The Confusion Created around Forgiveness Issues


How do I forgive that?Forgiveness is always a huge issue and a hot topic with survivors of any kind of abuse or trauma that was inflicted by another person. A lot of people preach and teach that forgiveness is the ONLY way to personal freedom and recovery. I think that is a wrong.  I think being told that is like being re-abused.  I think that forgiveness is a RESULT of the healing process BUT I had to set the whole issue of forgiveness aside while I did my healing work.

Because only when I set that issue aside was I able to look at the whole picture from a new angle. I was able to look at it through the grid of the truth instead of through what was being dictated to me and all the false teachings around the forgiveness directives.

As someone who has personally recovered from childhood sexual abuse and dissociated identity disorder as well as multiple chronic depressions, forgiveness was not the key to recovery for me. I understand today that forgiveness is not saying “what they did is okay” and I also understand that there is no point in forgiving someone that isn’t sorry other than to set myself free BUT I was not able to forgive (EVEN for the purpose of setting myself free) when I had not even processed the trauma or abuse events through the grid of truth. There was a step missing in there; freedom doesn’t come by sweeping the whole issue under the carpet. Freedom and emotional healing comes from facing the truth about what actually happened and validating it.

In each case of abuse or trauma I had to look at the results of that trauma. I was used, unprotected, and not valued and it was inferred or outright stated that I had some responsibility in it.  The abuser was NEVER questioned! My feelings were invalidated. The truth about what really happened was also invalidated. For each instance where I had been mistreated, devalued, oppressed, suppressed, and not allowed to have a voice or a defense ~ I had to look at the real truth. Who did it? Could I have prevented it? Did I really “ask for it”. Did I bring it on myself or deserve it?  The answer was always no.  I had to place the blame and responsibility for those events and that mistreatment back on the people who were responsible for them in the first place. And I had to validate myself; YES I was abused. Yes I was mistreated and my feelings about it were shut down and invalidated. AND that was wrong.

We are told to forgive people who are not seeking forgiveness. It is confusing that so often these people didn’t “ask” for forgiveness because they denied that they ever did anything wrong in the first place. In this case it is “other” people telling me that I HAD to forgive as a solution to my distress.  I still remember feeling insane around this stuff. The abusers denied everything and I am told to just forgive what they said they didn’t do? It felt to me like even the people telling me to get over it and forgive, were also denying (agreeing) that it ever happened.

And when abusers expect forgiveness when still denying they ever did anything wrong  it is even WORSE! This one is a huge part of the fog storm that survivors live in.  Statements like “WHY can’t you just get over it; forgive and forget” mixed in with statements like “you are full of crap ~ that never happened” and “OH you are so dramatic and tell such big lies” is crazy making, manipulating and very confusing. Consider that for a minute. We are told that we are unreasonable and defective for “holding a grudge” but at the same time we are told that the event we hold a grudge for never happened in the first place! And then we are asked to forgive. (to forgive something that they deny they ever did!)

Forgiveness makes more sense to me when meant for those that have repented from their wrong doing and actually feel BAD about it and really know the damage they did. There was a fine line in there between the fact that I needed to forgive so that I didn’t live in the resentment and terror of what they did to me and the fact that I was trying to forgive people that still deny what they did!

Having said that, it was imperative that I put myself, my process of recovery and my emotional healing first, before I even considered how I felt about the people that had abused me.

What set me free was finally understanding what happened to me and believing that I had nothing to do with the abuse. I did not make any decisions that caused the abuse, devaluing treatment and lack of protection and I did not bring it on myself as I was always led to believe. Even in Christian society, there was this “indication” that first of all, I must have done something wrong, and that I could not get over it because I didn’t have enough faith and that if I could just ‘forgive’ (what was denied ever happened) then I would be set free.

Do you see how this goes round and round? Do you see the fog storm involved with these teachings? Do you see the brainwashing that we have lived with in this area??

These were the lies that were taught to me that I accepted as truth. I felt like something was wrong with me because I could not seem to just “do it”.

My whole entire life I believed that it was up to me to have prevented it, and it all spiraled down to something I did wrong. In the depths of my heart I believed that it was all my fault. I had to set that straight and embrace the life giving truth.

The fear (of abuse and abusers) also ate me alive and I realized that my fears were about the powerlessness I had when I was a child and had carried those fears and reactions forward into my adult life. It was only when I finally understood that it was NOT my fault in any way, that I began to recover, and eventually I was truly free to live life as a whole and functional person. Then the fears dissipated because finally I knew that I wasn’t powerless anymore. I knew that none of what happened was my fault and so much of the fear was based around the fact that when I thought it WAS my fault I didn’t know what I did to cause the abuse. If I didn’t even know what I did to cause it or why I deserved it, I lived in the constant fear of causing it again.

When I was free of the false beliefs, I was also free to forgive, but what forgiveness “feels” like for me is just that I was able to let go of the hated, anger, bitterness and frustration.  I don’t need to PROVE to them that it isn’t my fault that all this happened or even prove that it did happen. I don’t’ need them to HEAR me anymore. I hear myself and I have my support system. I do not need to “tell” the abusers who deny ever having abused me that I forgive them.  I don’t feel much emotion around them anymore. The anger has dissipated.  They don’t rule my life anymore and they don’t define me anymore. They can no longer tell me what to do or how to feel. I am my own person today and another sign of my freedom is that I know they can’t hurt me anymore. I am no longer afraid.

Life is so much better now! Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I appreciate each one of you.

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Related posts: click any title to read Forgive the Abusers ~ A bit of a Rant

What about Forgiveness? by Christina Enevoldsen on OSA

Seeking validation and understanding from the wrong people

Permission to Live, busting through belief systems







144 response to "The Confusion Created around Forgiveness Issues"

  1. By: Hobie Posted: 5th June

    I’m glad to see this article highlighted again.

    Forgiveness was beyond confusing for me because I never stopped blaming myself for the things that happened to me. I couldn’t accept forgiveness because somewhere inside I believed I didn’t do anything wrong, just not enough to blame anybody else. I needed to recognize my innocence and someone else’s guilt FIRST. I’m not sure if I forgave some of the perpetrators of my abuse, but it seemed a non-issue by the time I figured out that I had nothing to be ashamed of.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th June

      Hi Hobie
      This whole issue was huge for me. (and it is one of the most important healing issues for my clients as well.) I would say it is one of the top 5 KEYS to freedom!
      Thanks for sharing!
      hugs, Darlene

  2. By: H. Posted: 3rd June

    I was struggling with this a lot and then Maya Angelou died and they played an old interview with her on NPR. Somebody called in and asked her about forgiveness and she said- you always forgive the moment but people tell you who they are all the time and you should listen to them because they know themselves better than you do. Then it all made sense to me. I forgave them every time every day. It just hurts too much now to keep adding new things to forgive them for.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th June

      Hi H.
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken and thank you for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: shane Posted: 2nd April

    my apologies, the verse i quoted was from king james version

  4. By: shane Posted: 2nd April

    matt 5:22 but i say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the fire… I have not read that scripture in all the bible translations but most of the newer versions such as niv and good news bible have omitted the “without cause” part,
    that is suspicious because the niv bible is printed by zondervan publications and the satanic bible is printed by harpo publications and both companies are owned by the same man rupert murdock.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd April

      Hi Shane
      Welcome to EFB ~ thank you for sharing this interesting information. 🙂
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Carlos Posted: 2nd April

    I continued respecting my grandmother and father, as I thought that was the best way in order to undo all of the hurting. IT WASN’T. They were still the same old selfish people who got a “free pass” from me everytime. A free pass that was constantly abused as much as they abused the person who distributed said pass. That’s where it hurts! I wasn’t forced to forgive, I chose to pretend that I got an apology from them, through the tiny bit of goodness I saw, and thus forgave them. But the many articles I have read here and commented on, has helped me realise that what I did was not the “best way.” It was from here that I realised that the anger towards the actions of the past and the present that I chose to put aside, still has a right to hold onto me. For the mind, still remembers what the heart has chosen to forget. There goes a saying that you shouldn’t always rely on your heart when it comes to love. That the mind to has an important role to play in all of this. That to me seems like the best option not just for family, but also in terms of the other faces of love.

  6. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st August

    Hi Susa
    YES. Love your comments. There is no healing for us when we concentrate on them! (and I realized that the reason I used to concentrate on them was because that is what I was taught to do in the grooming process!)
    I don’t believe that forgiveness is even an issue when people don’t admit their crime or when they are not sincerely sorry for it. I am no longer full of anger or rage either, and I believe THAT is the result of the healing process. And that is my version of “forgiveness”.
    Thanks for sharing,
    hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Susa Posted: 21st August

    Yes, this is a hot topic for many survivors. I recently was not only unfriended, but blocked from a friend’s facebook page, and the only reason I can think of is because I do not agree with the popular belief (which she is a promoter of) that a childhood sexual abuse survivor MUST “forgive” her/his abuser in order to heal. I never wrote my opinion about this on her page, but indicated this opinion only on my own personal page. I was very stunned and hurt by her behavior, as I have been a huge supporter of this person, and am still proud of her for her advocacy. I realize that we all have our own ways of healing, and I only state what is best for me, and on my own personal page. I am respectful of any way which a survivor chooses to heal.

    I have absolutely no problem with never seeing the only living abuser in my family ever again, and have essentially removed him from my life. I no longer am angry and full of rage about what he stole from me in the past, and am trying to cope with other things that he is trying to do to us currently re: parental inheritance.

    I have always had problems with the definition of the word “forgive”. Several dictionary synonyms for the word are: “pardon, excuse, exonerate, and absolve”. With these words in mind, I prefer to refer to the process as working through the anger, emotional healing, and other descriptive phrases which focus on my healing instead of concentrating on my abusers. Letting the abusers fade from my memory (after processing the traumas) is a crucial step for me.

    You have explained the process of “letting go” in an excellent way. I agree with SO much that you wrote in this blog post. Folks don’t seem to realize how devaluing it can be to try and force a survivor to “forgive” their abuser in order to heal, and especially at the beginning of the survivor’s healing journey. Letting go of anger toward an abuser is (in my opinion) a spontaneous happening which occurs over time and through healing. It is not (in my opinion) a vocal statement to the abuser saying “I forgive you”.

  8. By: marquis (female) Posted: 27th January

    I have gotten that same confusion on forgiveness. I am like make up your mind can’t be both ways!! I was told to forgive that it doesn’t dust the issues under the rug and then I have it’s about dusting it under the rug to move on – all kinds of crap! We live in a society where we dust crap underneath the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist!!

    Forgiving just doesn’t work for me because my tummy cringes hard and makes me even more bitter. Soon to be ex therapist told me that ‘I will always be bitter and angry if I don’t forgive and I can’t help you if you don’t forgive.’ How dirty that is to make your client forgive asap because we need to get it over with!

    I was told how could I make up lies about my parents? What lies?!? The signs are right there especially when you’re a child, you don’t even wanna be around your parents because of the “extreme negativity,” constant screaming/yelling/berating, the crying from me, etc should tell a grown adult who is suppose to have common sense be able to sense what is wrong with a child.

    People always wanted to shush, I always hated pretending things were fine at home but every time I opened my mouth; people would jump down my throat telling me you should never speak about your parents like that. I said no wonder victims are always left in the shadows still without a voice!

    I am still bitter because I didn’t have a real childhood like some people had and I feel it isn’t fair for me to sit here and pretend that I did when I didn’t. So yea, that is why I am still bitter and I got bitter towards my boyfriend because he got stuff that I never/still don’t have. My parents never wanted us to have anything only to depend on them yet complain why aren’t I independent? Gee, your the problem!!

    I don’t believe in forgiving if a person isn’t truly and has zero intentions of wanting forgiveness. My sister is 45, half sister is almost 50, and my brother is 41 yet my parents hate them – my brother is suppose to be the golden child, dad disowned him years ago and brother never wants anything to do with him.

    You know, all teachings start out good and it just takes one person to screw it up and confuses everybody. I believe we can forgive people on certain things, but murder, rape, abuse, etc is not forgivable. I told people we know our parents aren’t gonna change, but you keep insisting they will and they won’t! I was told ‘you must have did something for your parents to do this to you guys.’ Who asks to be abused? (said this in another post on here) Who makes someone push a person down the stairs?!

    That’s like telling a person ‘oh, you must’ve made that person kill your daughter/son/wife/etc?’ That’s an act of blame where you blame that particular person – whatever happen to sympathy? Doesn’t seem to exist! I agree how forgiveness is another way of being re-abused all over again as I have seen it myself with my situation. This blog my “therapist” would completely agree, never mind what those MHPs think not their lives anyway! My therapist said forgive your parents because of how they were raised – what?!!?!? She calls herself a mom?!?

    I could never understand how the abuser never gets question and I questioned this hard to therapist and other people, man the looks I got with their mouths open and tails between their legs! lol I guess they never thought that hard in their lives. I mean it was tough, I kept looking at them like got an answer yet? I told therapist how come you’re not questioning the abusers? Why is it the victims always get the backlash of everything while you’re letting the abuser slip by? Ohh, she didn’t like that! She said it’s about your life not theirs I said in reality, it’s both of our lives how the hell do you think the problem exists?!?

    I know my truth and acknowledged it at a very young age. My therapist you have this expectation of your parents and told her I do, I just want the “parental teachings” that I never got but some other person got from their lovely family – why do I have to do it on my own as an adult? I told her that is why in the past, I was seeking a mom and dad figure. I know how I feel about my parents, I sincerely hate them! There is no love loss, I never really loved my parents since I was a kid yet I have been told people ‘how could you say such things? All kids love their parents, you just don’t appreciate them but one day you will.’ The list goes on. What is there to appreciate when they took away your childhood and made you their slave?!? Again, nobody on this planet asked to be born.

    I never want anything to do with my parents once I get a job and move out, they were just ATM machines to me. Yep, sounds very cold but it is the truth yet they’ve stolen from us and nobody ever says a word about that! My own therapist never questioned about my parents stealing from us other than the ‘oh, that’s shameful for them to do that,’ but felt I shouldn’t do it anymore. I said stealing should be stopped on both sides not one, all I saw in my sessions, most of them were just so one sided. Next Monday, will be the final day of my last session again.

  9. By: Pam Posted: 21st January

    Yes, there is freedom and peace. I don’t know how long I felt kind of miffed at God because it seemed there was nothing in the Bible about child abuse. Then it snapped one day that Jesus, Himself was my example to follow. Religion has enshrined bad behavior in a theological word, sin that people don’t understand anymore. Jesus died because of human abuse. All abused people suffer for the evil actions, committed by others, in their place. Jesus didn’t die because He couldn’t save Himself and He didn’t die to give people what they want, a cover for their evil behavior. He died because the suffering He went through was enough suffering and He left all those who live by the power abusing God and others gives them, with their abuse, to make their own choice in accepting what He suffered, acknkowledging they caused it by being abusive, and seeking to learn not to abuse. Then He picked His life up and began to live a life in which He’ll never suffer for the abuses of others again. You know, little sister, I see the spirit of the Lion of Judah in you.:0)I’m so glad to know that forgiving others doesn’t mean I have to be a martyr!lol! It’s wonderful…

    Take care of your eyes.

    Love you,

    p.s. I hate it when people say, Jesus is the ONLY Way. He is the Way, the path to follow, the process that has the power to end human abuse.

  10. By: Pam Posted: 20th January

    Hi Darlene, I wish I would have read this a couple of weeks ago.:0)Reading it helps me understand why choice is a word packed with pain for you and other survivors. I had the same beating up over my needing to forgive but it was never presented to me as a choice. I was just suposed to offer myself in complete sacrfice and shut up. It was presented to me as something I owed my parents and it included never even mentioning my ‘percieved’ wrong. Of course, a different standard was applied to me and there was no forgiving or forgetting anything I’d done but a kind of reluctant tolerance and control through disapproval. There have been four times in my life when I came to a major empass with my parents. The first was when I was fourteen and was raped. I was damaged goods(as I’d been taught girls who lost their virginity were) and I mindlessly, ran away, threw myself away, I wanted to disappear. The second time was when I was almost 16 and the creep convinced me to come live with him. The third was when my parents punished me by hurting my son in some way that I still don’t have full disclosure on. The fourth is that last time that I’ve described to you before. All four times, I was at the same crossroads. I was filled with pain and anger over their treatment of me and propelled into some kind of action that brought confrontation but the first three of these empasses were all eventually, settled in the same way. I took responsibility for everything and pretended they done nothing to hurt me. It was insane, being damaged by their abuse and also, excepting blame for it. This was forgivness as it was taught to me. The first time, I knuckled under because at 14 it became clear pretty fast that I had no way to care for myself. I was picked up and put in jail and I never wanted that to happen again. The second time, I thought I had an alternative and a way to have the things I needed to survive. I just didn’t know that what I would pay for that was a price much greater than any amount of money. I paid with myself and that really, wasn’t much different from what I had at home in the emotional sense. When the creeps got tired of me and threw me away, I managed to pull some things together but the drugs I used to numb my emotional pain, pulled me down, far down. So, I ended up crawling back home at 19. I was nearly, dead and had no place else left to go. They made a big deal out of their ‘graciousness’ in taking me back. Again, I forgave as they defined forgiveness. I took responsiblity for everything they’d done to me and not done for me and I even took responsibility for the creeps. I buried everything they were ashamed of deep inside of me, I ate it and as emotionally twisted inside and crippled as I was, I still managed to move forward. The third time, I ended up feeling sorry for my mom and was convinced by my sister to again, forgive as my parent’s define forgiveness. I did set some rigid boundaries around my children but none for myself. In all these major empasses, I had no true, definition of forgiveness and there was no choice for me in that definition but to offer myself in complete sacrifice. The fourth time was different because of the healing process I’d gone through. I had a very different understanding and concept of what true, forgiveness looked like. When they sided with my sexual abusers demanding I forgive them along with my parents(even though all wrong-doing was laid on me) (and also,forgive my sister since she sided with my parents)everything became so clear to me and this time I saw my choice. Either I would surrender myself again or leave all the crappy things they’d done to me in their lap and move forward and cease from trying to get anything from them. If they didn’t acknowledge what I required them to acknowledge, they could receive my forgiveness. Otherwise, I would move on into the future without them. I couldn’t have done that the other times because I wasn’t equipped to do so. I wasn’t a whole person, ready to walk independently, of them. I was still emotionally enmeshed in that system, in my own thinking, and couldn’t see myself as being forever seperate from them. The fourth time, I was a whole person, I could make that choice, because I was a whole person. Even if by some miracle, they should meet my requirements for relationship, I will remain a whole, individated person. I don’t fit the role they once assigned to me. Nothing can be the same because I’m not the same. I’m not an emotional cripple, anymore.

    I probalby, would have gotten treated by Christians the same way you did if I hadn’t been so thoroughly, silenced. I know I’ve heard people say what you quoted. It was never directed personally, toward me.What they said bothered me but it wasn’t used on me, personally. I know there is no way for a person raised in an abusive family system to simply choose to forgive what has never been acknowledged but blamed on the victim and suddenly, be healed. Only a whole person can forgive in the way that Jesus forgave. He struggled with doing what He had to do too. It’s not a matter of simple choice. None of it is simple or easy. However, for me it was a matter of empowering choice tht liberated me from the main tool used against me that insured my parents of my compliance and silence.

    I don’t think we disagree at all, Darlene. It’s the same process. We’re just two different people with simular but also, different experiences trying to describe the same product of healing. I call it closure because it is the end of the matter for me. All the unresolved issues have been resolved, within me whether or not my family ever deals with them and I’m confident in that. I couldn’t have skipped ahead and made a choice that made no sense to me and have been able to end the matter. It would have just been the same, repeating cycle because I wasn’t equipped to make any choice but only, meet their demand. It’s funny, but when I wrote the first letter to my parents, Jesus words of, “Leave the dead to bury the dead” popped into my mind. It made no sense to me then but when I forgave them and left them to deal with all the offenses they commited against me, I heard those words again and I understood, perfectly.

    Anyway, I wish I would have read this earlier but maybe I wasn’t supposed to. I walk away from this with a very refined concept of what forgiving means for child abuse survivors. Thank you, Darlene.”0)


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st January

      Hi Pam
      Those same words “let the dead bury their own dead” popped into my mind when I was agonizing over the whole thing about standing up to my mother and saying ‘no more’. Other vs. too ~ it was so fantastic for the fog to lift around the spiritual abuse that I had endured and the mis-taught bible vs. that were used against me.
      Thanks for sharing Pam! There is freedom in all of this!
      Hugs, Darlene

  11. By: Noelle Posted: 17th January

    Dear Darlene (continued) –

    As I continue my research on this topic, I am shocked by how many Christians are SO sure that forgiveness comes down to a simple choice. It is SO much more complicated than that and you have taken that hole that so many people leave out and given some practical steps to forgive once and for all rather than a fake forgiveness that will only prolong the healing process!!! Thanks again.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th January

      Hi Noelle
      Welcome to EFB
      The words to say when people ‘fought me’ on my decisions became more clear with time. This is your choice and really it isn’t about forgiveness OR resentment. It is about mutual respect and love. (and if I had that from my family things would not be the way they are now. Good for YOU.
      Thanks for sharing
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Noelle Posted: 17th January

    Dear Darlene –

    Thank you SO much for breaking this down so honestly!! This is where I am in my life right now. About a year ago, I ended my relationship with my abusive mother and family indefinitely. I have felt nothing but relief and space and lack of anxiety in my life since, so I am 100% sure that this was the healthiest step to make in this healing process. However, my husband’s family cannot accept that and keep sending me information on “forgiveness” and “resentment”. They’ve never been in abusive situations and have no idea what they’re talking about, and I know that. I’ve recently decided to have healthy boundaries and ask them to respect my decision, read a collection of quotes I’ve put together (some from this page) to help them understand where I am, and not to ask me about it again until I am ready to move forward. Thank you for breaking the mold and helping us understand how to work through this as you have!!!

    Love you Way,

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th June

    That is exactly what I am talking about; WHY do people think that we need to just forgive without ever addressing the crime that in fact has been done! The bible doesn’t say this is the way to have relationship at all!
    Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Meerkat Posted: 6th June

    Your story about your parents and religion and use the Biblical quotes just to punish me or get in gilt are so similar. I have confronted my parents. That was shock to them of course….Jesus give us new Life why you come back to old dirt. etc. My father deny he sexually abused me a few times and my mother said I should forgive.
    Thank you and Amen Amen Amen. 30 years forgiving just only stopped me from healing!!!!! Abusers were never questioned !!! they were my PARENTS !!! and all that biblical quotes about respect etc. I was not allowed to have own voice, and show the true. Now after confrontation they pray for a mercy of forgiveness to me in meaning…”if you will do it right we can have back lovely life as we always had and all was fine – to them !!! When crimes was cover!! NOT FOR ME.
    Getting stronger by giving right to myself to not contact then and not be a part of that huge illusion any more.

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