Abuse/Trauma and Forgiveness **Trigge... - Anxiety and Depre...

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Abuse/Trauma and Forgiveness **Trigger Warning**

mvillarreal profile image

Hi, all. I'm wrestling right now with some questions about what I'm learning in pastoral care and theology because I'm getting a perspective that is different from my own. I've always thought, if a person is wronged and another person apologizes and makes an effort to make amends, they should forgive, or at least, even if they can't forgive at that moment, should have an intention to forgive. The perspective I learned, however, is that no one owes anybody forgiveness and that even if someone apologizes and makes amends, you can still stay angry at them without making an effort to forgive, especially if they did something traumatizing to you. I feel like this puts me in an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, if I say, we should forgive, some may respond with the perspective I have just provided above and say that I am not empathizing with the victim enough. On the other, if I go with the perspective above, I feel like that is lacking in empathy toward the person who did the wrong. Willfully refusing to forgive, no matter how horrible the wrong (I'm not talking about wanting to but being unable in the moment; I'm talking about a "No way in hell will I ever forgive you!" approach), can lead a person to the brink of suicide, especially if they did something especially rotten that they are truly sorry for. I want to be on the side that treats the violated and exploited as human; I also want to be on the side that treats people who do horrible things as human. I don't want to diminish the feelings, traumas, anger, and lived experiences of victims; I also don't want to dehumanize people who have done horrible things. It feels like a "damned if you do; damned if you don't" dilemma. Any thoughts on this?

20 Replies

It's nice of you to learn our perspective in order to help us the best. Thank you. I was molested by a family member and for years was so angry and unforgiving. After time went by I realized it was only hurting myself and I am a Christian so I needed to forgive in my heart. I didn't confront the person, only between me and God. I think that frees up the person's spirit to help heal them without granting forgiveness in person. We are not responsible for another person being aware of the forgiveness. Then we can be true to our God and heal in peace without guilt.

mvillarreal profile image
mvillarreal in reply to

Yes. Some, however, have argued that this only works for some people and that saying that everyone should forgive can be harmful. You don't owe forgiveness to anyone, I've heard, and saying otherwise is blaming the victim for their emotions. I can kind of understand this sentiment, but then I also think about the person who has apologized and tried to change and worry that, if they are not forgiven, this can do damage to them too. Like I said, it feels like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

in reply to mvillarreal

I agree. No you don't owe anyone forgiveness except God. I will never tell him but I owe that to God. If he can forgive us for our sins, who are we to judge.

Are you going into a profession that cares for people?

I think in a professional setting we have to attend to both.

You may have a prisoner to care for and still need to treat them with dignity and respect.

From a personal standpoint, there is someone in my life I will never forgive. I've been told by therapists I don't have to forgive. But, I need to hold them accountable for their actions. Forgiving is up to me. Where I stand on that now, it will never happen.

I hope that made sense?

What if the person apologized and tried to make amends? Would you reject them even if they were sincere?

My expectation would be that they would not be sincere

There have been phony apologies for years. So I wouldn't trust that to be true

I don't want to come across as a mean person, because I'm not.

I just feel this person has nothing positive to give Me in my life anymore so we have parted ways.

I haven't seen her in three years and I'm fine with that.

I think forgiveness begins and ends in the heart. It's nothing to do with the person who has wronged you but whether you wish to hold bitterness in your heart or not. It's learning to recognise that's its not doing you any good to hold on to past hurts is it?

If you do that you are still renting space in your head to toxic people and in order to move on you have to let it go x

in reply to hypercat54

Yes!! Forgiving made me free and all I had to do was forgive in my heart and it freed my soul. Its a giant relief.

hypercat54 profile image
hypercat54 in reply to

Ha ha me too Mel x

Is it possible to take yourself out of the equation and look at pastoral care this way?

Unconditional positive regard, sometimes referred to as “UPR”, is a term attributed to Carl Rogers, the creator of person-centred counselling and one of the founders of humanistic therapy.

Unconditional positive regard refers to accepting and supporting another exactly as they are, without evaluating or judging them.

At the heart of the concept is the belief that every person has the personal resources within to help themselves, if they are only offered the environment of acceptance to foster their own recognition of this.

Treating people with Rogers' humanistic therapy in mind will enable you to empathize with victim and perpetrator in the same way with the perception that all humans have flaws but understanding and promoting empowerment to come to positive conclusions. Something to think about friend.

Forgiveness an action that is big beyond your own human nature. Being hurt and scarred is very painful especially if you have a constant reminder or you have to see the person who has wronged you constantly. People apologize and want to make amends however I've realized that it is done for peace sake and to ease their conscience what I've picked up is that people never know what they are apologizing for exactly my rapists can come and apologize for raping me but do they know what they did when they where raping do they understand that they must apologize for taking my pride away stripping my dignity or making me feel that maybe that is my worth to be a sleeping object. My family member fondled me during my mother's funeral preparations then demanded respect from me after that he throws an apology but an apology for what? I was scared after what he did as a result I did not mourn my mothers death. Today I sit and still cry for my mom with no closure, do I forgive that? I've let it go but not sure if I've forgiven coz his actions deprived me from dealing with my loss even worse his serving in ministry...

So it's highly complicated from where I stand, I let go and try to move on.

It's easier to forgive someone who understands the impact and effect it did to a person, somehow it brings peace because there's slight assurance that the person will not to do it to someone else because they understand the negative impact.

mvillarreal profile image
mvillarreal in reply to Wild_N

So if he made it clear that he understood the impact it had, do you think it would be possible then?

Wild_N profile image
Wild_N in reply to mvillarreal

Yes but his actions too must be of remorse with complete peace between us.

Dolphin14 profile image
Dolphin14 in reply to Wild_N

I agree with you. Some things and some people you just can't forgive.

I don't feel held hostage by not forgiving. I don't feel this person has any of my " head or heart space" I feel totally comfortable with my decision. It's not holding me back from living at all.

I think we all need to do what feels best. The situation plays a huge roll in how we decide to deal with things.

Wild_N profile image
Wild_N in reply to Dolphin14

True very true.

In my perspective it will still depend on the person and the deed done to that person. It's hard to really forgive someone especially when it's not only the person that they had hurt but somebody close to that person also. Or if that person ruined relationships and caused so many problems. Sometimes you don't want to forgive the person because you want them to suffer with the nightmare and the knocking of their conscience. You don't want to free them of the burden. Kind of like a revenge.

The hardest thing to forgive for me are friends that are really so close to me and I trusted so much to find out in the end that I was betrayed. :)

Wild_N profile image
Wild_N in reply to

Just shared a tear... Mainly because my family and I have drifted away from each other because he is busy using my past trauma's to be making me delusional :-(

in reply to Wild_N

So sorry to hear that. Instead of helping they are adding more pain.

All the best.

Yes we can forgive in our heart but forgiveness is for no one but for our self but forgiving and forgetting are 2 different things I know from my own experiences

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