Forgiving our Abusers - I'm Just Not Ready

I watched Oprah's Life Class the other night, and the show was about forgiving people who have hurt you so that you can be free. It sounds wonderful, and I have managed to forgive several people in my life that have hurt me, bit when it comes to my parents, the two people in the world that I perceive as having had the responsibility of caring for me and raising me, I have honestly had a very difficult time forgiving.

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I like the idea of letting it go and moving on.  I like the idea of experiencing a sense of freedom and relief within me upon truly forgiving, but I haven't a clue as to how to genuinely and truly forgive.

It's important that we remember, as we learn in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), that ACCEPTING is not the same thing as APPROVING. So, if we forgive people who abused, neglected, or mistreated us, we are accepting that these things happened and that they are in the past. We are choosing to leave it behind and move on. We are NOT saying that the person/people have been given a free pass or that what they did is now acceptable or excusable or okay in our eyes. It just means we are accepting reality. Someone on the show said that by forgiving, we are no longer allowing the abuser to take away joy in our present and future moments.

I just don't seem to have it within me to forgive. This saddens me.  Maybe I'm just not ready.

It's been quite a while since I was a child, but I still - almost daily - deal with the repercussions and scars of my parents' behavior toward me.  I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in addition to BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) as a result from the abuse and neglect. To this day, I have flashbacks.

My father passed away when I was 16. He apologized to me before he passed away. He is gone now, and it is almost certainly not tormented by the past any longer.  I still carry such anger and hurt as a result of his behaviors toward me when I was a little girl.  I don't know what good it does, as he is gone.

My mother is still living, and when I turned 18 years ago, I moved all the way across the country to be as far away as possible from the memories and drama. She has apologized up and down and written me heartfelt letters of apology. I just still do not trust her with my heart.

A little bit more history: from 13-18 I was in a number of foster homes and group homes.

On Oprah, it was said that the only "good" things that come out of terrible experiences are that we learn a certain lesson about living that we couldn't have learned any other way.

The only good thing I can see, right now, is that living in the group homes changed my life for the better. I learned to begin to love myself and to live with and care about people from all backgrounds. I learned what it felt like to live in a safe environment. I had the opportunity to experience some normality, regular meals, and bonding that I didn't have at home.

I can acknowledge that and feel peace in it, but I am unfortunately not finding it within me to really forgive my parents. Can you relate?  If you have let go/forgiven, please also share.

For comic relief, I love this tweet one of my twitter connections sent me on this topic:

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


  1. I feel you on this.I don't know that I will ever forgive the people who abused me as a child but I did forgive my mom for not protecting me or stand up for me.when I spoke up about it.I did not tell my father until after I was a grown woman.But just forgiving my mom was a really big thing for me and I spent years so angry at her resenting her.I confronted her about it in a fit of anger and she cstarted sobbing and I knew at that moment in my heart that this had haunted her, that in every bad choice I made she felt guilt and I chose to forgive her.I knew that she only did what she thought was right.It was not easy but it felt right.This said,It doesn't happen like this for everyone and as to my abusers I don't see myself ever forgiving them.Only you know what you suffered and only you know what you can forgive and if you can't well no one will think any less of you for it.

    1. I love that you were and are able to extend forgiveness to your Mom. Seeing her sob must have made you realize how much it hurt her that she allowed you to be hurt. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your own story. I really appreciate it.

  2. I can feel your pain, for years I hated my father for abusing me, but as I got older I realized that he too was abused when he was younger and he was just living what he learned, he was loving me the only way he knew how. Even though he abused me both physically and emotionally, I know in his heart of hearts he really does love me, so I have forgiven him, not to say that the memories don't hurt, but it's hurt less and less as time goes on. It helps if you put it in Gods hands, because its really hard to forgive on your own.

    1. I want to thank you so much for your comment. I do know that my father was also abused, but I had never thought about it the way you put it: That he was LOVING me in the only way he knew how. I never thought about how, as dysfunctional, damaging, and twisted his behavior was, this is what he learned and all he knew. This gives me some compassion for him...and I think that's the first step on the road to fogiveness. Thank you very much for commenting.

  3. This isn't precisely related; but you might find it interesting/helpful anyway; it's about acceptance.

    It's from a buddhist blog; where the original topic was 'overcoming addiction' but I found the technique applied to other emotions too, as a simple but powerful way to accept... original post here:

    I'm just going to copy and paste from there and my blog, so hope it kind of makes sense...

    "Stop Struggling and fighting the feelings. Accept them, right or wrong, they simply are.

    You struggle with your emotions. But really you need to accept them, and treat yourself with the love and acceptance you wish to treat others with.

    The article was on smoking and overcoming addiction; but really it works just as well for anger and pain and other forms of suffering:

    "I think your use of the word 'struggle'
    itself is problematic.

    why struggle?

    i think you have a better chance of overcoming your [problem] if you are coming from a place of love and acceptance.
    i smoked for 25 years and quit 5 years ago. the one thing that helped me so much was reading this one little sentence in a quit smoking pamphlet. it said, "you are reaching for cigarettes not because you want a cigarette but because you want to avoid this feeling of 'craving'. if you just accept the feeling you will not reach for the cigarette." so you see? you can banish the idea of struggle altogether. i would get a craving [insert troubling emotion here], watch it arise, feel it dwell in me, in my belly mostly, just under my bellybutton. i would speak to it sometimes too and say, 'hey you little [pain]. it's ok. you can stay here as long as you need to. really. i created you and i am so very sorry for that. you just stay here and i will hold you, ok? i'm here for you now, don't worry.'
    and i would hold my belly and rock with the feeling of [pain] like it was a little baby in need of love. i never did battle with it. never had to fight it at all. i loved it, i fully accepted its presence in me and as a result it was not difficult to overcome at all.
    the cravings persisted for 5 days only. it's unheard of after 25 years of smoking 2 packs a day. but it's because there was no resistance to the cravings, nothing at all, no stories to perpetuate them.
    only love.

    i hope this helps someone. :)"

    I took out the anger I had been battling against, and looked at it.
    Saw it sitting there, and accepted it.
    Told it it was allowed, whether it was right or wrong, it was there, it was allowed, it was accepted.

    And on acceptance, on allowing myself to feel anger, to indulge in it even, it vanished.
    I don't feel it anymore. That niggling feeling has just gone.

    I don't expect it will go forever. I'll probably fume about the same thing again later this evening... But I'll try and accept it and let it be again, and hopefully the same will happen.

    I know it works.
    I used to get badly depressed for long periods of time, part of it was low selfesteem for Being depressed, it would feed on itself and make it worse.

    I'm alot better at accepting that now too. I accept it, it is there for a short time, then it goes, i don't beat myself up for it, it is part of me, its ok to be down sometimes etc.

    Really is the best cure for all sorts.
    So simple, yet it can seem impossibly distant and unobtainable, till you just DO IT."

    I too, hope this helps someone...

    1. Thank you very much for sharing this. I was able to relate it to my situation. It's okay to acknowledge and accept the anger. I think I either become immersed in it or I deny it...acceptance is one of the only ways out of hell, truly. Thank you again.

  4. I too struggle with this. It seems nigh on impossible to forgive individuals who have been so harmful, especially when given the chance they still continue with similar behaviour. What I try to do is to widen the perspective a bit - what am I angry at? This person / people? or the effects on me / my life of their actions? The people are not even in my life anymore so it would seem its the effects rather than the people. All the aspects of my life, including the less than ideal, are part of what makes me myself. The unreasonable expectations on me as a child (daily seemingly impossible tasks etc) have made me a determined person and a creative thinker. The pain / abuse I went through makes me the kind of person who wants to help other people and make their lives better. These are just a few examples but I think if I can accept the fact of the events then take the effects and make something positive on my own terms, even if just in a small way, it allows me to move towards forgiving what happened rather than the specific individuals concerned and moving forwards.

    1. Thank you for sharing the good or positives, rather, that you have been able to extract from unfortunate situations that you had to endure. Your courage and insights have encouraged me.

  5. I'd love to forgive my parents but they are adamant 'nothing happened' and continue to make acquaintance with those who torched my childhood. I've written them letters, cried, begged for answers but they just don't want to face it. I feel sorry for them for living in ignorance (I can guarantee they are not at peace, that they are troubled deep inside) but forgiveness? I don't know. I understand all the context behind why what happened to me at that age but it does very little good. This sense of injustice refuses to go away especially because my parents refuse to apologize. How the **** do you deal with that.



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