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 . 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).
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.
Forgiveness is NOT salt in the wound, NOT an added stripe from the lash, NOT a final humiliation . 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 .
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).
 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/
 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.
 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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