My Take on Forgiveness: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
What if I told you I believe I have the key to true happiness and freedom from resentments and anger towards the person who abused you? Then what if I told you that you held the key to that freedom and happiness within YOURSELF? Would you be willing to take a look at the path I discovered to those feelings?
Good, now that you have said yes, what if I told you that I found that gaining that freedom and happiness was as simple as forgiving that person who abused me?
Now wait a minute, Randy, that’s asking a lot. Yes, I know, and it was my biggest roadblock to true happiness and freedom as well.
Today, I can honestly say, that for me, forgiveness has been the key to enabling me to find true freedom and happiness. And as difficult as it may be to consider, I believe that can be especially true for survivors of abuse or anyone that has resentments and contempt for people who have harmed them.
Eleven years ago I would have laughed at that statement.
It seems that all anyone would say to me whenever I talked about how much I despised my abusers was: “You just need to forgive, forget, and move on Randy.” These are what I consider to be three of the most damaging words you can tell a survivor. My reply was always the same: “You have no idea what they did to me. If what happened to me happened to you, you’d feel this way yourself. “
Today I will say that in fact, one way to achieve true freedom and happiness is to forgive and move on. However, it is a process that will take time. How much time is up to you; this is your journey. For myself, it was about three years into my recovery when I reached the place where I was finally able to fully forgive my abusers.
One of my biggest fears was believing that forgiving meant condoning the abuse, or letting those people who abused me off the hook. I knew that my hatred and rage were poisoning me while, ironically, having no effect whatsoever on them. But I was terrified to let those feelings go, for they had come to define me. Without them, I didn’t know who I would be. So how could I forgive them and give up the feelings that had kept me safe for thirty plus years?
What I learned along my journey was that, first and foremost, forgiveness was solely for me and not the person who had harmed me; and in forgiving, the chains that bound me to that abusive person were severed.
Even more important, in my view, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Josh Howerton, a pastor in Spring Hill, Tennessee, has stated my thoughts succinctly (with my comments following in parentheses) about what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing the abuse or sin. (The sinfulness of the abuse never changes)
- Forgiveness is not enabling the abuse or the sin. (Forgiveness actually defuses the power of the sin)
- Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing. (It can never be denied that you were abused and hurt)
- Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. (You forgive the abusive person, whether or not he or she ever apologizes)
- Forgiveness is not forgetting. (You will never forget)
- Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain. (It’s okay for it to hurt, but just don’t stay stuck in the pain)
- Forgiveness is not a one time event. (Sometimes you need to forgive on a regular basis)
- Forgiveness is not neglecting justice. (You can forgive and still pursue justice)
- Forgiveness is not trusting. (You need to be exceedingly careful about whom you trust)
- Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. (You are not required to allow your abuser back in your life to have a relationship with him or her)
Hopefully this interpretation of forgiveness will help give you a broader view about what forgiveness might look like, and will enable you to think about beginning to move forward towards the freedom and happiness you deserve to have. There is a whole chapter in my book Healing the Man Within dedicated to forgiveness.
By Randy Boyd
Randy Boyd is a licensed California Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the founder of the Courageous Healers Foundation, and an associate of “It Happens to Boys.” He speaks at conferences, schools, and treatment facilities, about the effects of abuse on men, and how men can heal from those effects. Randy is the author of the new groundbreaking book addressing the sexual abuse of boys entitled “Healing the Man Within”, a book for male survivors written by a male survivor.
Josh Howerton, 10 Things Forgiveness Is Not, 2012, retrieved from http://www.bridgesh.com/.2012/01/sermon-note-10-things-forgiveness-is-not/.
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