This week we marked Global Forgiveness Day, that is the third ‘forgiveness day’ of the year. That goes a long way to showing the importance of forgiveness. We have Forgiveness Day on 26 June, International Forgiveness Day on the first Sunday in August, and finally Global Forgiveness Day on 27 August. The difference between international and global is beyond me, but let’s not nitpick.
Yes, forgiveness is important. We talk about it a lot, even if we do not always call it forgiveness. A lot of times we call it acceptance too.
“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”
~Lewis B. Smedes
Forgiveness is a difficult concept to deal with in the aftermath of abuse. Only too often people give well-meaning advice that is simply upsetting, and undermines most of the healing I already did. So this is for the ‘normies’ (Yes, we have a name for people who have not experienced abuse, you are like the ‘muggles’ of our world).
The MOST Useless Thing I EVER Heard
Just Forgive and Forget
Indulge me, and reflect on that for a second. What you are effectively asking me is to forget the first 30+ years of my life. Can you consider for a minute if you could do that? Everything your parents taught you about who you are, how the world works and what your place is in it? Right, so stop telling me to do that.
I know that is not what you are trying to say. I know you are just trying to get back to your comfort zone. Consider though that this is how my head translates it: stop talking about your shit already. I don’t care, and you are too insignificant for me to care anyway.
Coming from an abusive situation, the main lessons we have learned are:
- I am unlovable and worthless
- The abuse is my own fault
- Keep up appearances
So when you are a normie, and you meet one of us survivors let us know that we matter, that we did nothing to deserve the abuse, and please don’t make us pretend it did not happen. We will fight you on all these counts, but it is what we desperately need.
Forgiveness Is About Acceptance
It is very, very hard for a survivor to find forgiveness. Not just toward their abusers, but to themselves too. A large part of that journey is accepting that this happened to you. It is part of your story, and you cannot go back to change it.
Now, I need you to consider what happens when you ask me step back into the dark because it makes you or my abusers more comfortable. If you are asking me to deny this happened, to keep it hidden and secret. How much more difficult do you think you are making it to accept this? Your subtext is that it is embarrassing or shameful.
If you want to help a survivor reach forgiveness, make them feel that you accept them wholly, abusive past and all. Make sure you emphasize that having been a target of abuse is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not define you, it does not make you any less of an amazing person (in fact it likely adds to your amazingness).
What we need is your acceptance, so that maybe we can find acceptance in ourselves too.