Monday , February 26 2024
Asking me, or anyone, to forgive their abuser is like asking us to return to being a victim.

Abuse And Forgiveness

I've written extensively about things of a personal nature in order to offer people an example of some of the processes available to those who have suffered trauma. I'm no expert or psychologist; all I've been able to offer is a sample of the things I've experienced and the protocols my doctors have employed to help me deal with the past continuing to impact my present, in order to give me a better future.

Some of them had to do with finding more appropriate means of expressing my emotions. Others dealt with behaviour that might have been appropriate for survival, but that could now be discarded. Still others helped me in assimilating the events of the past so they wouldn't live on in my mind and my emotions.

It's been a long slow process dealing with the accumulated crap. There were times I had assumed I was done, only to find more buried away which required excising. Yet, after being in therapy on and off for fifteen years, I can finally see that I'm getting to the point where I'm capable of coping on my own. The emotional scarring and wounding may never heal completely, but I have reached a point where I'm no longer controlled by events that occurred when I was a child. Ironically the length of time it's taken to get to this point is roughly equivalent to the length of time the abuse lasted in the first place.

Now in spite of what you might have seen and heard on daytime talk shows specializing in dissecting people's emotions for the enjoyment of their audiences, with hosts or guests believing themselves capable of dispensing wisdom to heal everybody of their ills, there are no cut-and-dried happy endings to this type of thing. While time isn't going to be able to heal all wounds, it's only through time's passage that you're going to get relief from their pain. There are no magic formulae to speed up the process of recovery, nor is there any one method that will solve all of your problems. Anyone who says that they have discovered a system that will "cure" you is deluded at best, or at worst a liar.

Sure, there are all sorts of panaceas that can make you feel better about yourself for a moment or two, but they're no better than any of the other things that people take on their own to suppress their emotions so they don't feel any pain. There's no difference between what these hucksters are offering and the drugs and booze I used for years to mask my own pain. Reciting some silly mantra, calling upon a guardian angel, or reciting an affirmation about you being worthy of love won't stop flashbacks of the abuse from occurring or help you deal with underlying behavioural problems caused by the abuse.

However, there's something even more misguided and dangerous that occurs on some of these shows. How many times have you seen staged reunions and reconciliations between long-estranged family members, great weepy scenes where people fall into each others' arms forgiving each other for past misdeeds and vowing eternal love? The implication is that if only you can forgive the person who caused you pain, if they would only apologize, everything would be better.

One of the hardest things for the child of abusive parents to deal with is the reality that the happy family which society tells us is the norm was so comprehensively denied them. Most of us spent years trying to figure out what was wrong with us that made our abuser break that promise, only later understanding that it was the abuser, not us, who was the problem. After years of trying to figure out ways of making someone else happy so they would love us, or at least leave us alone; years of being told we were only getting what we deserved; or years of having the love between a parent and child perverted into something awful, the idea of family being a shelter and a haven from the world takes quite a beating.

It's probably difficult for you to imagine what seeing one of those TV show scenes feels like to somebody who spent years forgiving their abuser in the hopes that tomorrow would be better. Maybe, you would tell yourself, after they apologize for what seems like the hundredth time, they really mean it this time. Maybe the tears they shed after forcing you to have sex with them are real, and they really feel remorse for their actions. Even if as a child you weren't capable of comprehending what it was you were doing exactly, by trying to love them because they were your parent you were practising a form of forgiveness.

Therefore, the idea that forgiving somebody years later for what they did to us as a child will make things better, when they didn't respond to our gestures of forgiveness at the time, can't help but seem unrealistic if not stupid. Sure it makes for great television and appeals to everybody's sentimental nature, but it fails to take into account that in order to forgive someone there needs to be some sort of reciprocity of feeling. How can you forgive someone who never showed any remorse for their actions or never took any steps to change their behaviour?

There have been things I've done in my life that I've had to apologize for, and I know how hollow some of those apologies were until I was able to change my behaviour sufficiently that my actions suited my words. While there is a school of thought that says unless we learn how to forgive those who have hurt us we will never fully recover from the damage inflicted upon us, it sounds far too much like the same behaviour we practised as children in the hopes of making things better. It still feels like we're not standing up for ourselves, and giving the abuser power over us. People can say all they like that forgiveness doesn't mean you condone what somebody did, but quite frankly I'd rather just have the strength to tell them to fuck off out of my life and leave me alone.

As a child I didn't have the power to do that and was forced to do whatever necessary to survive. I no longer have to surrender anything of myself to my abuser and I no longer have to try to make them happy. Asking me, or anyone, to forgive their abuser, no matter what shape that forgiveness comes in, is like asking us to return to being a victim. That's not about to happen anytime soon.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

Check Also

Sunrise, Sunset, and the Burning Bush

The other day, we observed the winter solstice. The day with the fewest hours of …