Forgiveness: How, Why, and When

Years ago, I met this woman who told me that her father had sexually abused her and her siblings. But she had forgiven him because she wanted her children to have a grandfather in their life. So forgiveness to her may have meant one thing to her  but to me it meant something entirely different. For her it meant she forgave him by denying the truth and allowing her children to have a grandfather. To me it meant….So you’ve decided to let your children be abused just like you were all in the name of forgiveness?

If forgiveness means that a woman then exposes her children to abuse then I would say forgiveness is NOT an option with that definition!

The wife of the man that violated me said that I JUST NEEDED TO FORGIVE HIM! Because, she said, if I did that, then everything would be OK. For who? Him? Well my top priority is not to make him feel better about what he did! Forgiveness for her meant, I would give out this wonderful word that made it OK for her to stay with her husband.

When the forgiveness word wipes a slate clean for an abuser then forgiveness is NOT an option with that definition!

Forgiveness for both of these women meant that somehow everything was OK. We would just move forward like nothing happened. So they are giving forgiveness to the abuser so he can have peace over what he did? Or they are giving forgiveness so that they can live with what they don’t really want to live with? I don’t know but either way it is not something I felt comfortable with.

I can tell you what forgiveness should not mean. It should not mean letting an abuser back in your life to hurt you or your children. It is not something you have to give to an abuser. It most definitely is not something that should ever involve putting yourself back into a situation that is unhealthy for you .But I am not judging these two women I have mentioned above. They are not in a part of their healing that allows them to put the blame where it needs to be put so that then they can put the protection back where it needs to be put.

There was once this therapist that I went to. She told me to imagine the man who abused me. She wanted me to imagine  a cord tied from me to him. Imagery. So I imagined him tied to me and I cut the cord and he floated off into the sky never to be seen again. She told me that forgiving him was simply an act of letting him go. She said forgiveness = letting go. She wanted me to imagine each scenario when I was a child and go back to that child and comfort her and tell her she is ok. Then help that child let that bad feeling go. I like the idea of forgiveness meaning letting go. But I also felt that was a lot of exhausting mental work to do in this healing process. She wanted me to give it all back to the abuser. It was his to begin with so I needed to release it all back to him and I would come out freed from letting go, because forgiveness was letting go.Sometimes the healing process can be exhausting but we all have to find what works best for each of us.

But her technique still l had a title and a need for me to do something to get a result.. I am not fond of my healing being contingent on this forgiveness concept. My healing cannot be contingent on something someone else tells me I need to do. It truly has to come within my own soul’s process. Other’s opinions can be brilliant. But they have to resonate with you. They can’t just be one size fits all healing.

Some women I have spoken to have found profound healing by not focusing on the abuser(forgiving him, letting him go, thinking about releasing him), but focusing on themselves and moving forward. They have found healing in their own empowerment.

Forgiving means something different for every person. It could mean letting go. It could mean  saying, it is OK and I accept you back into my life. It may mean, I give you over to God to take care of, because it is no longer mine to carry. It could mean releasing the abusers hold on you.

I have heard if you cannot forgive, then the abuser continues to control you.” Unless you have let go of them then the only person affected is you because they certainly are not thinking about what they did to you.” SO many rules for this healing process.

I am not sure who wrote the rule book on forgiveness, but agree every rule does NOT apply to every person.

I tried the technique of cutting the cord hold that the abuser had on me and letting him float into the sky. I would say that helped for a day. I tried writing all my thoughts and putting them into a basket for God to take care of so I no longer had to. I have tried writing all of my anger and hurt of what happened and burning it. I recently heard a woman’s idea of writing it all out and burying it.

There are a lot of HOWS. AND there are a lot of WHYS. And there are lots of WHENS. But the topic that usually resonates with me is NONE OF THE ABOVE. Forgiveness is not a word that resonates with me. But we all have our own words that we feel we MUST do to heal. Feelings that we must release to move forward. Things that we have to let go of so that we don’t feel controlled by the feelings the abuser may evoke. I’m simply asking you not to put a word on to all of that, that everyone else may think YOU need to do to get well.

I may never forgive the man who hurt me as a child. Does that mean that I am holding on to him? NO! Does that mean he has control still over me? NO! Does that mean that I have not released him into the sky of forgiveness? Maybe!!!! But does that really matter? HOW does someone else get to tell you WHY you need to feel this emotion and WHEN you need to feel it?

It is a name that therapists and many many people like to put ON the victim as it is something we must do. But everyone has a different way of healing. Forgiveness may not be part of what YOU need to move forward and the key is moving forward. Forgiveness means so many things to so many people that most of us can’t wrap our mind around what we are supposed to do to experience  this big supposedly life altering word of FORGIVENESS.

You don’t have to forgive. You have to move forward. In whatever way you feel is healthy for you. And WHEN and if you choose to forgive, it will have a definition that fits what you need it to fit. You don’t have to explain that to anyone. That can be something kept for you in your heart.

There are no rules. There are tons of techniques but they have to be right for you and they certainly don’t need a word associated with it.

My ultimate healing has not involved something I had to do with the man who abused me. It has not been about him at all. My healing has not come from forgiving the men who have abused me. My healing has come from a place of loving myself.My healing has come from not blaming myself. My healing has come from not being ashamed of myself.


My daughter drew this picture of me. She said that on this day I was acting like everything OK but she said that my soul seemed sad. I think at the age of 10 she captured the sadness of my soul pretty well!

I had not realized until I saw this that my soul was sad. I had gone to all these therapists and tried all these ways but my soul was still so wounded.

I then embarked on a positive healing journey that involved just a few simple things:

1. Realizing and telling myself I was worthy

2. Not allowing others to make me feel unworthy.

3. Accepting and telling myself that what happened to me was truly not my fault and required no more blame or shame.

4. Last but not least…speaking my truth.

8 thoughts on “Forgiveness: How, Why, and When

  1. Pingback: Forgiveness: How, Why, and When | Onlybythegraceofgod's Blog

  2. I’m so glad you wrote about this as there is so much (I believe) harmful information out there about the process of forgiveness/whether or not to forgive etc. I find much value in your approach of healing by moving forward and empowering yourself, vs. making it about the perpetrator or anyone else. I hope you will keep using your powerful voice and continue writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I will never forgive or forget the abuser who sexually abused me for 2 years when I was six years old, and I will never forgive my narcissistic mother for her cruelty throughout my childhood. I’m so sick of the therapists, religious folks quoting verses from their bibles, and others. I have my own reasons and don’t believe I will “be free” if I do forgive. I’ve thought about this at length, and that’s what is right for me. I wish people would keep their trap shut! Great post. Deb


    • Good!!!! I am so glad to know and hear you, you are passsionate about NOT having ANY need to forgive such horrid people. I, like you, have no more tolerance for anyone telling me what I need to do to heal especially when it comes to forgiveness. I’ve thought about it for years and recently wrote another post about it I think in Humiliation, I can’t remember now. But I am not obligated to give them anything or owe them anything. I wish people would shut the heck up too! Thanks for commenting. I really love it when people check in and let me know how they feel.

      Liked by 1 person

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