I have been told by many that forgiving your perpetrators is a necessary step toward recovery. The logic is that if you remain angry, it will only hurt you in the long run, since that person is renting space in your head for free.

I have to disagree. In my own experience, I was once full of rage at the men who violated me, both as a child and as an adult. I have worked through my rage and anger. I no longer hate my perps. I won't waste my time doing that, for it accomplishes nothing. But forgive them? NEVER. It was not necessary to do that for my recovery.

Each survivor must handle this issue in the way that is best for them. As for me, this is how I handle that issue.

I have been told by many that forgiving your perpetrators is a necessary step toward recovery.
It is not. Disbelieve anyone who says recovery "should" be a certain way. There are many paths to healing, and forgiveness is not on everyone's path.



I agree with Strangeways--there is no one path of healing that works for everyone. Our journey is our journey, we respond differently to therapy, affirmations, as well as forgiveness. I do believe we need to let go of the anger we harbored for so long. How we rid ourselves of the anger will vary, some will forgive the perp, others will not, some only need to forgive themselves for the guilt and shame they carried that was not theirs to carry. Unexpressed and expressed anger can cause many health related issues from mental, anxiety, OCD, depression and holds one in the place that the anger arose. Many times the anger is misdirected so as not to face the cause of the anger. You see it with people, the wrong person is the recipient of the anger who did nothing wrong while the one responsible encourages the misdirected anger to protect themselves from the truth. I believe as a survivor I misdirected my anger at myself, so as not to face the abuse and the truth of the abuse. I learned to direct my anger at those responsible for the abuse and the unraveling until I finally accepted it was not my guilt or shame but their guilt and shame. I did not get there easily, it was a difficult journey.

I do hope everyone finds their own path to heal and to let go of the anger, shame and guilt.

Yes, to all of the above. There are no "shoulds" here, only an honest exploration both of the pain and how we responded to it for a lifetime. The role of forgiveness evolves over time as we unpack it all and learn how finally to become a loving advocate for ourselves... the work of a lifetime no doubt.

Tom E.

I can dig where you're coming from, in not forgiving. I guess in my case I have to let go of the resentments I have towards my perps. The bullies in High School & the (so called) therapist during college, all who used me sexually....and forgive myself at least for being such an easy mark.
And sometimes, it doesn't.
Forgiveness comes in many flavors Jaxson. Sometime the person who needs forgiveness is ourselves. That can be impossible when we begin this journey, complicated by a thousand random ideas... but ultimately becoming possible as we discover the importance of self-compassion. I make no assertion about what form forgiveness takes, only that it is part of the journey we're all one.
I speak only of perps. And forgiving ourselves is indeed part of the journey. Forgiving THEM is neither required or desired.
Wouldn't dream of arguing on that point Jaxson, though there are very conflicted feelings when the perp is your mother and it wasn't all horrible along the way. I try to hold it all by neither forgiving nor forgetting the circumstances.


On the subject of forgiveness from author Jeff Brown.....

Forgiveness is not a concept. It’s a process. And, if you choose not to forgive at the end of that process, it doesn’t mean that you are unhealed. It doesn’t mean that you are a lesser human. It doesn’t mean you are not spiritual or evolved. It doesn’t mean you will come back in the next lifetime to live it out again. It may just mean that forgiveness is not actually in your integrity. The assumption that forgiving the abuser is the benchmark of a completed emotional and karmic process is the mistake. The real benchmark of resolution is whether you have gone through your emotional process authentically and have arrived at a place where the negative charge around the experience has dissipated. Perhaps you will learn some lessons, or perhaps you will eventually be legitimately liberated from the memories. Perhaps you will work it through so completely that you have very little energetic charge around the events. Or perhaps you will actually realize that forgiveness is not essential to your healing, and not your responsibility. The point is that focusing on our responsibility to forgive a wrongdoer, sidetracks the whole process. Your sole responsibility is to arrive at whatever destination is true to you.
I call the tendency to arrive at forgiveness before going all the way through an authentic healing journey: “The Forgiveness Bypass.” That is, the attempt to rise above unresolved emotions by feigning forgiveness. This is not only an ungrounded tendency—because you cannot actually will yourself into a feeling of forgiveness—it’s also a dangerous one. The unhealed emotional material will come back to assert itself and haunt us in various forms: internal splitting and confusion, passive aggressive behavior, and the toxic impact of held emotions. In the process, we become another step removed from an authentic presence. Because at some level—we are not living our truth.
True forgiveness can only arise organically, after a genuine healing process. Only then is it authentic. Forgiveness is one of the primary mantras preached by the New Cage and “Positive Psychology” movements. They often encourage people to forgive independent of extensive emotional processes, as though forgiveness is merely a thought, or a concept, or something that can be willed. Some even go so far as to suggest that you must always heal your wounds directly with the wrongdoers, and remain connected to them. Putting our focus on forgiving a wrongdoer before we have actually prioritized working through our anger and our pain, is another way we imprison consciousness and overturn reasonable principles of accountability. Yes, forgiveness can be a beautiful thing… but it is essential that it arises authentically. Forgiveness is not the first place to go after an abusive relationship or a traumatic experience. Healing is.



I had a unexpected experience with forgiveness.

I hadn't seen the man who molested me since 1973. Thanks to the internet I knew he had a shop and where it was. Periodicly I'd google him, just to be sure he was alive. One day I drove to it, just to see the outside of the store. There was a parking spot right in front. I got out, just to look in the window. I found myself opening the door, just to look around.

A woman was behind the counter. I said browsing. While I looked around I saw him off in a side room. I stood still, a calmness washed over me. I stood tall, proud, and strong. I stood in a calm I will never forget.

Something was released inside of me that day. All the bitter words I imagined spewing at him were gone. Sure, I can recall them like a script, but the intensity is gone. In this peace I realized I forgave him. I never sought it, but it's a gift. What I learned is forgiveness is a state, not an activity.

It's not a place I've gotten to with the men who almost killed me when I was kidnapped. And I don't care if I ever do. I will continue to work on my feelings about them. But the goal of that work isn't to forgive them, it's to free me.
Beautiful Bri. This journey we're all on is unfathomable even though we need to explain it over and over again... We do the best we can to understand what came before and what lies ahead, but in living this we discover ourselves changing, often in remarkable ways. Your experience is so perfect in that way... the available parking spot, the choice to "browse", the presence of the perpetrator... your response. It is humbling and we can feel profound gratitude that we're finally able to step out of our drama/trauma story just enough to do this work of healing. Blessings to all of us!