(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)
"Why should I forgive my perpetrator?"
You don't have to forgive. Ever. You can hold the anger and bitterness inside as long as you like. Or you can decide that you don't want to live with such negative emotions eating away.
Today most people know that holding grudges, remaining angry for a prolonged period, and unwillingness to forgive means we—the one who holds on—suffer.
Is it worth it?
I took a big step in forgiving one of my abusers, about a month ago. He's also dead. In that moment, forgiving him meant that I was willfully surrendering my "right" to hold on to bitterness and offense against him. I still experience anger, and pain. But my choice is to allow God to help me release that, rather than holding it back.
Why do you feel so comfortable equating a person's choosing not to forgive with holding grudges and being angry and bitter?
I don't know whether you are being sarcastic when you claim that it is a person's "right" not to forgive and proceed to equate not forgiving with being a sad, bitter malcontent or whether you genuinely cannot imagine someone moving on and healing without forgiving his or her perpetrator somewhere along the way.
You make it seem like it's an either/or situation but it's not that simple.
Some of the angriest people I know are survivors who claim to have forgiven their abusers. They are quick to find fault with everybody around them, particularly with those of us who do not want to forgive.
I was in group therapy with a young woman who bristled with anger over any other member's slightest infraction, be it showing up five minutes late, chewing gum or forgetting the name of her dog. But she never, ever missed an opportunity to tell us how happy she was that she had forgiven her abuser and she never failed to chastise those of us who "weren't ready yet."
I have bent over backward to be supportive and understanding of people who HAVE chosen to forgive their abusers, even if though it's not the choice I made for myself.
While I have fallen out of touch with the young woman I mentioned earlier, I still hope that she has or will become the happy, peaceful person she wanted to be so badly. She was angry, all right, but there was more to her than that. She was also a truly caring, giving person who just had a hard time understanding how other people's goals could be so different from her own.
I don't need to put her or anyone else down just to justify my own choice. It would be very, very nice if other people would try to do the same for me or for others who see things differently than they do.
I would be lying if I said that I never, ever felt any anger toward my abuser. Of course I do. But I try very hard not to be bitter or to form and hold onto grudges.
I've grown up and I've worked as hard as I can to get well and to contribute to the world. I have a severe and chronic mental illness that can make it very, very difficult but I haven't given up and I am still working and healing every day that I am alive.
I am truly sorry if that is not enough to satisfy everyone because I do try hard to please and I have always wanted to make people happy but I've come to realize that I will never, ever be able to please everyone.
I will also never know what went on in my abuser's head and I cannot forgive what I cannot understand.
If there is a God, I will more than happy to leave that in his hands, which ought to be much stronger and more capable than mine.
I am also afraid that if I tried to forgive I would betray myself and the child I used to be. I've fought so hard to be able to live with myself that I am afraid to ruin things.
I asked you long ago and I fear it is futile, but can you PLEASE try to understand how I might feel the way I do? I do not expect you to agree with my decision and that's okay but if you would only try to understand it would mean a lot.
Thank you for reading this.
Anonymous, you are still hurting very deeply, and I can relate to that. For me it was a progression toward forgiving. It didn't come suddenly from "giving it to God." But gradually I was able to forgive, and it was a release.
I think if you can come to the point of forgiving, you will find freedom. But, again, I'm speaking entirely from my own experience. You must go at your own pace. I don't know you, but I will certainly pray for you to fine peace.
Thank you for taking the time to write and thank you for praying for me. I certainly didn't expect that and I am grateful for your kindness.
I didn't mean to imply that giving my abuser over to God equates forgiveness, far from it. I just used to hate this person so much that (in addition to my psychiatric problems) it nearly killed me.
I do not understand why anyone would hurt a small child the way I was hurt but if there is a God, I have to believe that he can understand and therefore forgive.
I put it out of my hands because I needed some room to breathe, plain and simple. I felt like I was suffocating. And I do want a release, very much so. I am on medication and in treatment and I am working very, very hard. I don't always know where I'll wind up or how I will feel in the future. If I ever reach a point where forgiveness feels natural and appropriate, I will certainly try.
You were right when you said that I'm still hurting very deeply and I thank you for acknowledging my pain. Maybe it is not so futile to ask people to understand me after all.
I am glad that you feel better and I hope you will continue to feel well. I've read some of your comments and I know you haven't had an easy time of it either.
Thanks again for your kind words.
(I am crying as I write this. Isn't it strange that I cry more when people are nice to me than when they are cruel?)
I will keep you in my prayers. I've shed tears as well, and I'm thankful for tears. Also I think it perfectly all right to pray for God to bring the abuser to justice. Some of David's psalms contain prays for God to bring his enemies to justice. The abuser certainly was an enemy and wicked in the sight of God and mankind.
“In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
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