Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

Forgiving Abusers

Forgiving Abusers
Eight Steps to Freedom

Forgiving abusers. Is it even possible? Someone asked about forgiving the person who abused their child. This comes up often so I want to discuss steps to forgiving abusers.

I had a series of posts on Forgiving the Unforgiveable that you might want to reference. I go into more detail about forgiving there. Today I just want to lay out a map for people to see the big picture of what it takes to forgive an extreme offense like abuse, rape or betrayal.

I recently reflected on situations where I forgave someone in the past. It dawned on me that the hardest things for me to forgive where offenses against my children. So when someone said they had trouble forgiving the person that molested their child I understood the intensity of that situation.  Let me outline a few things involved in forgiving abusers.

Eight Steps to Forgiving Abusers

  1. Keep your distance. I initially wrote seven steps assuming that people would already be separated from their abuser, maybe for years. But I don’t want to assume anything. Forgiving doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship. If you are in any danger, or if your abuser has shown no remorse for past behavior, then you need to get to a safe place and remain separate. Remember, forgiving abusers doesn’t  mean excusing their behavior.
  2. Appreciate how hard it is to forgive. Don’t minimize what’s happened to you. Understand that you’ve incurred a MAJOR loss. You don’t just say a prayer and pronounce forgiveness.  Damage was done to your heart. There are deep emotional wounds.  It’s like the person who barely survives a car wreck. At first they might think they won’t make it. They may be on life support. It’s touch and go. But then there is a good day. And another. And then there is an upward trend. Recovery is taking place, although slowly. You will recover but it takes time.
  3. Give yourself permission to take small steps. Next week I’ll be taking a cross-country trip; from Florida to Arizona. A family adventure. We won’t make it in a day. It will take  six long days. Sounds like they will be hot days too. But we’ll make it, one mile at a time.  Forgiveness seems daunting because we expect too much too soon. Start small. If you are even considering forgiveness after a major offense you should be happy. Celebrate that. Think in terms of months, maybe years to forgive. That will take the pressure off you.
  4. Invite God into the process. Forgiveness is bigger than you are. You need a power greater than yourself to tackle something of this size.
  5. Understand that you need forgiveness too. Then receive it. I wrote an earlier post about “The Nazi in You”. The point was that when you understand your own need for forgiveness and receive it from God then you are more inclined to forgive others.
  6. Deal with your shame issues first. People often can’t forgive because they have too many shame/self-worth issues. They’ve got nothing to give others because they feel so empty.  My book (Healing the Hurts of Your Past) is a good place to start with this. Once you feel whole inside it’s easier to forgive.
  7. Share your story.  There’s something “crazy-making” about hiding your story. Find safe people, a support group and/or a counselor to share your story. It gets it out of your mind and makes it more familiar and not so hidden.
  8. Read books about forgiveness. I’ve read many books on forgiveness and each one seems to help me in a different way. Forgiving an abuser is one of the toughest things to do on the planet. You need a continual influx of encouragement. Starting in May I posted three or four times a week on forgiveness here at readingremy.com. You might want to back track through the posts: especially the one about what forgiveness is NOT. Forgiveness is not excusing your abuser.

These are just a few ideas. My overall point is that forgiving abusers is a long, long journey but if you start today you’ll get there quicker than if you start next year. When it finally happens you’ll enjoy the freedom of getting this off your back. Abuse is bad enough. Don’t let it rob from you the rest of your life.

Question for you; if you’ve been able to forgive abuse, rape, severe betrayal (what some might call the unforgiveable) what helped? People need to know it’s possible. Share your comment below.

Learn more about how to forgive in my book, STUCK…how to overcome your anger and reclaim your iife.

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17 thoughts on “Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

  1. Anonymous

    Nice post Remy, you are acknowledging that this is a journey that does not have a timetable!

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Exactly. I think that’s what weighs so heavy on some people. Not only were they abused but NOW they feel the pressure to forgive to “do the right thing”. If they see it as a natural process…like a seed growing over months vs. needing to pull a rabbit out of a hat…it’s much easier.

  2. Cyndij

    At the age of three I witnessed the murder of my mother and twin sister. Then was raised by the people who committed that crime. I have struggled with forgiveness for a very long time. I understand your comment that forgiveness starts when we decide to think about it. But it didn’t take long to learn that without God’s help it would never happen. I am incapable of forgiving except with God’s help.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I’m continually amazed at the horror of what some people have had to live through. I have no idea how you handled growing up in that context. I hope you have found/are finding freedom.

      ________________________________
      From: Disqus
      To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
      Sent: Monday, July 2, 2012 3:00 PM
      Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

      1. Cyndij

        Yes. I am finding freedom and even peace at times. Just finished your book on healing. It has been a very long road with many obstacles. Learning to trust God has been the most difficult of all. Your book helped so much with that part of the process and more.

      2. F. Remy Diederich

        That’s great to hear. Thanks for letting me know.

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
        Sent: Monday, July 2, 2012 11:21 PM
        Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

        Cyndij wrote, in response to F. Remy Diederich: Yes. I am finding freedom and even peace at times. Just finished your book on healing. It has been a very long road with many obstacles. Learning to trust God has been the most difficult of all. Your book helped so much with that part of the process and more. Link to comment
        IP address: 166.147.120.148

  3. Liz

    Very appropriate! Thanks for taking me through this process. I am now walking the walk. I may be weary along the way but now by God’s grace, I found the articles so direct on what I am going through. My ultimate destination I can now view in the distance. I just say “hold my hand precious Lord and lead me on”. This thing almost destroyed me and kids. Thank you Remy. kids.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      I think we so often want the end result NOW. If we can’t forgive TODAY then we think we are at fault. I’m glad to hear that you are on the journey and welcoming God to share the journey and the pain. I believe you can bounce back with God’s help.

  4. JAZ

    how about you develop an awareness that not everyone WANTS to forgive and that not everyone SHOULD be forgiven. you can actually move on WITHOUT forgiving. that’s a choice you can make. pushing forgiveness on people who don’t want to make that choice is cruel and often makes the person who chooses NOT to forgive feel inadequate and/or guilty. and don’t even get me started on GOD!

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Thanks for sharing an opposing view. Disagreement helps broaden the discussion. If you track back through the posts there are two main beliefs to my view; one; that God forgives us and asks us to do the same. Two; forgiveness is good for us. It sets us free and allows us to move on. I’m not “pushing” this on anyone. It’s an idea that many have discarded because of wrong views on what forgiveness is about. In this post I purposefully made the point that forgiveness takes time. No one can or should force it on you (I think that often happens and so I appreciate your sensitivity to that). You talk about moving on…I agree. I just think the best way to move on is to forgive first. It brings closure to the past so you can reclaim your future. Thanks for the input.

      ________________________________
      From: Disqus
      To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
      Sent: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 5:32 AM
      Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

      1. JAZ

        and i think you missed MY point. i don’t believe in GOD. and i don’t believe in forgiving people who have no remorse. and i have moved on despite that, and i continue to make progress every day because i choose to take a stand that says THIS IS ME and my choices are valid. everywhere you go you have this message that you should “forgive” and it really isn’t necessary. closure does not require me or anyone else to forgive people who have abused them. there are other paths.

      2. F. Remy Diederich

        I realize you don’t believe in God. I don’t think you have to believe in God to forgive or move on. I think it helps tremendously. Many people feel they need that help because they want to forgive. If you don’t want to forgive then you don’t need the help. Many people, including myself, define forgiveness as “giving up the right to get even”. You choose to not retaliate. If you’ve truly moved on then maybe have forgiven. It just depends how you choose to define forgiveness.

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
        Sent: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 8:13 PM
        Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

        JAZ wrote, in response to F. Remy Diederich:
        and i think you missed MY point. i don’t believe in GOD. and i don’t believe in forgiving people who have no remorse. and i have moved on despite that, and i continue to make progress every day because i choose to take a stand that says THIS IS ME and my choices are valid. everywhere you go you have this message that you should “forgive” and it really isn’t necessary. closure does not require me or anyone else to forgive people who have abused them. there are other paths.
        Link to comment
        IP address: 123.243.157.41

      3. JAZ

        i define forgiveness as giving pardon, and i don’t give pardon to those that show no remorse. it’s fairly simple. but i also don’t act out of anger to those people. i seek no revenge. the best revenge is a life well lived so they say. i struggled for a long long time with the idea that i should “forgive” where i thought forgiveness was not due. i felt shame and guilt that i could not and that actually contributed to my unwellness for many years. i am not the only person i know that feels this way about the notion of “forgiveness”. i choose to LIVE MY LIFE. what happens to my abusers is between them and their own conscience. mine is clear.

      4. F. Remy Diederich

        I think I pretty much agree with you. If you don’t act out in anger toward someone, in thought or deed, that’s forgiveness to me. Pardon is not giving someone what they deserve, which is judgment or punishment. Pardon is NOT excusing or minimizing what they did. Forgiving implies that someone has done something wrong. I’ve also seen people pressured to forgive prematurely. That’s not healthy and, as I think you stated earlier, even cruel. You can’t force it on anyone. We all respond to an offense differently. It’s very personal. I appreciate your push back. It helps to clarify terms and issues. There is much misunderstanding around forgiveness and as a result, more hurt.

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
        Sent: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:36 PM
        Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

        JAZ wrote, in response to F. Remy Diederich:
        i define forgiveness as giving pardon, and i don’t give pardon to those that show no remorse. it’s fairly simple. but i also don’t act out of anger to those people. i seek no revenge. the best revenge is a life well lived so they say. i struggled for a long long time with the idea that i should “forgive” where i thought forgiveness was not due. i felt shame and guilt that i could not and that actually contributed to my unwellness for many years. i am not the only person i know that feels this way about the notion of “forgiveness”. i choose to LIVE MY LIFE. what happens to my abusers is between them and their own conscience. mine is clear. Link to comment
        IP address: 123.243.157.41

  5. Goldrush40

    You know, I think forgiveness is not so much an issue as just being constantly enveloped in the confusion and hurt. Memories are swirling daily on scenarios and living through them because I just don’t understand the why’s or how’s of how such psychological and emotional assaults can be done from one person to the other. I forgive. I truly do. I just still am the human that went through the hurt and developed new personality traits due to those hurts. I pray. Daily. I am to the point now of begging God to help me with the memories. Stabilize my mind. Not sure what is normal in this entire process, but that is where I am now. I am able to forgive because I can focus on what is redeemable about the person and know that God is doing His work on them as well…where that ends up is not for me to be a part of, but I can’t hinder it with bitterness and resentment.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      At my church we have helped many people deal with their memories with the theophostic prayer model. You might want to learn more about it at the website theophostic.com. Good to hear you are working on it and believe that God is working in your offender’s llfe too.

      ________________________________
      From: Disqus
      To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
      Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:31 AM
      Subject: [readingremy] Re: Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

      Goldrush40 wrote :
      You know, I think forgiveness is not so much an issue as just being constantly enveloped in the confusion and hurt. Memories are swirling daily on scenarios and living through them because I just don’t understand the why’s or how’s of how such psychological and emotional assaults can be done from one person to the other. I forgive. I truly do. I just still am the human that went through the hurt and developed new personality traits due to those hurts. I pray. Daily. I am to the point now of begging God to help me with the memories. Stabilize my mind. Not sure what is normal in this entire process, but that is where I am now. I am able to forgive because I can focus on what is redeemable about the person and know that God is doing His work on them as well…where that ends up is not for me to be a part of, but I can’t hinder it with bitterness and resentment. Link to comment
      IP address: 99.95.124.182
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