Is forgiving an abuser required for me to heal?
Date: 6/6/2011 9:01:33 AM ( 23 mon ) ... viewed 497 times
During my years on my healing path, the subject of forgiveness has cropped up many, many times. Again, the use of CAPS is only meant to emphasize and not to be interpreted as screaming or shouting.
Is forgiveness necessary for personal healing? In my opnion which is based upon personal experience, as well as witness to other victims of domestic abuse/violence, forgiveness is a personal issue that is not to be judged by another human being. I personally do not believe that forgiving an abuser for their sins against humanity is an imperative, though many may argue otherwise.
When someone with a conscience commits a crime or sin, they typically feel remorse and regret their actions. They recognize that their actions have caused harm or damage and are ashamed of their actions. Sometimes, the person will even apologize for their actions and take ownership of any harm that was caused by their poor choices - I feel that forgiveness should be granted as that person has akcnowledged their error(s), stood accountable, and has attoned for their actions. An abuser, on the other hand, rarely stands accountable and feels absolutely NO remorse for the damages that they inflict.
Now, I say that abusers rarely stand accountable because this is what I've personally experienced and what I have witnessed in working with other victims of domestic violence and abuse. My view is that the vast majority of abusers fit the profile of Sociopath, though there HAVE been a couple of rare occasions when an abuser took courageous steps to end their reigns of damage and made sincere and life-altering changes. The rest (male AND female abusers) give a cursory nod in the directions of their victims, excuse their behaviors on their childhoods, and continue to deliberately harm others. Their abuses aren't confined to physical battery - it is imperative to understand that most domestic violence and abuse is not necessarily physical battery. Financial abuse, sexua| abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse are all part and parcel of domestic violence and abuse - if one abuse is present, it is probable that others are, as well.
So, with regard to granting forgiveness to an abuser, my feeling is that it's not a "requirement" for my personal healing. If the former abuser had ever sincerely expressed regret for the sins that he perpetrated against me, our childre, our family, and our friends, I would most likely would have forgiven him. We are, each and every one of us, flawed and imperfect human beings apt to make mistakes and that understanding is the basis of my forgiveness - let he without sin cast the first stone, and all of that. However, people generally maintain a conscience and, therefore, experience remorse if they cause harm. Abusers typically do NOT experience remorse - the man or woman who is questioned by Law Enforcement may give every appearance of being remorseful, down to sobbing and assurances that they will seek help, but they rarely make those necessary changes and only develop new and more creative ways ti deliberately inflict damage upon their victims. The only "regret" that they experience is for getting caught - they do not regret inflicting harm.
An interesting event took place about 10 months ago - my brother's abusive ex-wife sent a card to me in the mail AFTER I had instructed her to never attempt to contact me under any circumstances, several years ago. What I should have done was "return to sender" the envelope straight back to her, unopened, but my curiosity was piqued and I gave in to the urge to be nibby. Inside this card was a handwritten letter in which this person asked for my forgiveness for having not been available and for having been "unkind" to me. "Unkind" was the trigger that set me off, for this woman had been deliberately cruel, manipulative, and vicious to me as a child. She acknowledged 5hat she had been "unkind," but she didn't describe how, or why, she had chosen to behave so towards me. Her "apology" was a requirement of the 12-step program that she's been involved with for the past 35 years and it was not a sincere accounting of the deliberate damage that she inflicted. She fits the profile of a malignant narcissist and, possibly, a sociopath on some level. Should I forgive this person because they asked for it? No - the effort would be wasted and she does not factor in my life, today.
That I have chosen not to forgive a certain few who have harmed me and others does not mean that I do not recognize my own fallible humanity and am incapable or unwilling to forgive others, by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary - I forgive when one is sincere and endeavors to avoid inflicting deliberate damage, again. I choose to not forgive those very select few who use another human being's forgiveness as a license to continue inflicting harm.
Forgiveness is a very personal issue - in my opinion, the act of forgiveness is not a requirement for healing. Many religions maintain that we "must" forgive or risk losing the love of ]od, Jehovah, Great Creator, or whatever other name we wish to call out. For me, this is absurd in that the idea that Great Creator would push me away for not forgiving a human being who intends to deliberately harm others to the ends of their days is simply not plausible. To harm with malice and feel no remorse for their actions leaves me believing that an abuser has not earned forgiveness, on any level.
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