Forgiveness is Advanced, Understand and Resolve Trauma First

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

What is forgiveness? It’s the process by which a person who has been or feel they’ve been victimized by another, releases the negative emotions they feel towards the offense and/or the offender. The process of release is unique to everyone but in general it involves letting go of internalized resentment, anger, hatred, and other negative energy. Forgiveness was revolutionary in a society that needed love to balance hate, and remorse to balance shame. Those societies are dead. Our society requires accountability. In a society where predators no longer feel shame, forgiveness is no longer a virtue but enablement.

The concept of forgiveness originates from Christianity and evolved as a response to transform the ancient culture of revenge. The problem with seeking revenge is that it doesn’t alleviate the pain and can lead to escalation and situations that can get others involved and hurt. Forgiveness is about releasing that pain and choosing to move on along your path. While revolutionary at the time, forgiveness has been twisted by power seeking individuals into a tool of submission and subjugation. It is a privilege not a right.

“Forgiveness is so you can move on.” You may have heard this line from many trying to help. This may have originally been true, but it is wasn’t a simple process of saying “I forgive you.” To be honest, the modern understanding of forgiveness has very little to do with the actual victim. It currently revolves around absolving the abuser of the guilt, shame, and responsibilities of their actions. This is the definition of enablement and currently abusers feel as though they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions as long as they are forgiven.

Taking Back Control of Your Life

Resolving your emotions can be a difficult process when you are socialized into “toughening up.” You were hurt and you deserve to be heard. You lost control when you were forced to bottle up your emotions and “move on”. But you can take back control by understanding the factors that were involved in the abuse.

Instead, you should be using the understand and resolve technique. It requires you to understand the nature of abuse and abusers, and resolve the emotions related to the traumatic abuse that occurred. You need to understand the situation, identify the triggers, identify the circumstances, actions that occurred, and the outcome. Then once you have identified them, resolve all the emotions attached to each piece of the trauma. By breaking it down and processing it, you make it easier to work through the pain. Trauma typically has the following factors that were in and outside your control

In Your Control

  • The boundaries you set with the other person
  • The thoughts you had at the moment
  • The actions and responses that you took to the abuse
  • The energy you gave into the situation
  • You feelings that you internalized about the outcome

Out of Your Control

  • The outcome of the event. Despite what you believe, there is no guaranteed outcome in life. Even if you put in your best efforts for the best outcome. You have to let go of “I should have done better.” and replace it with “I’ll do better today.”
  • The actions of the abuser. The abuser decided to take their anger and hate on you. You did not start the abuse nor trigger them into abusing you. You have to remember that they made a conscious decision to hurt you.
  • The past. Once something has already happened there is no way we can change it. The only thing we can do is process what it left us with.
  • The future. The future is constantly changing. Even though we can prepare for possible outcomes, it’s ultimately outside of our control. It is the infinite amount of outcomes that can happen. You may get lost in the idea of how you will respond in the future, but you should focus on improving your efforts in the present.
  • Other people’s opinions. You may have had witnesses to the abuse who called you weak or blamed you for the abuse. Their opinions do not matter. People victim blame as a defense mechanism so they don’t draw the attention of the abuser. Or sometimes they’ve been through the abuse themselves and enjoy seeing someone else go through it as a rite of passage. “It feels better knowing the abuse that happened to me can happen to him.” It’s not about your weakness, it’s about their safety.
  • The environment. While you may have limited control over which environments are apart of you, you typically can’t control the events that happen within it. Sometimes chaos happens when you expect order. Try not to fully associate the abuse with the environment because it can affect your sense of safety.

The best thing to remember, is that it is perfectly fine to feel bad. Those feelings will pass as you process them. You will probably end up forgiving yourself when you’ve healed. You will look back at this moment and feel proud of yourself for taking the time to sit and recover before continuing on your journey of life. No pain, no anger, no frustration, no sadness, no regret.

The Unforgivable Sins

While most minor incidents can be forgiven, I don’t believe in the forgiveness of systematic abuse, or life altering psychological events. Some actions are so horrible and filled with darkness that they can leave a lasting impression on the victim for the rest of their lifetime. Your abusers do not deserve it. They don’t deserve the weight lifted off of them for treating you like property. For damaging your life in a way that you can’t repair. Treating your personhood as property. Making you feel like you deserved to be worthless and ashamed. They are a collection of predators, parasites, sadists, and narcissists. Forgiveness is a privilege, not an expectation.

  • You can never forgive rape and/or repeated sexual abuse
  • You can never forgive the murder of someone you love
  • You can never forgive slavery and oppression
  • You can never forgive structural discrimination
  • You can never forgive dehumanization
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