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#67238 - 08/08/03 06:21 AM question about forgiveness
stpbb Offline

Registered: 03/03/03
Posts: 103
I was talking with my bf about his therapy and his parents & I have a question. His therapist is encouraging him to forgive his parents. He is coming to terms with the fact he was abused & realizing how damaging his parents' dysfunctional personalities have been in his life (no clear memories of the abuse & no real certainty about who the perp was). I understand that letting go of anger & not letting yourself become consumed with hatred toward your abuser would be important in healing from abuse, but I don't understand how you can advise someone to forgive the people who may have been involved in the abuse itself & certainly provided the environment that allowed it to happen.

What are your thoughts about forgiving your abusive parents, forgiving parents who abused you but weren't the sexual abusers, and forgiving the abuser?


#67239 - 08/08/03 02:54 PM Re: question about forgiveness
Wifey1 Offline

Registered: 12/03/02
Posts: 380
My thoughts on this subject are probably very skewed. Here they go anyway take what you can use toss out what you cant, ignore it if none of it fits.
From my own personal experience forgiving my parents and my abusers has been an on going process. Some days I can, others days I cant. I could do NONE until I had clearer memories of the abuses that took place so I knew exactly WHAT I was forgiving first.
Example , my Now dad (adoptive dad) - I had the most hatred and anger toward him at first. I had to remember what he did that angered me so in the first place, I had dissociated it for so long, then years into therapy I began to work with a therapist who mentioned I maybe should consider working with a male therapist so that I could connect with men on a healthier basis.
I wrote a list of all the things my Now Dad has taught me that are good in my life. Things first were useful items, like how to pour cement, how to hang siding on a structure.
I still struggle as I said some days it works other days it doesnt. -- Mostly what I personally gained from what little forgiveness I have been able to give has been... the appreciation for the knowledge of what I KNOW NOW. Like HOW to bait a hook, what kind of bait particular fish like. How to read the channels in the rivers. What kind of snakes are harmless, -- so I geuss in the little bit of forgiveness I have been able to give my now dad, I have been able to acknowledge my OWN self worth and intelligence.
It opened a door for me - to like me, tho it was a tuff way to learn it.
I hope that makes some sort of sense, but remember it was and continues to be a struggle for me... I was the one who gained /S PEACE from this, no one else mattered they just gained me NOT being a P.O.'d trigger happy yelling screamer from it all the time. hmmmm trickle down?
I had to be ready, no one could push me or force me....
Peace, Sammy

#67240 - 08/08/03 03:22 PM Re: question about forgiveness
PAS Offline

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Forgiveness is a very funny thing. For years after I came to terms with what I had been through in my own psychological and emotional abuse and traumas, I naturally was very angry and hurt and lived in reaction to that pain for many years.

It took about a decade for me to come to the realization that forgiveness is NOT a tool to absolve my abusive father and ex boyfriend for what they did to me (such actions are unforgiveable), but rather forgiveness for me is really a "metaphor" or a way of looking at the situation that allowed me to understand that the anger and hatred I was carrying around inside me was hurting ONLY ME and nobody else and I had to let it go.

I think I came to the realization that forgiveness had NOTHING to do with my abusers and actually forgiving THEM but rather it was ALL ABOUT MY OWN HEALING when it dawned on me that whether I was angry all the time or not was doing absolutely NOTHING to my abuser. My anger can't take away the inflicted pain. My anger doesnt affect my dad or ex boyfriend in the slightest. They can't feel my feelings. Anger does not create a situation of retribution. It does not rewind time and un-abuse me.

My anger was only hurting me and making my adult life very unpleasant, and that I wanted to stop living that unpleasant life. I REALLY wanted to leave room for me to go on with my life not carrying around this awful and heavy weight, and for some reason, accepting the concept of "forgiveness" such as it is helped with lifting that heavy weight.

I can remember when this concept hit me - I was in church about 2 years ago mulling over the concept of forgiveness, being very uncomfortable with it and then a light bulb went off and I started crying going "Oh my God, forgiveness has NOTHING to do with THEM but its all about creating a more peaceful existence for ME".

I have had discussions with my BF about forgiveness and he too has said that he finds that forgiveness has helped him stop being so fixated on his molestation and his perp, to let go of the anger and go on with his life. He has stopped being furious with the situation and has been able to "forgive" (for the most part) and accept what happened as the result of being in a particular state of mind (young and vulnerable) and in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is even able to say that his perp is a "sick sick man who has probably gone through his own abuse and who desperately needs help" rather than a "horrible bastard who deserves to die". I think my BF's experiences with Buddhism and meditation (which he practices daily as a means to help maintain a clear head and keep some kind of control of his emotions) has helped significantly with the concept of forgiveness and made him a more peaceful and accepting person.

While this sounds like our issues are all tied up nice and neat - we still do have our anger bursts - even after accepting the concept of forgivness. Sometimes I do get angry and lash out at the memory of what i went through. Sometimes my BF lashes out at his mother - perhaps some unresolved anger for helping create the "naiive teenager" who needed help and fell prey to a perp. We're not perfect at forgiveness and we still battle with it, but it definitely has seemed to help ease the anger.

Hope this helps.

#67241 - 08/08/03 03:43 PM Re: question about forgiveness
outis Offline

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2261
Loc: Maryland USA

I think I have to get to the point of blaming them before I can get to the point of forgiving them. It all still seems almost like a bad dream, like it happened to somebody else. When I think about it, really think about what happened, the details, I get dizzy, lightheaded, out of focus, sometimes nauseous or anxious. I'm guessing that's some kind of dissociation.

So worrying about forgiveness is still some distance down the road.



"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

#67242 - 08/09/03 01:20 AM Re: question about forgiveness
Green Offline

Registered: 07/13/03
Posts: 115
Loc: NYC, NY

When I first told my therapist what had happened, she closed her eyes and thought a moment. After considering, she said, "I guess what they did is unforgivable."

It took me by surprise because I live in Manhattan, and there was a philosophical argument going on around some people whom I knew over whether to forgive the 9/11 hijackers. I thought that the idea of forgiving them who showed no remorse was laughable.

I still feel that way. I will never forgive the hijackers or my parents. I HATE THEM.


#67243 - 08/09/03 01:29 AM Re: question about forgiveness
LovingPartner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/08/03
Posts: 26
I by far don't think I am the best person to answer here, but I have a few words to say. (I am new here, and am married to a male survivor.) I don't think that you need to FORGIVE anyone that abused you or knowingly allowed the abuse to happen. (I don't think I could.) Maybe forgiving yourself for being too scared to say anything, or for feeling ashamed, guilty or dirty can be positive. I, (even though not sexually abused), had a really messed-up life through my childhood and teenage years. I look back on it and tell myself that even though it was hell at times, good or bad it was a learning experience and it made me who I am today. (By no means do I think that is a simple way of looking at SA.) I believe you might be able to control your anger towrds these people, but total forgiveness? I think not. Bottom line: Find a (healthy or productive) outlet for the strong emotions (like anger), and use it often. (I've heard painting, martial arts, meditation, music, etc) Forgive yourself for all the wrong you think the situation made you cause yourself. As long as you are comfortable and happy with yourself, that is all I believe matters. Being able to say "I don't hate you for what you did to me and I am no longer angry with you" is a big step and just as good as "I forgive you" to me. (That way you are not spitting fire at them and burning yourself in the process, but they know that all is not forgiven and forgotten) I, personally, believe that it is unfair for a survivor to carry all this weight and go through all these terrible problems while the perp goes on with his(or her) life all happy-go-lucky. If they are not punished by the authorities, then let their guilt (if they have any) eat at them for the rest of their life. I know this sounds mean, brutal, and maybe crazy. I am truly sorry if I offended anyone. \:\( Maybe it's frustration coming out now, because while writing this post I have been thinking of my husband's perp. (I'd love to deep-fry him in a public arena sometimes!) Either way you do decide to do it (forgive or no) only you know what's best for you, and I wish you all the best. Have faith in him, the guys here are very strong, brave, and inspiring. \:\)

#67244 - 08/09/03 05:10 PM Re: question about forgiveness
Ken Singer, LCSW Offline

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 5781
Loc: Lyons, CO USA
A good book that takes a comprehensive look at this subject is "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" by Laura Davis ("The Courage to Heal").

If you want to order it through Amazon, please enter their online site through MaleSurvivor Bookstore so we can get a commission (doesn't increase your cost).


Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse

#67245 - 09/08/03 09:40 AM Re: question about forgiveness
midnight51 Offline

Registered: 09/02/03
Posts: 145
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
When things just started to surface and I thought I was about to lose my mind, my reality, and practially myself to the memories and thoughts that resurfaced initially I went to Barnes & Nobles and picked up this book:

Forgiving the Unforgivable
by Beverly Flanigan (Author)

It helped calm me down... ease some pain... and allowed me for once to pinpoint a lot of anger in my life. While I was reading it I was in a very hateful mood and it allowed me to release some hate and cry for once and it actually felt good.


#67246 - 09/08/03 09:47 AM Re: question about forgiveness
midnight51 Offline

Registered: 09/02/03
Posts: 145
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Hate and Unforgiveness can and will eat you alive. It's a mental roadblock in my opinion... what do I know... I'm only 21 years old but it feels like I've lived half of my life overflowing with hate and it took hurting the girl I absolutely adored on purpose to break me apart. I needed to be broken completely because I knew I didn't want to be me anymore. I've cried more in the past year then I ever hope to cry again in my life... but it's through those tears that helped me begin healing... even if I wasn't quite sure what I was doing or what I was healing from. If no one has been brave enough to break you down do it yourself... break down your own walls and take your life back. I know that's what I'm trying to do... \:\)


#67247 - 09/09/03 09:31 PM Re: question about forgiveness
ecb Offline

Registered: 02/04/03
Posts: 205
There is a discussion on one of the boards around here on this very topic.

I put my views on that thread, but I shall put them here too.

Can I forgive my perps? I don't know. I can't possibly see how in one case, and I probably never will in the other.

Do I feel I need to in order to heal? Hell no! The only person I need to forgive in order to heal is myself. I need to realize that I was not at fault at any point, and I think I'm finally getting there.

Some folks here will swear by forgiving a perp and say it helped thier healing process. Good for them, I am truely happy for them, but they are obviously better people that I am because I can never forgive mine for what they did.

The key is not to spend time thinking about them and how much I hate them, that is just counter productive. Though sometimes it comes up in my thoughts I prefer to focus my efforts on healing and improving my lot in life.

I hope this has been helpful.



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