Friday, October 29, 2010

Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting The Child Abuse


Over at the blog Emerging From Broken, a conversation is going on about forgiveness.  This isn't your usual discussion of forgiveness that you would hear at your local church or maybe even in your own family discussions on the subject.  This discussion is heartfelt and often bone-weary, by survivors who have thought long and hard about what forgiveness means and what it doesn't mean to them as survivors of abuse.  I have written on the subject of forgiveness more than once or twice here on my blog.  Please bear with me again.

First, and foremost, in my mind is the opening statement above.  I will repeat it so you forget.


Why?  Because if you forget, the abuse---emotional, physical, sexual---that happened to you or to someone else that you know and love, how can you ever hope to stop the abuse that will damage the next generation of children.  If you forget, someone can come along and abuse you again.  You cannot stop what you are not aware of.  You cannot let that happen.  You could do nothing to stop your own abuse when you were a child.  Yes, the child abuse that you lived through WAS NOT your fault.  [Sorry about the shouting with all the capital letters, but this topic is important to me.] 


Darlene [Emerging From Broken], it looks like I caught your Rant.  Thanks for passing it along.  I hope that I do the same with my words.

Some words about forgiveness:
"You must forgive your parents."
"You must honor and love your parents."
"You should keep family matters in the family."
"Just forgive and move on."
"I am so tired of hearing you complain about your incest issues.  Can you just shut up?"
"Get over it."
"Heal already.  This has gone on long enough."
"I don't want to hear another word about your issues."
"Why can't you just forgive and forget."
"How much longer are you going to talk about this subject?"
"Do you have to talk about the incest all the time?"
"That was a long time ago.  This is now. Shouldn't you be over that by now?"

These are a few of the things that have been said to me to supposedly help me or shut me up and hurry me along on my way to healing and forgiving.  Did any of them work?  No, they just made me angry and hurt and helped me to doubt and abuse myself with questions such as:

"Why can't I just do what they say?"
"Why don't I just shut up and pretend that it doesn't still hurt?"
"Denial isn't so bad. Is it?"
"Forgiveness seems to be so easy for everybody else.  Why can't I do it?"
"I must still be so stupid, like my parents said, because I am just not getting it."
"Forgiveness is just something else that I am screwing up."
"I just can't get anything right."
"I am just no good or I could forgive."
"Maybe my parents were right and I'm just a bad seed."
"Everything I touch goes wrong."
"I am such a stupid Bitch that I can't even do forgiveness right."
"It is all my fault any way."

Did any of those statements make it any easier to heal or to forgive?  NO.  When my own doubts joined with the words of others to further confuse me and the issue of forgiveness, I was actually ever further away from forgiving than when I started out.  These words and doubts just gave me more ways to abuse myself.  Abusing myself is just another something that I have to do forgiveness for.  Is it any wonder that we often feel overwhelmed when we first look at forgiveness?

Well, I think that my Rant just turned into a series of posts because I am just getting started on what I wanted to say about forgiveness.  This post isn't the direction that I thought I would be going when I sat down out here on my front porch to enjoy the mild Autumn temperatures, fresh air and sunshine while I was thinking and writing out my thoughts.

If you reach the place where you can forgive your abusers, DO NOT EVER FORGET THAT YOU WERE ABUSED!

Here are the three other blog posts that prompted me to sit down and write out my thoughts about forgiveness:

Emerging From Broken's post
"Forgive the Abusers? A bit of a Rant"

Overcoming Sexual Abuse's post
"What About Forgiveness"

Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker's post
"Prelude To Forgiveness"


JBR said...

Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

Patricia Singleton said...

JBR, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. You are very welcome. I hope that you will also visit and read Darlene's and Christina's blog posts. The comments on Darlene's post are getting close to 100 already.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia, not sure why, but I have the hardest time scrolling on ur blog....I realy like ur take on forgiveness, It is amazing on how many times I did the forgive & forget thing...You are sooo right, it leaves the door open to more abuse, the door that my children walked through....I guess, in a way, forgiving abusers, was enabling them, and lead me into a fantasy that everything is going to be good now, and we can all get on with being a real was easier to do a quick forgiving, than deal w/all the pain from past to present....Im now realizing...that I realy didnt forgive, because I forgot too much...the abusers getting well, was more important than me getting well...not sure if im making sense..but truly, I spent years trying to get them well...thought forgivenss would help that process...oh boy, I sure was ;) I love ur blog, ;)

Patricia Singleton said...

Anonymous, thank you for letting me know that you like my blog. I know what you mean about trying to forget and hoping that it is enough. I did that for quite a few years too. It didn't help. It made the situation worse and my own healing process took longer. I don't know the cause of your scrolling problem on the blog. My technical skills are not more than just basics.

pattygalloway said...

my skills are basic as well...and Im trying not to open a google site...ta hell, w/being anonymous anymore, I will shout from the mountain tops who I am...and be proud of it too! PATTY GALLOWAY woot! woot!

Patricia Singleton said...

Patty, congratulations on your shouting from the mountain tops. Be very proud of who you are. You deserve to be known as a survivor. It is hard work to go from victim to survivor. You are worthy of the recognition.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Patricia, Thank you for this post and the links you provided. I love reading your blog, as difficult as it can be, I always end up in tears, but you open so many windows of insight with your posts. It helps me along my journey in the things I need to heal from. Keep on...

Mystic_Mom said...

Patricia, your post does seem to be a gateway to many more! Which is great to see - this is a very hard place and a hard topic. How do we forgive in a world that wants us to do it on their terms and not our own? I think I know what a new Scarred Seeker may be about...bless you!

Patricia Singleton said...

Alene, you are very welcome. I am glad that my posts help you in your journey of healing. Tears are very much a part of that healing. Thanks for letting me know that I am accomplishing my goal of helping others with the sharing of my story.

Patricia Singleton said...

Mystic Mom, a beautiful name for a beautiful woman whose compassion for animals and people inspires me to be more like you. Blessings back to you.

Forgiveness is a hard topic for many survivors. The process to get to the place of being able to forgive is even harder for many of us, impossible for some. Forgiveness is a choice after the work of healing is done, not before as many try to force you into doing too soon.

Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. Thank you for the blessing. You are much appreciated.

Punkmumma said...

Thanks so much for what you have writen. I cant ever forget about the abuse sometimes I would like the memories to go away to give me a break, but I am not in a place as yet to forgive. I had been told by many a counsellor you can never even start to heal unless you forgive your abusers first , I found this very hard and confusing. I have lots of healing to do and I can see that, one small bit at a time. I am starting to understand more as time goes on about myself and the abuse I had a a child the links to how it has affected me in my life now as an adult. Forgiveness can be part of that process.

Patricia Singleton said...

Panopticon, I know all about wishing the memories would go away. Sometimes you just get so tired of it being right there in your face all the time in the early stages of healing.

Normally I would not go against something that your counsellor told you but this time he or she is very wrong. To put it very strongly he/she doesn't know what the Hell he/she is talking about.

People who tell you that forgiveness is necessary to healing or that forgiveness comes first just cause you more abuse which you don't deserve. I hope you will go and read the other 3 posts that I included at the end of my post. They will put you in touch with other survivors who are discussing this very topic. Some are early on in their recovery and others are veterans like me who have 20 or more years of dealing with incest or some other form of child abuse.

Thank you for sharing your comment. I am glad to be here for you.

Anonymous said...

Patricia -
Very appropriate reply to Panopticon - I can't believe several counselors would make such an inane statement! "never even start to heal unless you forgive your abusers first." I agree that this is just a wrong statement. First of all, I've learned to watch out for people who speak in absolutes - "never?" As I heard a very astute person say at a 12 step meeting one time, "I don't believe I can really forgive until I've had my feelings about it." That is more accurate for my experience.

Thanks Patricia for your wonderful discussion of this very complex issue!

Patricia Singleton said...

Dan, thanks for adding your words to mine. Thanks for sharing the very wise words of your 12-Step person about having his feelings first. Out of the counselor's belief that you must forgive first can come a lot of unnecessary pain for his/her clients. That is very sad to me.

Nikki (Sarah) said...

Excellent post Patricia..for me forgiveness came and went and came and went and at some point I realized I had to forgive me too. that was the absolute hardest

Patricia Singleton said...

Sarah, Thank you. I had a 12-Step sponsor who told me that the first step in forgiveness was to forgive myself. I am in the process of writing out a post about just that process. It will be published one day next week. In order to forgive myself, I had to get brutally honest about my thoughts and actions. Like you said, it is the hardest to do.