I was looking through my blog stats again (no… I’m not addicted to them) and glanced down at the search engine results. This one jumped out at me and hit me like a ton of bricks.

finding forgiveness for child abusers

That’s an excellent question my dear reader. How does one go about finding forgiveness? I wish I had a good answer for you. It’s something I’m working on right now.

The issue of forgiveness is something I struggle with almost every single day. My faith tells me I should forgive them. I got that. It’s been drilled into my head since Sunday School. But do I want to forgive them? And if I do, how do I do it?

There is still so much from my childhood that I don’t remember. There is still so much left to process. There is still so much to work through. There are so many questions.

What is forgiveness? Is it for me or for them? Is it necessary for healing? What do I say? What do I do? If I do forgive them, does it mean that what they did was okay? Does it let them off the hook, so to speak? Am I ready to do it? If I’m not ready, how will I know when I am? What will happen if I don’t forgive them? I don’t know. I don’t have answers to any of these questions.

I worked with a priest in my parish when I was in graduate school, but at that time, I really wasn’t ready to forgive. I’ve started talking to one of the priests at my parish here. It’s very slow going because it’s hard to talk about what happened to me. I tend to get intimidated by him, despite the fact that Father S is one of the least intimidating people I know. Thankfully, he’s been patient and kind with me. Working with him and learning to trust him has been a positive experience.

Right now, we’re trying to tackle the question of whether I want to forgive. Part of me feels like if I do, then it’s condoning what they did to me. Maybe that’s not rational. I don’t know. But it’s what I feel right now. I’m just really confused about the whole thing.

Another part of me of me feels like forgiveness somehow negates the pain I feel. It’s hard for me to put it into words. I don’t really understand it. Again, it might not be rational, but it’s how I feel.

I don’t know. Somehow the entire topic seems to bring up more and more questions in my mind. And answers are slow in coming. But it’s something I’ll continue to explore.

17 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. hi Kat,
    to be honest, i admire your bravery for even approaching this topic. For myself, this topic is too difficult…
    does it make me evil that i cannot forgive the trespasses?
    i don’t know, but this blog entry shows you are a far better human bean then i will ever be.

    now i’m not a Christian, but i was struck by a sentiment expressed by a religious friend of mine:
    ‘it is not for us to forgive or judge – that comes later’

    maybe we don’t have to forgive and turn the other cheek in this world? Maybe it is up to us to live and try to grow, healthily?
    i don’t know, sorry for the heavy comment Kat :(
    in my book – just do whatever keeps you Safe.

  2. MayPoles of life says:

    Kathryn…not sure if it’s ironic or not, that your post this 1 day after Easter, after all Forgiveness is what Easter is all about. I believe forgiveness is for ALL. For you, it makes you more God-like. For your abusers, if their eyes are open, it demonstrates Gods love. For all humans in this world, your forgiveness creates a ripple effect, far reaching, and touches souls that you may never know. Being able to forgive is the most difficult thing for humans to do. For you just pondering the thought of forgiveness, speaks volumes about you. It may never happen in your life time, but for you to think about it, shows God like qualities. From things you have written, it doesn’t sound like they, “your abusers” have been knocking at your door with utter remorse. Your forgiveness of them, is very personal, and will be up to you. Myself, I work with just the hatred I have for individuals whom harm children in such vile ways, not that they’ve damaged my “personal” little world, it’s that they’ve damaged the world in which I raise my children. I don’t believe forgiveness will free you immediately of the chains that bind you. I believe the most important person to forgive would be your inner child, for she was, and is, purely innocent, I pray you see that one day. I do hope you continue to take care of yourself, and take whatever steps you need to, to keep yourself “safe”. I agree with Ian, how brave of you to even approach the subject. You are a very special person, and thank you for sharing your growth in this blog.

  3. But forgiveness – that is only yours to give, and it is a way to take control back from those who have hurt you.

    we agree with this very much! We also had to forgive ourselves before we could forgive the abusers and hurters in our life. Forgiving them does not mean we will let ourselves be put in a hurtful position again though.


  4. Oh Ian.

    No. I don’t think that makes you evil at all. And I seriously doubt that I’m a better human than you are.

    You have no idea how much you’ve helped me recently. Really. And that makes you a vastly superior human compared to some people in my life.

  5. One thing that has helped me with the idea of forgiveness is that it’s never deserved, and that it’s never an excuse / vindication. Oddly enough, a novel helped me with these things — EM Forster’s Howards End.

    It doesn’t condone or excuse what was done, and it doesn’t negate your pain and hurt — forgiveness is withholding the just punishment — it’s mercy — it’s pardon.

    Don’t ask me who I’ve forgiven, though… it’s easier to theorize about than to do.

  6. thememoryartist says:

    Kathryn you wrote:
    “Another part of me of me feels like forgiveness somehow negates the pain I feel. It’s hard for me to put it into words. I don’t really understand it. Again, it might not be rational, but it’s how I feel.”

    I can really relate to this idea . It is very hard to understand .

    I think of forgiveness as an acceptance of things as they are and the ability to let them be , so that one can let go and move on . It’s not about saying that anything is okay , or that the pain of hurtful things people have done to you is irrelevant or unjustified . It’s about knowing that it is over , that it cannot be changed , and that the emotional energy that is invested in that hurt can be released towards healing and change . But that it so much easier said than done.

    I grew up with a Christian fundamentalist background that ordered me to forgive if I should wish to be forgiven. For me it was a scary thing , and almost impossible thing to be ordered to do as a child growing up in hell and being made to feel rotten and bad every day by the very people that I was supposed to be forgiving. It felt like an inescapable trap.

    So getting back to your feeling that forgiveness somehow negates the pain…

    I think it’s tied in with one’s personal definition of what forgiveness means.
    A lot of people think ,”I forgive you” means the same thing as, “It’s okay”.
    Sometimes people use those two statements interchangeably. Maybe defining what it really means to you will help you in reaching where you want to go with forgiveness, because if forgiving is the same thing to you as saying it’s okay – then how is forgiveness possible without denying and negating the hurt and pain that it has caused you ?

    Your pain is justified .The things that have happened to you are not okay . They will never be okay , but the actual events are done . Hanging onto the past as justification for feeling hurt and betrayed is not necessary to validate your pain .

    But forgiveness – that is only yours to give, and it is a way to take control back from those who have hurt you.

  7. iambrave says:

    I agree a great deal with what thememoryartist said. It took me a long time to understand what forgiveness meant to me – and I think that I have finally settled on the idea that it is by no means excusing what someone did to me; it’s more that I am trying to make the conscious decision to try to let go of the negative emotional energy that it takes to stay angry. This is by no means saying that you don’t have every right to be angry for as long as you want or that you should condemn yourself if it never fully happens. I guess I think of it more of a one step forward, two steps back kind of process than a snap of the fingers; more of a journey than a destination.

  8. timethief says:

    I do not embrace the belief system most abscribe to.

    IMO forgiveness is a paradox. I believe that forgiveness is gift we give to ourselves and not to others.

    I urge you to test this yourself. Ask your self who benefits most when you choose to feel forgiving?

    Answer: You do.

    Choosing to give yourself this gift of forgiveness means you can move on and choosing not to means you can spin, spin, spin forever re-living the misery and wallowing in self pity.

    The choice is yours.

  9. somebody says:

    Romans 12:19,20 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you ) On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

    So by forgiving him u r going to heap burning coals on his head.You will get rid of the hatred inside u….and u will feel proud that even though he was so cruel u r so gracious to him

    And if u r going to punish him then i dont think it will really be worth it.But if u forgive Him and let God give the punishment ……then u can be assured that he is sooner or later going to get the right punishment he deserves……and that punishment will really make him to repent

  10. Forgiveness and child abuse issues come up all the time. I’ll tell you what I told a friend the other day. Forgiveness is offered when it’s warranted. If the situation doesn’t warrant it then don’t give it. I believe often the words forgiveness and healing are mixed up. Do you need to forgive them to heal? In my opinion no you don’t because if they are not sorry then you’ve given something of yourself that is precious, loving and kind and you’ve thrown your pearls to swine. Your healing is about YOU not what others think you should do for the person that caused the need for healing. This whole issue holds so many back. The guilt of giving something precious to someone so cruel is unthinkable.

    When you keep getting comments that have people throw the Bible at you you’ve got to wonder if they understand their belief in hell completely destroys their idea of an always forgiving God. If we are made in his image (and we are) then are we to always be forgiving? The same as with God, only when asked and shown by actions that they really want it. Even God has a limit to what he will give of himself, of his forgiveness. No, we can’t say so and so is rotten in God’s eyes but we can say, I won’t be hurt by that person again and I’ll leave it up to God to deal with him. I’ve got to deal with ME the very best I can.

    You’ll get contradiction after contradiction from people who want to offer you the blissful blindness that they feel. Often it is a mask for the deep pain they themselves have been through. Still, one must ask, why is so much focus put on the one that hurt us instead of the one who was hurt? Why does our healing from their actions have anything at all to do with what we are willing to give to the abuser? Haven’t they taken enough without us being told we have to be willing to hand over something undeserved. The same as we did not deserve to be hurt the same a repeat offender, a pedophile, a murder of childhood souls doesn’t deserve forgiveness. And that is not a pagan belief, it is a Biblical fact that unless the person is sorry, asks for forgiveness and turns around the other way then forgiveness is not in order.

    I’ve said before, unless a person can give me an unmuttled definition of forgiveness then the subject is dropped with me. Don’t give me an abstract idea with no instructions on how to carry it out and then call me unchristian or ungracious when I fail to practice such a vague concept.


  11. By the way, I think it’s really cool how you answer the search engine querys that come in. I’ve thought about doing it myself but the search question I keep getting has to do with hiccups. I hardly ever get the real questions but I do get searches for people like you and me who only want life with so much less pain than we have. I believe it is possible.

    Again, I really like how you address some of the search questions on your stats. I for one AM obsessed with my stats :-) I admit it. When I have fewer than a certain number a day I’m kinda upset. I take it personally.


  12. I’m still quite confused on the topic. But thank you all for your replies.

    Austin… I like answering some of the search queries. I know there are people out there looking for information. I have these experiences. I hope that something good can come out of what happened to me. Like with the last one I did about what will happen if you abuse a child, I feel if I can stop one person for hurting an innocent kid, then there is some good in my experiences.

  13. An interesting point of view. I should clarify that my therapist isn’t pushing the idea on me. It’s my own question.

    We’ve talked about closure. But it’s my understanding that although the two are related, they are indeed separate.

  14. I remember reading Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child — I think I remember relating to some but not all of it. Anyway… I think that first article confuses forgiveness with excuse / vindication. They’re not at all the same.

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