I’ve learned to really treat myself well. But Christmas still knocks me out every year. I know it’s a process, but I always feel guilty about not enjoying Christmas…like it only comes once a year, and why do I have to be such a Scrooge anyway?! I’ll try not to do that to myself this year at least…it would be a step in the right direction!

  12. By: Krissy Posted: 31st October

    Patricia, thanks for sharing about your rage and how you worked through it. I felt so guilty for displaying so much rage at my kids, the ones I was supposed to protect, after we escaped the abusive relationship. But then, my abused kids also displayed rage at me (which they never would have in front of their dominator). They will not go for counseling, so I will have to be patient there.

    What you have shared also confirms to me that there is a difference between having childhood trauma and having violence-supporting beliefs. Friends of my ex would have sympathy for him, trying to trace the cause of his woes to childhood trauma (which he angrily denied and never looked into). I myself used to think that if I helped him through it (maybe that was my life mission) he would change.

    A person who has horrendous childhood experiences is scarred and obviously this affects all adult relationships. But if that person doesn’t have violence-supporting beliefs (that he/she is entitled to dominate, control, etc) that can be worked through and the person feels bad for how it affects others. I mean, your husband could have called the police and you could have been labelled a woman abuser and he a male victim. And of course, there are those. But in your case (and in the case of other male perpetrators who are labelled abusers), your actions didn’t sit well with you and you were able to confront it and talk about it honestly. So it seems to support the theory that childhood abuse is not really the root cause of domestic abuse.

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st October

    Hi everyone!
    I love what you said Patricia, about redefining holidays, and creating new memories. That is what I had to do too! AND it is possible. It does take time, for sure! It is a big part of the overall process.

    I hated Christmas the most… I volunteered to work every Christmas (I worked in a hospital so I was the hero to all the folks that actually wanted the day off!) I am glad that I began to create new memories with my kids (this is part of re-parenting and re-wiring stuff) because I sure would feel bad if they hated Christmas too!

    Great post Patricia!
    Hugs, Darlene

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st October

      Hi Everyone, The blog is having a Glitch and Fi is not able to post her comment, so she has sent it to me:
      Here is what Fi has to add!

      “Wow, yes that redefining holidays and creating new memories does work. I know from experience that it really is possible.

      I do it at Christmas too. I used to hate Christmas and absolutely dreaded it coming knowing I’d be alone no matter what I did. I tried everything including voluntary work but nothing really worked.

      Then in 2006 I discovered a holiday company that makes going away at Christmas affordable. The last 4 Christmasses I’ve been away to Europe with this company and will be again this Christmas. I’ve begun to look forward to Christmas now rather than dread it. It’s taken a lot of time to begin to get past the trauma and begin to create new good memories that no one can ever take away from me. I spend the whole year planning, saving and going without to be able to do it, but it has transformed Christmas for me!!

      It’s not easy to do but it is possible to transform a crap/horrible time of year into one you can look forward to/get through a bit easier.”

      Fi

  14. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 31st October

    Kathy, one way that I have found to ease the pain of bad memories is to create new, better memories with my children. For me, Christmas is a really good example of this. Every single Christmas of my childhood, my dad would get drunk and make an ass out of himself and ruin the holiday for everyone esle. My dad was a mean drunk. I took the Christmas holiday and made good memories with my husband and children. I kept creating new memories each year until finally the hurt eased and the sadness was replaced by happiness with my family.

  15. By: Genesis (Chalet) Posted: 31st October

    Unfortunately I’m on the edge. I need to be more prepared to read something that will eventually trigger me. I don’t like to be reminded of things from others sometimes.. life has its way of letting you know that you can’t always have things your way. Yet I can make a choice. That is to stop reading this now. My sympathies to the one who survived more ritualized abuse. Just know that you are loved and others share your pain. I have no further comment here. Thanks to all for sharing with me.
    *hugs*

  16. By: Sheryl Posted: 31st October

    Genesis,
    I happen to also HATE Sundays!!!

  17. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 31st October

    Chalet, good on you for changing your name, I’m legally changing mine in January – all the best with your new identity, new start!!

  18. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 31st October

    Halloween isn’t good for me either cos of the satanic abuse and witchcraft rituals that took place around some of my earliest experiences of abuse and that I was forced to take part in by my grandparents.

    This is also a totally shit time of year for me with so many birthday and anniversary dates that I wish my mind/body would not insist on remembering – there’s something about having to re-define certain days, somehow!!

  19. By: Chalet Posted: 31st October

    Kathy, its not really Halloween. Yes, I am making this up in part but its Sunday. I kind of effing HATE SUNDAYS… just didn’t want you to be the only one with a reason to not like “today”. I hope its okay you share your sadness and frustrations with “me”.

  20. By: Chalet Posted: 31st October

    Thank you as always Darlene for you blogs.. you all give me courage. In a totally unrelated rant guess what my new legal first name will be in less than a month? Genesis. Cool huh? Thank heavens for new beginnings…

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st October

      Chalet,
      What a great name! “Genesis” I love it and yes it is very cool! I love new beginnings and this is a great new beginning.
      Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: Kathy Posted: 31st October

    Thanks Fi, Patricia and Darlene (and everyone else)!

    Today is Halloween! I hate Halloween…I fucking hate it! But my girls love it. I have to suck it up for them and let them have a great Halloween! It has a bad meaning for me and really hits some nerves but I CAN NOT let it be a bad thing for my innocent little girls.

    I just want this day to hurry and fucking me over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. By: Sheryl Posted: 31st October

    Chalet,
    I appreciated that story about you and this therapist. It reminds me of a friendship that I had. We reconnected after about 25 years. We exchanged stories of this nature that were truly so much alike and it was just life-giving to me. I literally felt restored by much of what she shared. We talked a lot for months. Then one day, there was some part of her that she was talking about and I said that I guessed that it had to do with her being adopted. And she said that is what her therapist had also said. (Oh, and by the way, she was very mad at herself for having staed in a bad marriage for many years, so a “forgiving of self” issue that drove her to therapy.)
    Anyway, that was the last time she would ever talk to me!!

  23. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 31st October

    Sherryl, you are welcome. What is amazing and miraculous is that any of us survived at all. What is amazing is how we all are such beautiful and courageous women in spite of the abuse that we survived. (((Hugs))) and Blessings to all.

  24. By: Sheryl Posted: 31st October

    Patricia,
    I goofed. I meant to thank you for your last post! I appreciate Darlene as well!
    Sorry!!

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