“…And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matt. 6:12)
Yes, forgiveness is good for the healing of the souls of the wounded ones, and also for the physical health of the body. Smoldering anger and resentment help no one and solve nothing, but rather perpetuate dysfunctional unharmonious relationships and lives. When the persons involved in the hurtful happening are normally healthy mental and emotional beings, forgiveness can offer a new, clean start to the relationship. A good, new, fresh start, and with sensitive people involved, harmony can grow.
But, under other circumstances, forgiveness by itself can be DANGEROUS! Verbal and physical abuse are absolutely rampant in our culture these days. Abusers are NOT normally mentally and emotionally healthy, but have core personality problems they are not aware of. They believe they are just fine, have no idea they are really abusers, and haven’t got a clue as to what is driving their harmful behavior towards people and animals. Usually, even with a cooperative abuser and a carefully planned therapeutic program, treatment takes several years and may or may not be successful.
THEREFORE, BE AWARE! The typical abuser loves to have a helpless, sweet, weak, forgiving victim, often blaming the victim and telling the victim it is all his or her fault. Wives, especially, often go overboard trying to please the abusing husband, going through thousands of painful, traumatic episodes, and making endless excuses for him.
In such cases where real abuse is occurring, kind, forgiving, treatment and being a “doormat” will not help the abuser or anyone else. What is needed are firm limits on the abuser and a comprehensive therapeutic program with a very skilled therapist. If true remediation of the abuser is not possible because of uncooperativeness, lack of money or lack of other access, the victim simply needs to get away from and live away from the abuser. Just like animals need to be taken away from cruel, negligent owners, wives, children, friends, aged parents, workers on the jobs, and etc. need to get away from habitual abusers and to stay away all possible. Abusers can and will continue to destroy. Forgiving them “77 times 7” just gives them convenient freedom to go on with a willing victim who lacks insight as to what is really going on.
Years ago it really bothered me about how the forgiveness doctrine was implemented by church leaders. The hurting person was told he or she was the faulty one because of having not forgiven, therefore having a faulty relationship with God. The answer for the whole problem was to forgive. That would fix everything! The hurting person was told he or she was still hurting because of not having forgiven. The person who did the hurting thing was, for some inexplicable reason, entirely excused and just fine. Free to hurt again. And again. Relationship problems were never really explored or dealt with either, and so no problems were solved.
In contrast, as a Washington State employee, I was involved in many problem situations. I remember meetings in which all aspects of a problem were explored, and, if certain personnel had caused a problem, that was pinpointed, and the person told to stop causing the problem, and better ways of doing things were talked about until the best arrangement could be agreed upon, In short, the wisest supervisors really looked into what had gone on to cause the problem, and if certain persons were to blame in ways, they were held ACCOUNTABLE! The guilty parties were not treated unkindly either, but were listened to, understood, and asked to change what they were doing. Actual problem solving had taken place in a very good way. (Seems to me that when paychecks are at stake, like they are with state employees, people are much more willing to “shape up.”)
God is talked about as being a just God. Expecting a traumatized victim to go on forgiving only to be traumatized again and again IS NOT JUSTICE, KINDNESS, or anything of the kind. People keep hurting because they have been hurt, not MERELY because they haven’t forgiven. Usually, if not always, a lot of different, extremely uncomfortable feelings are going on in a person who has been assaulted in some way. They can feel terrified, low self-esteem, depression, confusion and, where loss has been involved, grief. Anger, which forgiving is designed to take away, is certainly not the only overwhelming feeling the person is experiencing. A traumatized individual is just that – traumatized He or she needs much time to pass in a safe place in order to process, mentally and emotionally, what has happened. Talking with God and sensitive, loving others can make the vital difference in healing. In the end, such mental and emotional healing cannot be hurried; it takes its own time. Hopefully, deep scars will not have formed.
Yes, people who have been hurt should forgive, when they are ready. But, how unkind it can be to tell a traumatized person that the ONLY thing wrong with them is that they have not forgiven.
Copyright 2011 The Caring Heart Dr. Joyce
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