Photo by Hedy Fischer
“The purpose of forgiveness is to heal and not to cause more grief.”
There is little uncertainty about the importance of forgiveness but there definitely is a lot of misunderstanding on how it ought to be implemented and applied. Last week’s article (click here to read it) was the third in a series on its importance and strategies for applying some of those techniques. All too often, many so-called remedies only leave victims more confused and ashamed for trying to do what they thought was the right thing.
While working with my clients, I constantly remind them that forgiveness has a purpose and its main function is healing. Forgiveness, nonetheless, should not be interpreted or understood as an acquittal nor should it be a signal for the abuser to resume the mistreatment. The principal reason victims forgive a perpetrator is not to allow the horrible episodes to confine, inhibit, or obstruct their progress and keep them from a life full of possibilities.
Several of the comments from last week’s article revolved around the concept of “how far should we go to forgive our abuser” which is a legitimate question to ask continually throughout the process. It is not a cut and dry answer because what works for you may not necessarily apply to everyone else.
At times, others may offer well-meaning advice which most often is something they’ve heard and not actually put into practice. This solution typically implores us to begin by forgiving the abuser which by the way, may be the worst advice given to any victim. The idea of a face-to-face encounter of an abuser being the only way to move forward has the potential of creating even more destructive and debilitating anxiety. Nevertheless, can healing occur without this face-to-face confrontation?
Always keep in mind that the primary goal is healing and growth. This helps make clear most answers from a personal perspective. In some cases, the culprits may be deceased or their whereabouts unknown. Perhaps there are other extenuating circumstances which may reverse or weaken any progress and even cause additional damage. On the other hand, what if challenging an abuser could be a therapeutic experience?
What if unexpectedly our perpetrator experiences a change of heart and now is asking our forgiveness? This again, is no simple answer. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may feel that it will never be appropriate. Or, is it possible this encounter can have healing effects for the both of you? In the end, whoever is pursuing healing and growth cannot and should not be stifled by the actions or inactions of another.
Forgiveness is vital. But it can also be difficult to sort through. Having someone who understands the value of healing and has helped others through these difficult steps can be instrumental in your own journey. Always keep in mind that forgiveness is primarily for our healing and growth; no matter for whom it was originally intended.
My thanks to Hedy Fischer for the original art work. You can find out more about her by clicking on this link. I look forward to your comments.