Tag Archives: forgiveness as a release for victims

Battery Acid

Car battery, Author Towel401 (PD)

The victims of child abuse often wrestle with the question of forgiveness.  Forgiveness can feel like defeat – another surrender to a predator who has already taken so much from us, including our self-respect.

Strength v. Weakness

But forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness.  Nor is it a warm and cozy feeling.

Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to put the past behind us [1].  That requires enormous strength on the part of victims.  Most of us cannot accomplish it until we have first mourned our losses (a fact those urging forgiveness upon us must not overlook).

Unforgiveness

Emotionally speaking, unforgiveness is akin to the sulfuric acid used in storage batteries.

Battery acid is a dangerous substance.  It dissolves the skin, causing chemical burns.  Heavy scarring can result.  Contact with the eyes will cause blindness.  Long-term exposure to fumes is toxic.

Like battery acid, unforgiveness eats us up inside, creating scars that further tie us to the past, exacerbating rather than easing our pain.  And the longer our bitterness lasts, the deeper the scars.

Bitterness blinds us to the possibilities before us.  Forgiveness, by contrast, opens our eyes.  It clears our head, and cleanses our heart.  We can once again breathe freely.  The past no longer has power over us.

Release

Forgiveness is NOT salt in the wound, NOT an added stripe from the lash, NOT a final humiliation [2].  Nor is it an argument that predators’ horrendous behavior should be excused away at victims’ expense.

Significantly, forgiveness is not inconsistent with criminal prosecution, should victims choose to pursue that.  Prosecution may prevent others from being victimized.

Instead, forgiveness implies release for the victim…release from bitterness, from anger, from hatred.  From the groundless self-condemnation the abuse to which we were subjected left in its wake [3].

Victims deserve that.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5: 44).

[1]  Prevention, “How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You – Even When It Feels Impossible” by Cassie Shortsleeve, 12/13/19, https://www.prevention.com/life/a29995725/how-to-forgive-som.eone/

[2]  NPR, “Why Forgiving Someone Else Is Really About You” by Stephanie O’Neill, 7/30/20, https://www.npr.org/2020/07/28/896245305/why-forgiving-someone-else-is-really-about-you.

[3]  This is not to suggest that we were responsible for our abuse.  Children, however, blame themselves for the actions of the adults around them.  Victims carry that misplaced sense of guilt into adulthood.

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God.  Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation.  Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse.  Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal.  This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture.  At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Detail from “Christ before the High Priest” by Gerar van Honthorst (1617), National Gallery (Accession No. NG3679), London, Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims.  It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God. Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation. Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse. Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal. This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture. At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims. It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse