I know that I should have written this article before the one on Forgiveness Is For You, Not The Other Person but I didn't. I had to get those feelings and thoughts out of the way first. I just spent some time reading articles on the Carnival Against Sexual Abuse. I left comments on the blogs of two very courageous women who are dealing with the effects that rape has left them with. I ended both comments by telling them not to let anyone try to push them into doing forgiveness until they were ready. That is my number one tip on how to do forgiveness.
1. Don't let anyone try to push you into doing forgiveness until you are ready to do it. You will know when the time is right for you.
2. People who try to push you into doing forgiveness before you are ready usually do so because they have unresolved abuse issues themselves. I can't say that this is always true. In my experience, it is true a lot of the time.
3. Don't let anyone tell you to simply forgive. They don't know what they are talking about. The feelings and pain inside of you are not simple. Forgiving is not a simply process.
4. Just saying the words, "I forgive you." doesn't mean a damn thing, if you haven't done the work to get you to a place of releasing your pain. It just keeps you in the pain longer and gives you a reason to judge yourself.
5. Don't listen to anyone, yourself included, that says, "You should be able to do this by now." Shoulds don't do anything but give you a reason to abuse yourself with shame and blame.
6. Before you can truly forgive, you have to stop "blaming". Take responsibility for where you are right now and move forward.
7. Let go of any shame and guilt that you may be holding on to for what happened to you. You weren't the one who didn't take no for an answer if you were raped. If you were raped, believe it. You didn't make it up. Yes, incest is rape. That was a big one for me to accept. Rape doesn't have to be violent to be rape. Date rape doesn't have to be violent to be rape. Shame and guilt belong to the abuser, not you.
8. You have to feel the feelings and just sit with them for awhile before you can release them. This can be really hard work. For myself, I would eat, read, watch TV, run away, go shopping, try to fix anybody and everybody else's problems before dealing with mine. You can distance your self from your own problems with denial and addictions. Neither help the situation. You can pretend that the abuse isn't affecting you. Guess what, pretending can keep you in the pain. Pretending doesn't stop the pain. Ignoring it doesn't help either. The pain will show up as an illness to get your attention. I have done all of the above. They don't work. You can be smiling on the outside and still hurting on th inside.
9. As Lisa from http://imaginif.com.au/~ima33724/blog/2007/09/04/what-is-cognitive-dissonance/ reminded me in my last article on forgiveness that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. Just because you forgive the abuser does not mean that he/she can be back in your life. My dad was a raging alcoholic until the day that he died alone and probably frightened. Given the opportunity, he probably would have acted out sexually too. For my protection and the protection of my children, he was not a part of our lives even though I forgave him a year and a half before he died.
10. Forgiving is not saying that what was done to you is ok or right. Abuse is never right or ok. That is my reason for doing this blog and in particular this set of articles on incest and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean the abuse did not happen. It does not mean that you were wrong in accusing your abuser. The responsibility for the abuse is with the abuser. Forgiveness does not change any of that. It does not change the past. What forgiveness does is to release you from the pain of the past. Forgiveness gave me a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. Forgiveness can give you peace of mind.
11. Forgiveness does not mean you won't still get angry or cry or be hurt by someone else's hurtful words or acts. You can learn to recognise those feelings for what they are and release them right then or a few days later, if you choose to. You aren't stuck with the emotions in your body.
12. Forgiveness means freedom to be you, the whole you. You no longer have to hide from the abuser or yourself.
13. Forgiveness means you can let go of the secrets that were holding you back. You have the strength and compassion to reach out and help others because you have learned compassion for yourself.
14. Forgiveness means learning to love yourself, no matter what. You deserve to be in a better place. To whatever is necessary to take care of yourself and to provide you with a "safe" space.
15. Forgiveness means not carrying the weight of the world around on your shoulders any more. You don't have to be or do anything that is detrimental to your well-being.
16. Forgiveness means you can sing the song, "You Are So Beautiful" and mean every word of it. Smile the world can be a better place. Feel the sunshine of a new day shining down on you. Love yourself. You deserve it.
If you see anything that needs to be added to this list, please leave a comment. Let's see how big this list can grow. In the mean time, everybody have a glorious day.