I just replied to Rita regarding this difficult topic which prompted me to write my own post about it!
Forgiveness is an ongoing process!
I subscribe to the notion that we forgive so the person isn’t taking up valuable real-estate in our minds, but it in no way gives them permission to continue to hurt us, (that’s what boundaries are for!)
Many people are understandably very fearful of taking a final step in their healing to forgive because there has been so much misunderstanding about what this really means!
In my own past, people in the 2 churches I attended urged me to forgive my mother and then scolded me when I didn’t wish to have her stay at my house for a month-long visit. “Didn’t you FORGIVE your mother?” I’d be asked.
I was told it was the CHRISTIAN thing to do to turn the other cheek. Isn’t that just keeping victims of abuse locked into that cycle? When does the victim’s mental and physical health take priority?
There was definite confusion about forgiveness!
Even then, I was of the frame of mind that just because I forgave someone didn’t mean I was opening the door to them hurting me all over again. I can assure you that DIDN’T go over well with the church people and leaders I spoke with. To them, I was judged to be a very poor Christian and then treated as such.
I believe that forgiving someone who hasn’t changed or who hasn’t shown efforts to change is then for our own inner benefit, so we don’t live life doubled over in internal pain.
HOWEVER, if they haven’t changed, WHY would it be healthy for us to remove all boundaries and allow that person to hurt us all over again? That places our mental and physical health in peril!
I just came face to face with needing to forgive when I had a difficult conversation with my brother about our mother. Even after all these years I still struggle, because I have been hitting and passing the milestone ages she was at when she perpetrated the things she did to us. While I shake my head and can’t imagine doing those things to my daughter or to my grandkids, I see through the hindsight lens just how damaged she was/still is and how her mental health was not in a good place.
It’s always comforting to remember that “Healthy people don’t hurt others, damaged people do”. I believe that hearing that quote is one of the things which helps me on my continuous forgiveness journey.
Forgiveness needs to be done in stages when our understanding of the situation and our inner strength allows us to do so.
Commanding someone to forgive doesn’t respect where they are or if they’ve been able to heal or even to get themselves into safety!
Yes, the Bible tells us to forgive those who hurt us, but it doesn’t set a deadline! Pressuring those who may still be in harm’s way, or still very raw from the pain is counterproductive!
When people are abused, their sense of self-worth is not only diminished, but it can be non-existent!
They have internalized that they may deserve the abuse, why else would a spouse or family member be abusive? The message that a victim deserves to be punished can also be stated in various ways by supposedly well-meaning people, but who themselves don’t understand what abuse is and how it works.
A victim of abuse first needs safety from further harm! Then they need healing and help to build up a healthy sense of worth, for we’re ALL worthy of love and being loved in healthy ways!
This is the first messaging which needs to be addressed with victims. Healing is a process of not only recovering from the pain but also learning healthy ways of living and interacting with others!
This takes time!
When we work on our own inner healing and growth, we can slowly develop an understanding and appreciation that our perpetrator wasn’t healthy and was acting out of their own inner damage.
Remember: “Healthy people don‘t hurt others, damaged people do”.
Here’s some links to more help!
Guided Journals help you work on a particular issue by answering questions to help see patterns and to find solutions:
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