The Forgiveness Culture Doesn’t Work For Me.

If I see one more “spiritual” meme about forgiveness come through my Facebook feed, I just may start flipping the bird to random people.  Encouragements to forgive irritate me.

Our culture is caught up in the idea that forgiveness is a soul cleansing act that will graciously lead you to recovery.  The forgiveness rhetoric is so heavily associated with moving forward and the idea that it will rescue you from harboring ill will.  I don’t buy it.

When things don’t sit right with me, it can have a physical effect.  My gut is far wiser than my brain or my heart.  It doesn’t seem to be as gullible.  As I get older, I tend to let my gut lead more.  My tendency to do so pushed me away from the forgiveness gospel.  No part of exploring the idea of forgiveness felt good on me.  It actually cheapened the outrage I have learned to tap in to and made me feel smaller.

What if I'm not angry anymore?

What if I’m not angry anymore?

Given the extent to which I have been doused with dysfunction and used for another person’s gain, I’m not so sure I am wired to accept that belief.  Furthermore, I think it’s a little bit of bullshit that any person that has had their body and mind violated against should be advised or expected to forgive the perpetrator.  The socially accepted voice that tells me I need to forgive to obtain closure is righteous and lacks empathy.  Learning that has brought me more closure than any failed attempt at forgiveness.

My story is worth holding on to.

My story is worth holding on to.

I could not, and still cannot, wrap my head around telling someone that willingly made a wrong and somewhat lethal choice, over and over again,  that I forgive them.  For me, telling the man that abused me for eight years of my young life, “I forgive you” is telling myself “it’s ok”.  As in, oh don’t worry about, no big deal, I’ll survive.  It’s not ok.  People say when you forgive, you can let go.  Let go of what?  Let go of any part of my story and ignore how I have had to adapt because of it?  No thanks.  I’ll hold on to that.

I didn’t need to offer forgiveness to find the kind of closure I needed.  Without forgiving, I managed to tone down the panic and trauma.  I needed self acceptance and the ability to embrace all of who I am.  Now I just need a shift in our culture so that I don’t feel like I did something wrong or I am inconveniencing someone else’s comfort level by telling my story.

WTF

WTF

I call bullshit.  A “strong” person is one who has found the courage to scrape off the layers of shit and shame abuse glues to you.  The film that needs to be peeled back and eventually removed is a lifetimes worth of work.  For me, forgiveness just doesn’t have a place in that battle.

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24 thoughts on “The Forgiveness Culture Doesn’t Work For Me.

  1. I don’t know where to start.. I’m so sorry again that this happened to you. You don’t need to forgive anyone. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would expect you to forgive whoever did this to you. I’m glad your blog helps you to funnel your feelings. I hope you continue to heal. I’m sorry if I haven’t said the right things as I have no experience in issues relating to what has happened to you. I know you think you’re dysfunctional in ways, but I don’t see that. I see a tough, passionate mummy who is isn’t scared of expressing herself and the all the good, the bad, the ugly.

    • Don’t ever feel like you don’t say the right words. Just reading my words and hearing my story is the kind of validation I need. You would be surprised how many people suggest forgiveness as a means of healing. There seems to be no differentiation between minor or major offenses. Apparently forgiveness is just due. I don’t get that. Thank you for your kind words. I always look forward to your comments no matter the topic.

      • I’m glad I can help, if only in a very minor way. I worry about saying the wrong thing, as I don’t feel I can ever really understand what you’ve been through.
        I hope you have people to talk to who can really help you.
        I like engaging with you here to. Your blog is quite diverse and you’re really good at drawing me in!
        Hope you have a nice day! :0)

  2. I know just what you mean and I agree with you completely. Forgiveness is irrelevant and ties you to the abuser. Take care of yourself, accept, get strong, regain your life, but forgive? No. It’s about YOU now, not them. They will never be forgiven, they will just become irrelevant. Feel my support come through these words. I’m glad we found each other in the blog-world.

    • “They will just become irrelevant”. I love that. Thanks for the support and feedback. Glad to hear I’m not the only one that thinks the forgiveness rhetoric is over rated.

  3. I believe forgiveness has a place and time. Forgiveness should never be given because it is the “right thing to do” or because “it will help you heal”. Forgiving someone does not help you heal, only you can help yourself with that. I have given forgiveness in some situations I believe it was due for my own reasons and I will never give forgiveness for other offenses done to me or the ones I love. The ONLY TIME forgiveness is given, for any reason, is when you feel it is for you to give, not when anyone tells you it is deserved. It is never deserved!!!!
    We have both been through our own hells at different times in our lives and I couldn’t be prouder of my little sister for the woman/person/momma/friend you have grown to be! You are a strong, independent woman with your own truths, beliefs and values. Nothing or NOONE has the right to tell you to do or try to make you feel guilty for not doing something they see as the “right thing to do”
    Everything you write, good, bad, ugly and funny, is amazing and full of truth! I wish more people would think for themselves as you do!!!
    I love you so much!
    P

    • Forgiveness definitely has a place and a time. As a whole though, our culture teaches that no matter what, you should forgive and you will be a better person for it. I guess it is that all or nothing mentality that never sits well with me. You helped raise me up so I could think for myself. I love you for that and always being true to yourself! ~D

  4. Couldn’t have said it better myself Dawn. And you’re right. One can’t be forced or expected to “forgive” just to fit in with the rest of the population. I can wake up every morning and be able to take pride at knowing that I am free, the tougher one and can live my life outside the confines of a jail cell. If it’s so important for people to be forgiven, maybe they shouldn’t have committed the offense in the first place. As for those who demand we forgive, tune ’em out. They are crazy. Stay strong, keep your head up and keep on marching to the beat of your own drummer! 🙂

    • Aubrey~ Thank you so much. I see the pressure to forgive come mostly from those with religious views that shade pretty much everything in their lives. I don’t exist in that realm of thought about most things. This is just one of them. One of them that annoys me more than others. Thanks for the support lady.

  5. I definitely believe in forgiveness when it comes to certain things– like tiffs with friends or family blah blah blah all of that.
    BUT!
    This meme-worthy forgiveness you speak of… wow, just wow. I have two– count them, TWO– books in my library that were given to me and are all about learning to forgive (because of my own dysfunction). How freaking awkward is that. Is there somewhere I can exchange those books for a bottle of wine?

    • If you find such a place, please do share. We should brand our own wine. We can call it “Anti-Forgiveness”. Naturally, it will be dry…like our sense of humor. I would love to offer it to the people who are encouraging me to “find Jesus” after reading this post on my FB page. I have blocked I think FOUR attempts to save me already.

      I do agree with forgiving minor and even most major offenses but I just don’t see it as necessary or worthy for the most heinous ones.

  6. I think there is a place and time for it too, but I agree with what you’re saying. Forgiveness has become a trend and like any other “buzz” word, it loses connotation and depth with its overuse. I also think everyone deals with their business in their own way. You can’t and shouldn’t force anything on anyone. There isn’t always a “right” way.

    Btw, you mentioned you used that quote but I haven’t seen it. Did I miss the post?

  7. I believe in forgiveness for most things. Abuse is not one of them. Abuse is performed with evil intentions and it’s sometimes impossible to forgive. I have not forgiven mine, but I have let go of the hold it had on me.

  8. Pingback: Reflections on Emily Yoffe's article: Why I keep perseverating on the abuse, and why forgiving the abusers may be unneeded | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

    • Thank you so much. Its such a heavy topic and one that many feel differently about than I do. I suppose I even feel different about it at different times.

  9. Yes! This times 1000! For me I spent ages forcing myself to ‘forgive’ my rapist and turned around one day to find out all I had been doing was finding ways to blame myself for his behaviour. The day I healed was the day I acknowledged my rage and realized that I can actually live comfortably with that, without ‘forgiving’ and also without becoming obsessive about it. I do know that the best revenge is a life well-lived, and I’m so blessed I’ve already got that. But sometimes I’d like to kill that bastard, ressurect him and then kill him again, and that is OK too and it hurts no one: not even me. My mother has a good one: ‘resentment is like seeing the rat and eating the poison yourself’, so I don’t actively resent him, but certainly if I got him face to face in the right circumstances I would injure him badly and I’m not afraid of living with that either. I think good, honest and brutal revenge imagery has its place in a person’s recovery as a way to restoring their dignity: often significantly more so than a sweet, sugary coating of ‘forgiveness’ does.

    • The idea of forgiveness, and the degree to which it is forced down our throat is offensive in my opinion. It’s comforting to know others feel the same way. Thanks for reading and commenting…very appreciated.

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