Forgiveness is a topic that is quite divisive in the trauma healing community. There are many survivors whom I have met who have chosen to forgive the people who abused them as children.
There are also just as many survivors who have chosen not to forgive.
I am one of those in the latter group. Forgiveness for the people who abused me is not a part of my healing journey and it is not a requirement for my healing.
I have recently become an online target of survivors (mostly religious – a topic for another day) who think they have a “god given” right to tell me how to heal, to inform me of what I am feeling, and how my journey will go if I don’t. I have been called names, I have been called dangerous to survivors, and that has been triggering to work through. Some have also had the audacity to gaslight my healing journey under the guise of “helping me see” – and I have had quite enough.
Let me say as clearly as possible to anyone who thinks they have some Devine right to encroach on my healing or the healing journey of other survivors – STFU !!!
A Time When I Considered It
There was a time when I began to explore this very deeply when it came to my abusers. When I first began processing the betrayals and how deeply they affected me. At the time, I believed that the path towards healing was acceptance and forgiveness. I had the two blended into one in my mind – and wow were they hurting me badly.
The way that my father treated me my whole childhood is a deep source of grief in my life as I take inventory of what I deserved and what I never had.
He told my school I was a liar when I spoke up, and told my grandfather the two times I spoke up to him that I was “talking”. He estranged himself from me when I was 14 because I chose to live with my maternal grandparents instead of becoming homeless. His final assault was when he became a sworn witness for the defense at the trial and was scheduled to testify against me to protect his father.
His father was the man who used my young body for his own sexual pleasure; stealing from me my innocence, taking away my consent, and dismissing the sovereignty I should have had of my body. I can still hear his voice quite clearly on the phone telling me (at 14) when I confronted him that “[he] did not hurt me” – yes, those were his exact words.
As I explored what forgiveness for these monsters would mean for me, I realized clearly the choice I needed to make to feel safe and comfortable. I saw how important having a choice was for me.
I chose to say FUCK Forgiveness and wow did my healing level up in so many ways.
Here’s why …
It is Retraumatizing
I have forgiven people before so I do actually understand how it feels and what it means to forgive someone.
I hear often that “I can forgive them and not stay in touch” but how many people have you actually done this with? Honestly.
Because in my experience, when I choose to forgive someone it is because I see value in the relationship, I want to invest in conflict resolution, and I want to stay in contact.
If an offense is so great that I don’t feel these things and would prefer to cut contact – why the hell am I obligated to forgive it? Some things really are unforgiveable. I’m curious; to those who believe this is possible – are you sure your “forgiveness” isn’t denial tied up in a pretty bow?
Or another one I hear is that “forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you” – Bullshit!!
I was working on forgiving myself for how I have survived and how I have internalized my abuse as my fault long before forgiveness for my abusers came up so I understood quickly that these two ideas of forgiveness are very separate things. Let me explain further:
When my husband upsets me, I don’t “forgive the family”, I forgive him. Forgiving myself is one thing, forgiving my abusers another. This idea that forgiving my abuser is a prerequisite for forgiving myself is such a load of sh*t.
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A Connection I Don’t Want
Forgiving my father & grandfather keeps me connected to them.
When I explored it, I felt like in order to “let go and forgive” I had to find a way to accept what they did and afford them the benefit of my forgiveness.
I didn’t like how that felt, it didn’t feel right. It felt like I was letting him get away with it and it became a catalyst for unnecessary intense rage and resentment in my healing journey.
It is not my responsibility to absolve my abusers of their abuses against me!Shanon Page
When I released myself from the obligation to fit into this social paradigm of forgiveness, I felt empowered and immediately at peace with my journey to that point.
I Choose How I Heal
As I said before, I have forgiven people throughout my life so I know what feels safe and who is deserving of my forgiveness. Since it is personal, and it is mine – when I forgive someone it affects me deeply. So, to that end alone, I choose who gets it.
I am giving a piece of myself when I forgive an offense; not everyone is deserving of that nor am I obligated to give it.
As an abused child I was silenced, gaslit, and controlled to the point of adjusting myself in order to survive. Healing means I am taking all of that back: my voice, my story, and my choice!
When I choose, I am empowered – and choosing the path that I take based on how I feel most safe is how I heal myself.
Experience Has Taught Me Forgiveness Is Not Required
I made a choice over a year ago, I committed to my path based on how I felt safe, despite social confines and ideas of how to heal trauma, and I have realized that I am moving just fine through my anger, my sadness, and my grief over childhood betrayals.
I am tending to and restoring the pieces of me that were affected by those abuses and I feel myself healing.
It is not forgiveness that releases built up and suppressed emotions from trauma, it is my ability to move through the pain and choose how I want to live and how I will heal. When I feel empowered it becomes a catalyst for me to process, to feel, and to release my emotions.
The Farce About Letting Go
I have also learned that this idea of “forgiving so that I can let go” is a farce. It is conceptually abstract when placed in the context of complex PTSD, and it gives a false hope that if I reach an arbitrary milestone suddenly I can be done and feel better.
That is not how trauma healing works. Healing ebbs and flows – I have good days and bad. The reality is I don’t just let go of the things I have experienced; I heal them so they no longer consume my life. They will always be a part of me, my story, and my journey.
Healing is a daily choice that I make, not a final destination that I reach.
If you have chosen to forgive and it works for your healing journey, that is amazing and I wish you all the best because you deserve it. I just ask that you please do not push your idea of forgiveness on others, especially when they tell you what is working for them as they heal.
Being told to forgive as the only means for proper healing is abusive and a form of shaming and gaslighting. It took me a while to build the confidence to say that to others. I’m saying it now – just stop!
If you have found validation in this post I hope it helps you release yourself from the societal obligation to forgive people who have abused you in some of the most horrendous and unforgivable ways.
Who you decide to forgive in your life, is your choice, don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.
On goes the journey
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