Forgive the Abusers? A bit of a Rant


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: DL Posted: 16th August

    Thank you, thank you! What an article, you nailed it! Its how I feel. I was looking for something like this because of the “The Glass Castle” being released as a film recently. I lived a childhood VERY eerily similar to that one. Nothing against Jeannette Walls but not all of us view our parents the way she does. It is certainly her business to evaluate her past and family as she sees fit FOR HER but… the media will turn her into a Poster Child of how to survive and “move on.” One Size Fits All. I am so sick and tired of those of us with these stories being told to FORGIVE like its mandatory! Media, the church, 12 step, Oprah, we are hounded with the message and its pounded in! Being told how we should feel, what we must do and say to “heal”. (This is why I hate movies like “An American Quilt”, “Bastard Out of Carolina”, “the Incredible Mrs Ritchie” because they all have some pat, smug, heartless dialogue in them that implies the victim must “get over it” or go back and rescue the damn lousy family.)(For that matter “Philadelphia Story” has some creepy dialogue too!) I turn 60 this year and while most of my therapy and inner assessment along these lines is done…I still have moments where I have to peel back one more layer. If that happens, so be it. I have had moments of forgiveness –that have even lasted years–but I’m like an onion, layer on layer, I’m not one-dimensional, life is complicated So instead of “forgive and forget”, I choose to “forgive and UNforgive” as the situation demands. I see it this way, when you repair a house, you do the projects one at a time, sometimes in different rooms, all over the house, a little at a time. Not all at once, not even all in the same decade. Improvement is on-going. My parents are deceased but they helped build the foundation and framework of my personality, stunted it and tore it down. I am proud of how far I’ve come. BUT: if I have to be angry at their memory now and then while remodeling a certain corner of my life, well, so be it! You’d have words for a lousy carpenter or plumber who messed up wouldn’t you? No difference! It takes what it takes. But no one who has been abused should be pressured the way our culture pressures us. So SICK OF IT.

    Thank you for your words! And the words of others in comments. This is a subject near to my heart that raised my blood pressure at times.

    PS: I find it interesting in the Glass Castle the youngest Maureen mostly stays away from the family and the media and the little we know of her, she is labeled possibly “mentally ill”. Yet if you really DIG through some postings you’ll find friends and college friends who “knew her when” and didn’t see her as unstable at all! In fact they want to find her. She was loved. She had a violent reaction to an abusive parent and then had to serve time in an institution. Doesn’t matter the form of abuse, you get enough of it you reach a breaking point. There but for the grace of the cosmos, go I! (Almost was me, in one instance! Almost!)(My dad. He threatened to kill me and I stood my ground and threw his own ugly words back at him.And for the record, years later I was genuinely very good to that man in his last moments.) No one locked the parents up, during all that, from what I can tell, just her, Maureen. Why? Makes you wonder, don’t it? I’m not advocating violence at all, just saying her outburst was normal if not legal. But her sister’s attitude to the past is more photogenic, tidy and media approved. A feel good story for the box office. Well, I say, good for Maureen escaping! I had a therapist once tell me there is nothing wrong with running away – from a bad thing.

    Thank you. This post meant a lot to me today.

  2. By: Tundra Woman Posted: 19th July

    Thank you, HH. Indeed this insistence is simply more abuse, another kind of intolerance from (of all people) the most intolerant wrapped in a transparent “Care and Concern” package. I can’t even recall the number of times or settings in which I have also been taken to task by the Forgiveness PC Police. The reality is, “forgiveness” never crossed my radar. That’s right: Never even thought of it. Forgiveness was and still is a non-issue to me. (Let the vapors and/or screeching begin.) And I NC’d *decades* ago. I’ve been pelted with the most simplistic views of the human experience imaginable ex: “If you don’t forgive you’ll be an angry, bitter person!” Really?! Of all the possible outcomes, it is this binary only that inevitably will result?! Deargawdhelphthefools.

    I live in the boonies with a lot of wildlife. So here it is, from an apparently completely morally bankrupt old widow: Would I forgive a bear for being a bear? Likewise, a snake? A deer? A fox. Rediculous, right? That’s just WHO THEY ARE-and every one is a Predator out of necessity. My CB Mugger was who she was and was a Predator out of nastiness and consciencelessness.

    It’s not the victim or the child of such parents upon whom the demands for “forgiveness” need to be heaped: It is the Perpetrators.

  3. By: HH Posted: 19th July

    I’m tired of being pushed to “forgive.” I’m tired of being told that forgiveness is about me, not the abuser, how much it will help me….. Forgiveness to me DOES mean that you absolve the abuser, and I’m tired of hearing about how wrong I am for not accepting that definition. Do you folks not understand that pushing a victim to do something they don’t accept is abusing them as well, although in a different way?

    I’m tired of victim being a dirty word. “Don’t be a victim.” It was too late for that the moment I was abused.

    Let the victim decide how best they should heal. Quit forcing them to accept your idea of what they “must” do in order to heal. Just be there for them. When you give them advice, you are not listening. When you are not listening, you are not supporting.

    If forgiveness helped YOU – great. Please understand that there isn’t one magic cure all that works for everybody.

  4. By: Mapela Posted: 5th June

    I read this at the right time. Thank you so much. This is definitely helping me with my rage. I did the same thing. Forgave my abusers without validating myself. Tried to understand them without validating myself. I wondered why i was still angry. Why it felt like yesterday. Its because i didn’t validate any of my pain and anger. No more. I am fucking angry. And i will keep being angry until i am ready to let go

  5. By: HH Posted: 18th November


    I do NOT have to forgive my abusers in order to heal, not forgiving them does not “hurt” me as everyone insists, although the pressure to forgive DOES.

    “Forgiveness” is another way to abuse the victim. What is said about people who can’t/won’t forgive? They’re bad people. (Thanks a lot). It’s just another way to take the pressure off the abuser and lay it back on the victim.

    My family thinks forgiveness means you “put it behind you” and putting it behind you means you never bring it up again. If you do, then that’s proof you didn’t really forgive, are holding a grudge, or “dwelling on it.” This gives the abuser a free pass, and the family is free of discomfort and embarrassment. What happens to the victim? They suffer in silence. No thanks.

    • By: Rainey Posted: 27th February

      I could not have said it any better, I whole heartedly agree with your feelings as I feel exactly the same way!

  6. By: Kendris Posted: 28th July

    Thank you for writing this because it helps me feel validated. My mother and father both abused and neglected me for years. After a long, long time I feel like maybe I can put my past relationship with my father behind me and have something meaningful with him because he has taken many steps to redeem himself and make up for the damage he did.

    The first thing I was told when talking about this abuse was “oh, you need to forgive them.” To me this is a form of victim blaming. I feel like I was being told that I am unhappy because I haven’t forgiven my abusers yet and if I did all my pain would instantly go away. It is my fault I’m in pain not the fault of the people who hurt me. I have complete control over when the pain stops because I am causing it.

    This is a terrible thing to say to a victim of abuse and not helpful at all. It’s kind of like saying: if you just pretend the abuse never happened then you will be fine. If I pretended everything was fine between me and my parents then it would be like the abuse never happened. I think people ask victims to do this so they can just forget about the fact that the victim was a abused. It makes things easier on other people but it makes it harder on abuse victims who need validation.

    I don’t know if “forgiving” is something I am ever going to do and I don’t really care. What I need to do is make myself okay. I don’t need to worry about my abuser’s feelings. I also tried for years to convince myself I had forgiven my mother but I hadn’t and I recently realized that her abusive behavior started long before I originally thought it did.

    I never really thought I deserved what I was getting until I started trying to prematurely analyze the events in a way that could allow me to be forgiving of my abuser. For me that meant laying a lot of blame on myself and was very harmful. Probably a therapist would have told me not to do that but I didn’t have one. Now I have a lot more feelings of self loathing than I had before but I am trying to forget what people told me and do what I need to for myself.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th July

      Hi Kendris
      Welcome to EFB ~ Well said! (and yes it IS victim blaming!)
      Thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene
      p.s. about your last paragraph ~ I wrote an article once about how when accountability is used in that way it is very damaging.

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