My feelings on the word, “Forgiveness”

My caveat: I understand that we all have our own histories and beliefs. These are my personal feelings towards the word forgiveness. They are not meant to sway anyone’s way of dealing with their abusers or their belief system.

The conversation surrounding the word forgiveness came up again for me last week when I had a business meeting with someone who was looking for ways to increase their client base, in an extremely crowded therapeutic community. It was going well until this person became adamant that the only way a client can heal is if they forgive their abusers. When I said that I believed that there may be other ways to look at forgiveness, the meeting went downhill and became uncomfortable for both of us. To be honest, I’m not sure how we went from talking marketing strategies to this topic, but it happened.

Forgiveness, what does that really mean in terms of healing? That word can be a hot-button for me and for many people I know that have been through trauma. There was a time I thought if I heard someone say “you can’t fully heal until you forgive your abusers” one more time, I would explode all over them. It sounded trite, and for me, increased the shame storm that was always brewing inside of me.  My perpetrators would never expect forgiveness. Why? They didn’t and still don’t think they did anything wrong. To them, I was an object, not a person.

I came up with this thought: Forgiveness in healing does not have to be about forgiving my perpetrators. Some abusers, torturers, and silent watchers do not deserve to be forgiven. In my situation, forgiving does not let them stay accountable, rather lets them take a deep breath and move along. So for my own health, I changed the word forgiveness, to understand.  The concept may be the same, but for me, it is emotionally less charged. 

I have learned to understand it is an absolute fact that I had no control over what happened. I understand and give myself the room I need for expressing my feelings of guilt for not knowing what to do to get out of the abuse. I’m learning to understand and let go of the guilt, the shame, the humiliation, the powerlessness, the hopelessness.  I also understand that those feelings are universal for people who have been through trauma.

My therapist worked hard with me to understand that I didn’t do anything wrong, and I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me. He still has to remind me it wasn’t my fault. When I started thinking and verbalizing that okay,  I forgive myself for the grief, shame, or any other emotions or feelings I had surrounding my past, but, I would get confused. Was I forgiving myself for being hurt? That didn’t make sense. 

That word, forgiveness was just to super-charged. When I began to metabolize the concept, that I had no control over any of the situations I was placed in, so there was nothing to forgive. I didn’t do anything wrong, so why do I need to forgive myself?  It was all becoming so convoluted and I needed to have a better understanding what I was forgiving myself for.  With my therapist’s help, and continued reassurance he has taught me the concept, that I forgive myself for believing the lies my abusers told my soul. That works for me! I believe that….well, with a lot of reassurance, I believe that!

I know this is all semantics, but for me, the notion of understanding that I was a victim, and not having to forgive myself for being a victim, was what I needed to learn to begin to heal. It was less confusing.

And how do I feel about understanding or forgiving my perpetrators? I have healed enough and understand enough about my past, that by now,  I don’t care about them. My biggest coup was when I could let them go emotionally and now I don’t give a shit about them.  For some, they would say That is forgiveness. For me, that is a Victory.


Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph


16 thoughts on “My feelings on the word, “Forgiveness”

  1. Thank You for your feedback. I know there are a wide range of feelings surrounding this topic and it can bring up lots of emotion as we take a stand as survivors and say there is more than one way to heal. So glad we are connected through our blogs. Have a wonderful day! ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t agree more with you Alexis! Forgiving those who don’t show any remorse for their actions is ridiculous!
    It is definetely more about understanding and acceptance of yourself and how you fit into all of it. Much love to you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can guarantee that you will never hear me say, I forgive my perpetrators. Its not even a goal for me. So Im right there with you. But, I am to the point where I dont give a shit about them anymore. You’ll get to where you need to be. 💜


  4. dbest1ishere

    I just talked about this with my therapist not too long ago. At this point I cant forgive and I cant understand. Its too painful for me to think of forgiving them

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hugs back Alexis, its a painful and long journey to get to a place where we finally feel happy to be in our skin, and having someone understand makes all the difference on some days…i too feel the strength of your friendship across the miles….Gina

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank You Gina. You help me make this journey so much easier. That word can be so confusing with so many layers, and feelings and emotions. Sometimes, just when I think I can move on and not give “them” another thought, I can feel the fear, angst and shame creep in. But Im determined to have more good moments every day. Im glad we are walking together in this crooked path of healing. Much love to you my friend, Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alexis you write and i read and i see myself in all your words and emotions, truly some abusers do not deserve our forgiveness for it seems to set them free but keep us still tied to them so like you i will always retain the memory and the hurt that simple things can trigger, even a whiff of a fragrance sometimes….and i feel the abundance of your hurt and longing to be free from all these memories. i can’t forgive, for me forgiving means saying its ok or it never happened that way, but thats not true isnt it…the incident still happened and i wasnt to blame or carry the burden, so these days i say to myself while i choose to forgive the person who abused me so i can move forward in my healing, i can never and will never forgive the act, that is despicable and wrong on all accounts. hoping your new found strength in yourself outweighs all the hurts form the past, you are indeed a special angel sent to heal the broken souls you touch with your words and thoughts….blessings….Gina

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. I feel like since I’m unable to forgive in the “traditional” sense of forgiving, it makes ME the one in the wrong! And I hate that! I love that you view it differently and it was exactly what I needed to read today. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the concept of forgiveness is total bullshit. Somehow it has become this romanticised thing where we picture an oriental wise man, perhaps a monk, eschewing the virtues of not holding on to the anger, encouraging forgiveness.

    For starters, it puts the abused on the back foot, that they ought to forgive those who who were inhuman. Essentially invalidating the feelings of the abused, and not only that expecting them to be proactive and sort of reverse apologise.

    Anyone who forgives a murderer, rapist etc etc is weak, or have been led to believe they should, then the healing can begin.
    No. Its the easiest way out for the abusers. Lol, its ridiculous.

    Forgetting should replace forgiveness. Forgetting (not repression) and distance is the way to deal with trauma although obviously tough especially to begin with.

    Excellent post untangled.

    Liked by 1 person

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