“As a survivor of sexual abuse and assault, and as an advocate for survivors of abuse and assault, I hear a lot about forgiveness. I am forwarded stories on the power of forgiveness, I’m lectured on the need for forgiveness, I’m offered lessons on forgiveness.
But I also hear about forgiveness from survivors of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
“How can I forgive?” They ask.
“Why can’t I forgive?” They also ask.
“What is wrong with me?” They ask even more.
My own lived experience and the experience of reading hundreds of letters from survivors of abuse has led me to this conclusion: You don’t have to forgive anybody ever.”
I’ve said it many times myself, healing is not the same for everyone and how you define forgiveness doesn’t have to be the same, and no one gets to tell you how to heal.
I agree with the author though, I suspect that many people who preach “forgiveness” are really seeking a return to the life they knew:
“For many, the pressure to forgive comes with the pressure to return to who they were before.”
But you can’t return to who you were and you can’t get back what was lost. To pretend otherwise, or to pressure those suffering to pretend otherwise, is a silencing of the real harm and change done.