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Roman Catholic Pastoral Services

Forgiving your abuser


Jesus on the crossWe must all work towards forgiveness towards everyone. Keeping the following points in mind may help.

- Our time on earth is very short; eternity, however, is forever;
- On the cross, Jesus forgave his torturers and abusers;
- We're all guilty of something; we all need forgiveness;
- The people who wronged you may not know any differently, and the same could be said about you;
- Forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean reconciling with the person, because reconciling with them could open old wounds in you or even create new ones;
-Protect yourself first, because you are sorely in need of boundaries;
- We are all God's children, so He cares about all of us, and wants to see us all redeemed;
- Part of free will is our choice to do good or to do evil. Oh, but how sweet it is in God's eyes, for that sinner to repent;
- Troubles and a hard life are sometimes a blessing to bring us to God;
- Forgiveness doesn't mean you aren't still mad; it might just mean that you are ready to take your hands off the person's throat (as Graham Greene in the movie, The Shack said);
- You may have to forgive many, many times before you're truly ready to let go;
- For absent or abusive parents whom you are raging at, remember: they can't give you what they don't have. They might not know how to be parents or how to show love. In other words: maybe they just don't know. But that doesn't totally excuse them;
- WE ALL have to account for everything we did.
- When you're ready to forgive, and are having trouble, pray and ask God to help and show you the way.

The next section deals with forgiving our abusers, and was written for those who are not ready to forgive. It was initially written without the above points. But after you read it, I encourage you to re-read the above (when you're ready of course)


Survivors of Abuse - Seek First the Truth  

forgiveness picWhen it comes to abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, neglect), especially for adults who are dealing with past issues of abuse, society, for the most part is doing them a disservice by expecting or even demanding that they forgive. Making forgiveness a priority or putting some kind of deadline on it is unreasonable and at times, destructive. When it comes to forgiveness and child abuse, society, for the most part, has it wrong. And it wouldn't be the first time.

For those who have a wounded inner child from abuse, responsibility has to go somewhere - either within or without. Someone has got to be responsible. Tragically, many blame themselves. So, shifting the responsibility is very, very important.

When you forgive your abusers such as parents, caregivers or siblings, or think you have to forgive them, it halts your ability to release pent up emotions such as rage, grief, fear, and shame, dead in its tracks. How do you acknowledge, for example, your anger, at a parent (or another) whom you've already forgiven? You may acknowledge in your mind or say to your parents (or whoever) directly that you forgive them, but in the end you may end up hating yourself all the more. Forgiveness may be appropriate only when parents (or others) do something to earn it. However, almost all (abusers) will deny the abuse ever took place (or the severity of it), even to the grave.

"You may have to make a decision between your family and your emotional wellbeing; sometimes it's not possible to have both". (Susan Forward, Toxic Parents)

Parents are responsible for the abuse they have perpetrated (either intentionally or unintentionally) against their children. They are also responsible for the abuse a child has endured at the hands of siblings as well. Good intentions on the parent's part is irrelevant. And it doesn't matter if they were just doing what was done to them. The buck stops here - with each one of us. Just because they were unable or unwilling to deal with their own issues, doesn't get them off the hook. As aforesaid, someone has got to be responsible (whether living or deceased). If we don't place the blame where it belongs, we will blame ourselves!!! And haven't we been through enough already?

Did you know that forgiveness doesn't mean you have to be reconciled with the other person(s)? Actually, you never have to see them again, no matter who they are. We are reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; but when we forgive, we don't have to be reconciled with the other person(s).

The five year old little girl or boy inside of you expects someone to be held accountable. This child, the inner child, the one that never goes away, is expecting the adult to rescue that little child as well. He or she is out there all alone, scared, broken-hearted, lonely, and... ANGRY! The anger is often rage and it has got to be directed in the right direction - towards the perpetrators (symbollically), and NOT projected onto our wives, children, friends, co-workers, store clerks etc, etc. If you don't know who you are angry at, the anger will go to the easiest target - your wife, children, co-workers.... So, you need to know the truth. And know this: if you haven't discovered the whole truth, felt all the emotions, gone through all the heart-wrenching pain of drudging it all up again and again, wrestled it on the floor and then got up and did it all over again and again over the course of sometimes, years, then you're probably not ready to forgive. Not many people can do this because it involves a lot of pain. And in many instances, forgiveness is not even attainable, nor under our control, even though many have already said "I forgive", or, are willing to forgive.

The first step in healing our inner child is to eliminate our addictions. That means no alcohol whatsoever (because even occasional drinking can keep the problem drinker in a fog). No drugs either. We have to find healthy ways to soothe our inner child that don't involve alcohol, drugs, sex, food....

Some people will arrogantly say that we chose to drink or do drugs or get involved in any other addiction. Yes, but that is not the whole truth. We do have to take responsibility for overcoming our addictions, but make no mistake: those who abused us are also responsible for creating this need in us to soothe ourselves with these maladaptives behaviours. If there was no abuse, chances are that most people would not resort to self-destructive behaviour, and would be able to soothe themselves, when needed, in helpful ways.

"O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me." Jesus answered, It is not always within your power to control your feelings." (Our Lord Jesus to Sr. Faustina- Diary, 1628)

There is something that is more important than forgiveness in this life. Truth is always more important than forgiveness because without truth you can never get to forgiveness. If you don't know the whole truth, you won't know what you are actually forgiving. Without truth, you are living a lie, each and every moment. If you deny your true feelings, you deny the inner child. You can't deny and stuff your true feelings without consequences; the inner child will not be denied without repercussions. Now, really? Is that what God would want - for you to deny and stuff the truth and needlessly suffer more than what you have already been through?

First comes truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; then, maybe, just maybe... forgiveness. But that is a lofty goal. First, just concentrate on the whole ugly, sick truth. That is more than enough for now.

"You've heard it said: we all have our dues to pay in this life. Maybe so, but some people pay way more dues than others." (

The false self, which is the antithesis of truth, cannot fully connect with God. For instance, it is hard to have child-like faith when you have a wounded inner child and trying to be somebody you're not. So, if someone who has a traumatized inner child were to forgive before they were ready to, it would set them back even further and amplify their false self, who, already lacks self-awareness. When we connect with our inner child and his/her true feelings, we connect with truth. Someone who has integrated their inner child can much more easily connect with God. If someone has, for example, issues with their earthly father, it makes it very hard for them to connect with their Heavenly Father. They may not trust God. The inner child leads us to truth, he/she leads us to God. Truth is God; God is truth. The nature of God is truth, no matter how ugly truth is.

"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4 N.A.B.)

It is possible for God to take away your pain and bring you to forgiveness, and He may. But that would be too easy, and we wouldn't learn. Pain is sometimes necessary and can be transformative. It can bring us closer to God. If you pray for the truth, you will often get it - over time. That makes much more sense to pray for.

Healing, especially in the beginning (of inner child work), is not about forgiveness. It is going to, at times, feel more like an exorcism. Where there's smoke, there's fire, because the abuse that someone has actually received, is always MUCH worse than what they remember. ALWAYS!

Our society says: "just forgive, let it go". But when it comes to abuse and inner child issues, forgiveness always takes a back seat to truth. It is not even on the table initially.

We're not saying you should never work towards forgiveness. What we are saying is that forgiveness is not the goal - truth is. And then, if you know the truth, and the whole truth (because memories often get blocked), you might be able to forgive, or at least accept it. Forgiveness doesn't mean reconciling with abusers. Forgiveness is not always in your control because you can't always control your feelings. Our Lord even said this to Sister Faustina (now Saint Faustina).

Forgiveness may be easier if the abuser apologizes, allocutes or comes clean to you about what they did and that they are truly sorry. But don't hold your breath waiting for a parent, sibling or any other person to do this. Most of the time, these people are unrepentent, still dangerous and not fit to be around.

Enmeshment with our parents in these cases is often a problem, so we need to distance ourselves from them and break off contact completely and indefinitely. Many survivors of abuse are not able to do this, which is why they will never recover. Many are too willing to forgive and not to place blame where it belongs, or to feel the pain, which is also why they won't recover. Forgiveness has nothing to do with proximity. You can forgive (if your able) and still never have to be near them again. Your inner child is in your care now, and you should be doing everything in your power to protect that vulnerable little child.

And does it matter if the abuser hasn't thought about you in 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years? No, it doesn't matter. You still have a 5 year child inside of you that never goes away, and he or she is expecting you to discover the truth, which requires you to feel those feelings, and think about those thoughts (which you didn't feel or think) at the time of abuse, and have blocked to this very day, to protect you from the pain. And since that little child expects you to uncover the truth (and rescue him/her), you will have to change faulty beliefs you had about your child that you are shameful, guilty, bad, ugly, responsible for abuse inflicted on you, etc..... But in all that pain buried down there, there is also joy to be found. It's not all pain. Once you start the process, effects, and some relief, is immediate!

You need to feel the feelings of that lonely, broken-hearted child, including the anger of having been treated that way, and the grief, which includes mourning the loss of your childhood and any missed opportunities because of it. But you have to think your way out of it as well and change all those lies they said about you, that you were useless, unloveable, worthless, ugly etc. - (stated or inferred).

All emotions come from the inner child; it is up to you, the adult to reason with compassion, empathy and truth with the child.


Q - The past is the past, shouldn't I just forget about it and move on?
A - When it comes to the inner child, it doesn't matter if you are 28 or 108, the inner child is still inside you and looking for love, attention and protection. The concept of time is of no issue. The child is still waiting for you to reclaim her. And you're probably doing everything you can to avoid feeling the pain. Even suicide is a common outcome to unresolved inner child issues.

Q - But isn't forgiveness a gift I give to myself?
A - If you listen to your inner child, you will know when it is time to forgive. Truth is more important. It takes strength, courage and faith to face the truth. Truth is the gift you give yourself so that you will be healed and liberated and your inner child and your adult will be integrated.

Q - I'm a Christian, so what about the 4th commandment, Honor your father and your mother?
A - Did they honor you with their abuse? How do you honor the untrustwothy, the dishonorable? Have they admitted all the wrongdoings and feel true, genuine remorse? Even if they did, it would still be hard to honor them, and forgive them. Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Pray, and listen to your inner child. I can see it is your intention to forgive them if you could. But don't beat yourself up anymore than they have.

I always thought it was kind of strange when I would hear that a parent didn't get along with a son or daughter, that they would often squabble or not talk to each other (nothing in comparison to a history of abuse, but nevertheless, still a problem). But really, who is the parent in these cases? C'mon, grow up parents, be the parent!!!

*This is important - It is better to let go of your pent up emotions and thoughts symbollically (role play with someone or through your imagination). You should not confront your abusers.

Even if you have gone through the painful process of recovering your inner child (so-called original pain work), and it has been many years, and you feel like you may forgive, it may not entail reconciliation. If being with the person(s) diminishes you, then contact would be harmful to you and your inner child. Your inner child is in your protection.

Some therapists, and society in general, will INVALIDATE you. The person who is dealing with their own wounded inner child, and especially those at the beginning of this long and painful journey of healing, NEED VALIDATION like the desert needs the rain. Unfortunately, many (therapists) will not be forthcoming with validation (they may even invalidate you), even though validation is so desperately needed.

A lot of therapists have crazy misconceptions about validation, such as that it might make perpetual victims out of us. But to not give validation is cruel and wreckless. If you are someone who is going through this process and are not being validated, then you're not getting what you need. Validation is the most important thing a therapist can do for the abused person. IN FACT, therapists should have a sign in front of their office and building that says "WE VALIDATE YOU HERE". Some people have been waiting decades for someone to validate their pain! Some wonder if they are going crazy, or if they just dreamed this. They wonder if the abuse really happened. It can be a very confusing time, so trust and validation of what is going on from the therapist, especially in the beginning awareness of the abuse, is vital.

Many therapists might be scared to place the blame on their patient's parents or another, for fear of reprisal. These cowards may even defend the actions of the abusers! They may also call you "sensitive", meaning you are being "over-sensitive" about your abuse, as if it were your fault you got abused in the first place. Wow! What a way to invalidate someone! Yeah, sure, you may be a little sensitive now, but that's what sometimes happens when you've been abused!

Quite often, therapists are insensitive and/or too ignorant and don't understand that validation is the best medicine in this situation. Try to find one that will validate you and will help you heal your inner child with sympathy, compassion and understanding. My observation is that counsellors, as opposed to therapists, seem to be more knowledgeable these days in regards to the inner child. They are actually cheaper than some of their more educated counterparts too. At least that is my observation in this part of the world. And as far as pyschiatrists go, they generally want to treat with meds. It may be best that the inner child is not numbed-out by drugs for this type of work.

But can you imagine, paying $175 or more an hour and getting invalidated!!! It is the proverbial - last straw! How infuriating!!! It's enough to piss one off just thinking about it!!!

The ideal counsellor, in my opinion, is the Christ-centred grief counsellor who is knowledgeable about the inner child, who advocates for you, and who continually validates you with tender loving empathy, and understands that the rage one may feel, must be let out and directed to the proper source - symbollically of course.

If you had a serious medical condition that required life-saving surgery, would you be up and about a day or week after the invasive surgery? If you broke your leg in several places, would you be expected to go running on it the next day? Of course not. So what makes therapists or counsellors think that you wouldn't need a long period of convalescence where your pain is validated; a time to really take care of yourself and for you to really look after all your needs after so many years of neglecting yourself; a time to soothe your wounded inner child; a time to spoil yourself etc etc.

Society, which is generally unsympathetic and unempathetic, doesn't understand the process when it comes to the inner child and abuse. So they immediately and erroneously believe that forgiveness should be immediate. It is the easiest way to deal with it, but it can be destructive. Forgiveness is another way to invalidate your pain. And the inner child won't like that. Forgiveness, in the beginning, is not even on the table.

Waves of anger, rage, and sadness come and go. We don't necessarily feel that way all the time, so being labelled as being "angry" is not accurate. Besides, we have good reason to be angry if we have been violated by someone else we trusted.

Inner child work often takes many years, and is hard and painful, which is why many cannot sustain it, and complete it. Saying you forgive or that you want to forgive, stops the process in its tracks. Is it any wonder that we try to sooth ourselves with food, sex, pornography, alcohol, drugs, fetishes, instead of dealing with the pain?

Ways to soothe your innner child:
Pay attention, listen, and respond to your inner child... to allow the child to express the pain. Feel that sadness, feel that anger or rage, or whatever feelings come up. Cry.
Afterward, you validate and comfort your child.
Place your hand on your stomach and ask your inner child questions such as: "what is happening right now?""What can I do for you?"
Come into a painful or traumatic event with Jesus and then imagine a preferred outcome - whatever that may be for you. Eg. your parents getting back together and showing you love etc. (This helps to rewire the brain....)
Don't be afraid of your sadness. Lean into it. Embrase it.  - Our society, whether explicitly or implicitly, tells us that sadness, depression is bad, something to be avoided like the plague, so that we numb ourselves or distract ourselves in every way. Doesn't it make sense that depression is a signal to change???A signal to pay attention to what we have been avoiding.

Forgiveness. It is a lofty goal for those who have been abused. But you've got to do the hard work first before you can even consider it. TRUTH is your first goal, no matter how ugly the truth is. I believe the prayer to receive Truth is almost always answered at some point.

It is comforting to know that we have a Heavenly Father; a brother and Saviour in our Lord Jesus Christ; the Love of the Holy Spirit; and a mother in the Blessed Virgin Mary; a Guardian Angel who has chosen you; and the Communion of Saints. It is also reassuring to know that our true home is not down here in this valley of tears, but in Heaven with our true Father - our Heavenly Father who called forth you by name. They are your family.

And if or when you have your own family, it would be beneficial to use Mary your mother and Joseph as role models.

Keep praying throughout this process asking God to help you.

God Bless,

By Monica Ward

The Divine Mercy & Forgiveness

How to Make a Good Confession

Fr. Chris Alar MIC and the Myths about Forgiveness

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