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Stories from people who have moved forward in some way with forgiveness, particularly toward those who abused them.

Rose White

Opening this discussion up again. I am interested in stories from people who have moved forward in some way with forgiveness, particularly toward those who abused them in some way. What was the catalyst? How did you find your way into and through that journey? Is it an ongoing process? How did facing your anger play a role?

I’m not really interested in hearing about people’s perspectives who have not yet forgiven or can’t or don’t want to.
That’s where I’m at and I’m very familiar with and accept that as a valid possibility. If you feel compelled to talk about that I ask you to discuss it elsewhere, start a different thread, unless you can somehow connect it to a journey toward forgiveness. I’m not saying you have to have completely forgiven all your abusers, even if it was one or in a small way I’m interested.

For me it’s a confusing path because I was so dismissive that anything bad had even happened for so long that the journey toward acceptance and grief was so long, difficult, and uncomfortable that it’s hard to imagine going on another journey that seems loaded with more emotions. People say forgiveness is like a lifting. Some people say it’s more about a release. Or letting go.

The other thing is I don’t understand when people say, “I had to forgive myself then I could forgive them.” I think I forgave myself. But forgiving them seems different.

Or people say, “I forgave them for my own sake.” That sounds a bit closer. But I don’t want to let them into my life and I’m afraid that forgiveness means letting go of boundaries and self protection.

I’m all weepy about a lot of stuff tonight. I know Lionheart forgave his dad and took pity on him. I know he said that he loved him.

That makes me cry a lot. And I feel my old friend anger rising up to protect me. Which squeezes more tears out. This is hard. I do want to become better. I do want to become more human.

ModNote - Clear instructions have been given by the OP. Please take the time to read/respect them. Thank you.
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It depends how you're defining the term. If you're under the impression that forgiveness means absolving someone of responsibility for harming you, it makes sense that you wouldn't desire this.

Personally I found forgiveness necessary to move on and stop being consumed by thoughts of my abusers. The only thing anger ever caused me was high blood pressure.

Not one of them would give a shit I was mad, or be capable of understanding why, so what purpose does it serve? Once I let go of the resentment it was easier to see them more clearly. They're destructive forces, with very little self-agency.

I pity them, but I'm no longer controlled by them. Forgiveness was about me and my ability to live peacefully. It has little to do with them, and I would not feel compelled to even provide a statement indicating that I did forgive them to make them feel better about it if they asked for it directly.

Seeking forgiveness is ultimately a selfish act, so I wouldn't care too much about indulging it. If they were sincere, they would focus on restoration, not forgiveness. It is mine, not for them. They have to figure out their lives on their own.
Forgiveness is for you. I have forgiven my father and brother but that occurred recently as my chap 13 bankruptcy is complete awaiting discharge. It was for medical expenses related to recovery from bacterial meningitis of my brain. ( May 2014) My father tried to force his way in apt in 10/18 after some of my creditors called him. I my bankruptcy fees all paid for. Was to be filed in 2/19. I got an order of protection against him. I have just recently also forgiven my first late husband whom I cared for worked as an RN wore myself out leading to the illness. I changed my last name from my late first husband's to my paternal grandmother's maiden name in the spring of 2018. I had a lot of therapy domestic violence treatment a lot of medical care 2 lawyers. It has been almost 10 years. But I have forgiven but not forgotten. These individuals are still accountable for their harm. My brother cares for my dad when needed is the executor of the will. I live 1900 miles away..I have not decided yet whether to accept inheirtance if there is any. I can file to refuse it within 9 months of my father's death. My paternal grandfather had epilepsy died at 43. His actions from seizures and personality changes was one cause of the transgenerational trauma on mynfathers side. I have had a seizure risk from craniotomy done for bacterial meningitis of my brain may 2014. I have remained seizure free. I almost died from this. It became my journey and destiny to break the cycle of my family's transgenerstional trauma. So far so good. My husband a veteran and doomsday prepper have had issues so I have resumed therapy.
I make an absolute distinction between forgiveness and absolution, which is quite different from what I learned growing up Catholic, where it is considered the same thing. I absolutely will not absolve my abuser for abusing me. It's a choice that they can never undo, and I cannot forget it (nor would I want to).

However, I have forgiven my abuser. Not because of anything she did. Nothing SHE could possibly do now could be worthy of forgiveness. I forgave her for my own sake. Holding on to the anger and blame was destroying me. Forgiveness for me was giving up on any hope that the past could be different, that she could have done things differently, that I could have done things differently. It is understanding the context of her choices, which were terrible, but she had PTSD and used me as a stand-in for all of the other men who abused her. Foolish and wrong - maybe even evil - but also human and understandable.

I absolutely think there can be healing without forgiveness. Just not for me.
I turned the phrase "forgive and forget" into one that makes sense for use when applied to my parents. "forget and forgive" makes more sense. If I am supposed to forgive and forget, that implies that forget follows the act of granting foregiveness when we all know that forgetting someone that harmed us goes against our basic processes, the same ones that make us remember that touching a burner causes pain, we never forget pain and abuse. foregive and forget doesn't really happen, foregive maybe, forget, thats the hard part. Forget and foregive puts the real horse in front of the cart, forgetting is the real work and if possible in even a small amount, the foregive part follows along to a degree.
I turned the corner on my parents when I finally felt real pity for them. Somehow, after that their abuses became a lower grade memory. I already knew that they couldn't hurt me again, I already knew that I would never be able to make it go away, but knowing that they were beyond reach and not worth the stretch made the memory less of a temptation to pick up and look at. There was no solution, and even if there was one it would be for them, not me, and they were simply beyond help. Sad is all I felt. I felt absolutely no additional sadness upon hearing of their deaths, they were gone years earlier for me. If anything, their deaths represented the shredding of another set of copies of memories that I was glad to see diminished by just two more iterations. Someday, mine will also go away. Working on it.
forgiveness. It is mine, not for them.
I’m hearing you and @Flying Dove on this point.
forgiveness and absolution
I don’t really understand absolution. But I think I understand based on the Christian perspective, sort of like clearing the slate I guess?
Forgiveness for me was giving up on any hope that the past could be different, that she could have done things differently, that I could have done things differently
This is really helpful. Also, it is helpful for me knowing that you have forgiven her but are still learning to cope with PTSD symptoms. In my mind I had the fantasy that I would be somehow in symptom-free remission and then I could forgive.
forgetting is the real work
Interesting perspective. Never considered this before.
Working on it
Helpful to hear it’s actually a work in progress and I guess that makes sense. Like most things. And maybe the black and white thinking (fantasy) is related to wanting to escape the abuse—wanting it to end immediately and then total relief without work.
I forgave someone because I could understand why he did what he did.
And he did what he did because he had ptsd from things that happened to him, and I know the pain of those things. And so yes while he knew right from wrong he needed to make it stop in his own head, and I get that. Only I choose to do those things to me.

I’m not a perfect human. Glass houses and all that. I’ve snapped when I shouldn’t have, I’ve said awful things I shouldn’t have. I’ve been harsh and cruel, and I’ve probably not always made a lot of effort to be inclusive to certain people who have traits I find difficult to cope with. I’ve been triggered and physically lashed out through terror, I’ve probably caused plenty of grief for people whose only crime was to step in my way.

So I just figured that I wasn’t really in a position to be throwing stones at him. And I got it. Doesn’t mean I like it, doesn’t mean it was okay, doesn’t mean I won’t have to live with the affects of it. Hurt people hurt people, and not everyone can afford/find/stomach facing up to it and working on it.

Not saying that’s right for everyone and everyone’s situation, and I certainly haven’t forgiven every time. But I could forgive him.
A turning point for me was realising how very bitter I had become. So, the change was very much motivated by my not wanting to be bitter anymore rather than any kind of goodness or concern for the abuser.

I could see how it was eating me up.
I think I forgave the people that hurt me because I finally realized--after many years--that there is no reason not to and that it was hurting me more than it was hurting anybody else. And after all--they are people just like me. We all have the potential to hurt others, and most of us have been hurt in some way when we were young. We waste so much time being angry, when it doesn't make a bit of difference to the ones we are angry with. The only ones it harms is us. It gets us nowhere most of the time.

I’m afraid that forgiveness means letting go of boundaries and self protection.
Sounds like you need to figure out for yourself what forgiveness means to you. Boundaries and self-protection don't even come into it for me. For me, forgiveness is about recognizing that we are all human, and I don't gain anything by judging or being angry with those who deal with their issues in hurtful ways. That doesn't discount what it did to me, but it reminds me that I am now responsible for managing my own stuff--feelings, beliefs, reactions, actions.
Sounds like you need to figure out for yourself what forgiveness means to you.
Why I created this thread.
I forgave someone because I could understand why he did what he did.
Interesting. It took me a long time to accept that what he did was bad or wrong because I felt I could understand why he did it—I had multiple logical reasons why he did it and why I didn’t need to be upset. In that headspace forgiveness wasn’t even necessary. In accepting that what he did was wrong I had to let go of the idea that I understood. It’s possible that I will find my way back there. I hear you that you said not for everyone. Forgiveness does seem to be such a deeply personal thing. But I am seeing a thread of people doing it for themselves—that seems to be a common thread.
I don't gain anything by judging or being angry
Similarly I had no anger toward any abusers when I started recovery. All my anger was self directed. And I didn’t even recognize it as anger. Just a feeling of wanting to die all the time. So learning that I did have anger and learning that it was appropriate to direct at people who had hurt me (first realizing and accepting that they had hurt me in the first place) was quite a journey. And an important and necessary one. So in a way, for me, there’s a tiny sense that moving away from that means… I don’t know… letting go of a part of myself? That helped me heal? So in some ways I think I recognize that I had a lot to gain from being angry. (Not saying you’re wrong, reflecting upon your perspective with my own experience—I think your journey toward forgiveness is valid and respectful.)
realising how very bitter I had become. So, the change was very much motivated by my not wanting to be bitter anymore rather than any kind of goodness or concern for the abuser
I think this is where I’m at now. The anger has served its purpose and it’s starting to erode at me in some ways. So I have to course correct. I keep thinking though that letting go of the anger means I’ll be fine seeing him, running in to him, if he reaches out to me. And maybe that’s good? But still just today a student of mine was telling me she met me dad because she was volunteering at a food bank and he was answering phones. Her grandma told him that she went to my school. And he told her that his granddaughter (my daughter) was a student there. And when the student said my dad’s name she seemed so happy. I remember she said, “He was wearing a hat. He was *very* interesting.” She emphasized that word. Anyway, I smiled and acted neutral but also walked away. And daughter never brought it up to me but all afternoon I was thinking that I am determined to move away as soon as daughter is an adult and I will get away.

I don’t know why I needed to process that just now but I did. Because I know that the anger is so much right there. And I can’t get away from him. And I can’t keep enough distance between us. But if I forgive him then that would benefit him, because if he comes around me I would be all neutral instead of “get the f*ck away from me.” Which I never did anyway when he walked by me. I just looked away and got away when I could. And tried to forget.

I’m suddenly swirling in thoughts of how much he seems to be surrounding me and how much I want to leave this town some day. Sorry for the digression.

Teasel, I keep thinking about “no goodness or concern for the abuser” and I can’t make that make sense when blended with forgiveness. I understand wanting to get rid of the bitterness, but in my mind I think I might be able to do that without forgiveness. So a bit confused still and that’s okay. I am trying and it will work itself out. I will give it space and time for my head to figure it out for me. The is thread is really helpful for working through it.
I don't think I see forgiveness as necessarily leading to having that person around you more. Especially if they haven't owned what they did to you.

I think for me, forgiveness was more like accepting that these things happened, that I can't change that they happened. But in no way did that make me think it was OK what he did. And if anything, I had much better self protective boundaries after forgiving than before.