Healing, Forgiving and Overcoming Abuse

Today’s blog is a short article by Nancy Richards.

 

The soul cannot forgive until it is restored to wholeness and health.

In the absence of love—how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one’s self,

forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.

At some point in every abuse survivor’s healing journey, he or she must face the question of forgiveness. Are there some abuses too atrocious to forgive? Is it possible, or even healthy, to forgive someone who has never asked to be forgiven, someone who has never acknowledged any wrongdoing, and someone who continues to practice the same abusive behaviours?

I questioned how I could forgive my mother for granting her approval when my stepfather burned my 10-year-old hands. Year after year, the betrayal felt incomprehensible as I watched my mother silently witnessing my abuse, defending my stepfather, and even participating in the abuse as my stepfather beat and tortured my brothers and me. How could I forgive a litany of unacknowledged emotional and physical abuses?

Many survivors recovering from abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as neglect, rejection, and abandonment, often wrestle with the conflicting senses of a longing to forgive versus not feeling forgiving. Many times, survivors feel a responsibility or a social pressure to forgive even when they have not healed sufficiently for that step to have an emotionally healthy outcome. All too often, well-intentioned friends and relatives ask individuals to forgive and forget. Survivors of family abuse often succumb to this pressure and embark on a path of superficial forgiveness that does not honour the depth of the injury or enable authentic healing and forgiveness.

Any of us who have heard the words “you have to forgive” knows that this added burden can actually impede our recovery. When a survivor denies his feelings and sets aside his wounds, pain, anger, and grief in order to forgive, he often finds that he is not able to heal. Ultimately, in the absence of healing, forgiveness doesn’t last.

Sometimes it is necessary to place a moratorium on forgiveness until healing has taken place. This affords us the opportunity to validate our stories with sympathetic listeners, express our anger in appropriate ways, mourn our losses, and protect others and ourselves from re-injury. Surprisingly, it is often the very process of not forgiving, of acknowledging the pain and taking the steps to heal, that can free the abused to forgive. How then do we acknowledge our pain?

One way to acknowledge our pain is to receive emotional compensation and acknowledgement from our abusers. Our greatest opportunity for healing comes from the offender. When the person who harmed us is willing to offer restitution, we are truly blessed. This means the wrongdoer must be willing to acknowledge the harm they caused us, offer a genuine apology, demonstrate a willingness to restore what was taken and change their abusive behaviour. However, because of the chronic nature of abuse, most victims do not have their abuse acknowledged by the offender. When survivors do not receive acknowledgement from the person who harmed them, they need to have their abuse acknowledged by other individuals. It is extremely difficult to forgive something that, in the eyes of their families and communities, never happened.

Another way to acknowledge our pain and move toward the possibility of forgiveness is to feel as if justice has been served. This is an important part of the healing journey, and validation and acknowledgement are part of the justice-making process. Justice can be as limited as receiving support and validation or as substantial as criminal prosecution.

Third, expressing anger is a necessary step toward authentic forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a single act but rather takes place in layers, as other individuals, whether they be our abusers, our friends, our families, or our communities, are willing to share our burden of pain. Once our stories are heard, the door opens to recognizing our anger. All too often, victims try to deny or suppress their anger, yet finding appropriate ways to express their painful experiences is necessary in order to heal. Survivors need to find safe methods and environments in which to discharge their repressed rage. Discharging anger frees the individual to honour her pain and mourn her substantial losses.

Finally, a victim of abuse must be free from abuse to acknowledge her pain and move toward forgiveness, and this often requires placing our trust in others to help us move away from abusive situations. An important and often overlooked aspect to healing is that of protecting others and ourselves from further harm. In order to heal, we must be free from the anxiety of re-injury. In other words, forgiveness is not possible if there is ongoing abuse, and in order to protect ourselves, we need the support of others.

Healing requires a great deal of time, self-examination, hard work, and pain. Yet once an adequate amount of healing has been accomplished, forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we “excuse” offensive behaviour; it doesn’t mean forgetting or even trusting the person who harmed us. Nor does it require us to “let go” of our safety. Rather, forgiveness means to let go of resentment and find peace.

Honesty: The Final Frontier

This is a quote from Ken Dahl, check out his books, highly recommended!
We don’t tend to seriously investigate (or study) the things that we don’t want to know, and don’t want to be true. In fact, most people surround themselves with people who give them the permission to stay right where they are. It is a matter of … comfort, and even flat-out intellectual laziness.
We may say, “I like to be challenged and stretched and learn new things.” But what we (actually) mean is that we would like to hear more about what we already currently believe, perhaps more in-depth or more colorful/poetic versions of the same old information, and mostly from only the people we already agree with.

Kicking off!

OK, I’d better get into the swing of blogging!

I’m so used to Facebook, I forget that there are a lot of you out there who prefer following blogs instead. Facebook can be a bit of a minefield!

First up, things are going well! We made around $1200 from our local fund-raiser. Its a great start to help offset costs of running all this. I hate fund-raising and asking for money, but this is my full time work now, check out the Money page for ways to support us, some of which are very painless!

Secondly, we’ll be starting up meetings in South Auckland soon, so stay posted if you are a local.

Remember, wherever you are, anywhere worldwide, and want to link in with what we are doing, get in touch, check out the Meetings page and we’ll help you set up a support group.

We’d love to hear from you as well – opinions, stories, research etc. If you would like to share your own journey submit it to us and we’ll check it out to see if its suitable to put it in the Real Stories page to encourage others. Sharing our own unique story can often be more helpful than we realise!

Stay true to yourself and Live Loved

Suicide

Some simple stats about suicide.

This is a serious issue, and one of the main reason’s Silent Gays exists.

facts about suicide

 

 

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide

Welcome!

Welcome to the new Silent Gays Blog page.

Instead of the Facebook feed, we’ve decided to create a dedicated blog, providing a broad range of articles, resources, ideas etc that are more accessible to a much broader audience rather than just social media.

Comments will be available for a trial period. They tend to get trolled by highly objectionable people so we’ll just see how it goes for a while!