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The Responsibility of the Forgiven

Are you Prepared to do your Part of the Forgiveness Process?

Many women have been pressured by their abusive husband, family and clergy to forgive, forget and move on as though the impacts of abuse can be put in the past by a practice of forgiveness. These women are often still in the throes of the abuse when these unreasonable and narrow-sighted demands are placed upon them.

In this post, we’ll explore the demands for forgiveness, why these demands also seem to be couched in expectations to “forget” and move on, and what this means after decades of harm done without clear and specific amends. More importantly, we’ll address the companion responsibility of the one being forgiven.

The Abusive Demand to Forget

If your husband has ever said something to the effect of, “If you have truly forgiven me, you wouldn’t keep bringing up the past,” you are being abused emotionally, verbally and spiritually at the very least.

Talking about painful experiences is the way human beings make sense of what happened to them. When the abuse has been occurring for years, there is considerable confusion and violation to make sense of (this is the brain’s way of encoding our life experience into our constructed reality).

The message behind the demand for silence of past abuse is to protect the abuser who very likely can recognize both the moral and social wrongs but wants the freedom to escape consequences that a victim might request of him.

Forgetting vs. Remembering – A Biblical Perspective on the Myths of Forgiveness

Myth: If I recall the events, it isn’t a true forgiveness

Remembering events that occur in our life is a normal part of our human experience. We remember experiences of both pleasure and pain. Remembering an experience of abuse, even after working through the process of forgiveness in no way negates the forgiveness. Until the pain of the event is processed, it can be very difficult to put the experience into the compressed neurons that are part of what we think of as memory.

Recall or remembering is also part of the way our brains were created by God. If forgetting was so important to Him, other neuro processes would be included in that design. In fact, there are hundreds of uses of the word, “remember” in the Bible. It appears what God would have us do, is to remember the lessons of not only our life choices and how to correct them, but the lessons of those who lived before us. 

Remembering the types of abuse you have experienced can inform the decisions you make as you work to get to safety (A term used to remove yourself from the abuse event to mitigate harm). Until past behaviors are truly in the past, it is important to correctly assess these behaviors and assign appropriate terms to them.

Counsel to the abuser:

Remembering the harm you caused your wife with your egregious abusive choices, while also respecting her memory will serve to help you live in a changed and correct life. It may also help your wife be able to expect and experience greater safety and possibly experience a renewed peace in the marriage.

Myth: If I forgive it means what happened was acceptable

Forgiveness is not the approval of wrong acts of any kind. In no way will the process of forgiveness equal acceptance or acquittal for the behaviors. The egregious acts of any type of abuse are not to be condoned. 

Many dictionaries use the definitions such as “pardon,” “grant relief,” or even to “cease to feel resentment.” These terms are quite useful for the perpetrator but can cause more anguish and harm to a victim when used against her. 

Forgiveness should never be viewed as obligatory. Whether you are the abuser, a family or friend, or sometimes worse yet – clergy – do not present the attribute of forgiveness to the victim as an obligation on her part. Do not equate her hesitance to forgive as an equal or possibly a worse offense or sin. The notion of scaling sins of the abuser to a struggle to forgive by the victim as equal — is an abusive belief.

Counsel to the abuser:

If your requests to be forgiven come with a demand of a pardon, you need to reconsider your definitions and personal expectations of those you have abused. You are 100% responsible for both what you do and the effects of what you do – which can have long-term outcomes. To expect forgiveness, as if it can be commanded to happen on demand, is abusive.

Myth: If I forgive, I have to reconcile

One of the most abusive myths of the forgiveness argument rests in this erroneous notion that forgiveness means reconciliation. Forgiveness is not a pass, a grace card, a get out of jail free card, or any other type of permission to continue an association or relationship. In fact, the only thing forgiveness offers the perpetrator is that the victim chooses to move away from the behavior to their chosen degree. That outcome belongs fully to the offended. In no way does the perpetrator have a say in the matter.

Forgiveness is not a re-establishment of trust as that attribute may be fully voided due to the behaviors of the abuser. To think that forgiveness can restore something that the offense has severely violated is to believe your acts are acceptable when they are not.

Counsel to the abuser:

If your hope is to reconcile and rebuild destroyed trust, you will need to do the very deep work on your thought structure, social attitudes and permission-giving beliefs poorly exercised during your relationship. Any type of abuse of your wife destroys the safety and trust that should have been a part of your marriage. Once those structures are destroyed, it may not be possible to rebuild them. If you can rebuild, it will happen only with your deep and consistent change work. This has nothing to do with your wife, her beliefs on your abuse, or her level of forgiveness.

The Responsibility of the Forgiven

If you, an abusive husband, have been offered forgiveness of any type by the woman you brutally abused – regardless of the type of executed abuse – you have a deep responsibility to live up to that forgiveness. 

You have already shown a complete disregard for the rights of others. You have clearly shown that you see yourself as above, or better than to the degree that you choose to put unreasonable, cruel, and egregious demands upon the tender heart of your wife – the woman you asked to marry and promised to love and cherish.

If you believe you are entitled to more than the civility of a peaceful exit, you think too highly of what it takes for an abused woman to forgive. 

If you have been blessed with a wife willing to work on the marriage, despite all your heinous actions, you have an obligation to figure out for yourself what it means to live the life of a forgiven abuser.

The Heart of a Forgiven Abuser

The work of forgiving grievous harm is no small measure. To endure the original suffering, and then work to put the suffering into a space where you can move forward to the best of one’s ability, takes great effort. For an abusive man to not take account of this effort is to be blind to the extent of harm caused by his choices.

Forgiveness can be viewed as layered suffering as the offenses are re-lived and processed over and over until they can be settled into a space in the being of the victim where these painful injuries will hopefully take rest. It is only the severest myopia of an abuser to not consider this effort. 

When an abuser cares more about his discomfort than the time, space, or other need of the victim for healing purposes, he presents with a solipsistic mindset, rather than one of a repentant and changed man. 

Gentlemen, consider that your abuse has violated some of our most honored social and moral social reality agreements of all time. Marriage is a social construction that comes with a set of agreed values of honesty, transparency and fidelity. 

Consider the depth and degree of your violations and what it would require of the character of the woman you promised this allegiance to and then violated that trust to forgive you. After your deep consideration – live as though you are undeserving of such grace – because you are. For only Christ can offer you that depth of forgiveness – and yet many, many women will attempt to do just that.

Abuse Correction, Victim Protection, and Dignity Restoration

At the heart of the tenets of Center for Peace is the restoration of the dignity of the woman who has been abused by the one person who promised to love and honor her. If you have devolved as a husband, destroying her piece by piece with your abuse, we have a program where you can learn to correct your abusive thinking, change what is at the core of these behaviors and make choices to restore yourself to decency and kindness.

Schedule a discovery call today

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