As a survivor of abuse, one of the things I find myself asking God is “How do you forgive the unforgivable?” I don’t mean forgiving my abuser but in some scenarios that may be the more appropriate question to ask.
By unforgivable, I mean finding forgiveness in your heart for the person that was supposed to protect you from the harm that was done when someone violated your trust. I don’t blame my mother for anything that happened to me despite the fact that she was my primary care-giver while I was growing up.
I blame my father. I blame him because he decided to love, shelter and protect his girlfriend and her three daughters that were not his biological children. To anyone who knew me when I was thirteen, it was obvious that I missed my father’s presence. I know now that his presence would have been detrimental to my well-being. My father wasn’t fatherly. He had no idea how to be a father…but I missed him anyway. Or rather, I miss the thought or idea of him. But had he been there, I would not have had the need to seek guidance and friendship from any other adult.
But how do you heal a relationship that’s fractured. How do you make room in your heart for forgiveness when your heart is broken?
The funny thing about forgiveness is that first and foremost, it is a selfish emotion. Forgiveness is for you…not the person that needs your forgiveness? Think about that for a moment.
Forgiveness is for you, not the other person that needs your forgiveness.
You can carry anger around with you because of what the offender has done. And the more traumatic the offense, the deeper the anger.
But the simple truth of the matter is that you are in charged of your own healing. You can decide to be angry with what was done for the rest of your life, or you can let it go in your own time.
I know that I make forgiveness sound easy. It isn’t.
And some people don’t make it. They will stay angry for the rest of their lives and as a result miss out on so many opportunities to have true joy. They may continue to indulge in behavior believing that this will be a good way to get back at the individual who hurt them only to realize that what they’ve done hurts only themselves.
I remember going out with my then girlfriend, drinking too much and being reduced to tears, crying on her shoulder because the thirteen-year-old boy inside of me never healed.
I talk about this at length to other abuse survivors because it is so important to learn how to forgive. It bears repeating that forgiveness isn’t for the offender; it’s for you.
Forgiveness is for anyone that has suffered at the hands of an abuser. A rape or battered victim may have more of a difficult time forgiving their abuser.
The last time I saw my father was two year ago. My younger brother and I decided to drive up to North Jersey and visit him. At the time, I had no idea that this would be my last time seeing him. My father passed a little more than a year ago…and I never received an answer from him regarding why he chose another woman and her children to shelter while his blood family suffered. Unfortunately, he took those answers with him to his grave which forced me to forgive him.
I forgave him because I loved him. I forgave him because there is too much of him in me to deny. I forgave him because it made it easier for me to embrace the wonderful things that have happened to me since the molestation that occurred.
My relationship with him had been fractured but I survived that as well. I can enjoy my home, family, friends and wonderful spouse.
But the road to where I am now wasn’t easy. I’m not going to suggest that it is to any of you. But the reward in forgiving someone is far greater for you than for them.
1in6 is an organization that assists men and boys that have been the victim of physical and sexual abuse.
So how do you heal a broken relationship? Forgiveness is a start. And for many of us, it would be a great start.
~ J.L. Whitehead