Not to long ago I read an article from Overcoming Sexual Abuse which really got me thinking. The article was titled “Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser“. There was so much in this article which made so much sense to me, and yet some of it seemed to go against some of the Christian teachings that I’ve always been taught.
I was taught forgiveness wasn’t an option; it was something you must do. Scriptures such as Matthew 6:14-15
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
When I first read that scripture it scared me into forgiveness. I thought there was no way on this earth I was going to die and go to hell over something someone else did to me. I immediately started praying asking God to help me to forgive my abuser. I didn’t understand there was a process to go through, and thought forgiveness could be turned on like a light switch. So, I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. I forced myself into forgiving my abuser before I was ready. I hadn’t had the chance to work through my anger, and many other emotions that go with it. In fact, I was so numb to my feelings I didn’t really understand how I felt until years later.
As survivors, we need to be allowed to go through the process of healing, and not rushed through it. There is no “light switch” for forgiveness because it is a process which can’t just be turned on like a switch. Since, I rushed through the process I often felt as though there was more I was supposed to be doing. It still felt like I was the problem and had done something wrong. It left no room for me to feel validated in what I had experienced, it left no room for the feeling of shame to leave, and it left this lingering feeling that it will always somehow be my fault as though I was the real guilty party.
Since I never properly worked through my anger it started coming out through my dreams. I have dreams where I am this completely different person full of rage and anger. Every chance I get to cuss my abuser out I do, and to add a little punch, so to speak, I always make sure to flip him off. These things are completely against my nature. However, it seems as though this is the only outlet my anger has now, and is a way of self-validating what I went through. These dreams allow me to direct my anger at who it belongs to…my abuser. I don’t walk around feeling angry all the time, and truth be told, those dreams usually only come when I’m stressed out. It has become a way for my body to let me know I’m stressed out. Being stressed out was such a part of daily life growing up, I sometimes don’t realize how stressed I am until I start having dreams like these.
The article “Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser” prompted me to do a little research into what the Bible really says about forgiveness. For me there seems to be a disconnect between what’s preached at the alter, and the reality of having to deal with trauma such as abuse. Primarily, that forgiveness is something that can be and must be done instantly. What I found was mind blowing and liberating to me. So, here we go, and let this be the first in a series about forgiveness.