I have often heard over the years various opinions about whether survivors must “forgive” their perpetrators to heal themselves. I have most frequently heard the philosophy from survivors and “helpers” (professional and nonprofessionals) alike that forgiveness of the perpetrators is essential if the survivors is to heal. I have heard specifically things like “I forgive my perpetrator for me, not them.” “The Bible says I must forgive?” “If I don’t learn to forgive, I will always have bitterness in my heart.” All of these type comments have suggested that I, as a survivor, carry not only the burden of the abuse itself, but MUST also spend energy, I need for myself, thinking about my perpetrators. What Do You Think? Is Forgiveness of Perpetrators Necessary for Victims to become Survivors and Heal?
I have always maintained, as a survivor, that it was not my job to forgive my perpetrators. In fact, the thought of forgiveness never enter my mind at all. Maybe I was too young. Who knows. As I started hearing the idea of forgiveness from others as I grew up, I had by then developed the opinion that the universe would take care of them. I didn’t know quit what that meant except that the God I believed in did not allow wrongdoing to go unrecognized. Still not spending energy on forgiveness of my perpetrators, I don’t believe not doing so has prevented me from enjoying the happiness I now experience in my life and have for years. It’s not an issue for me. There are no triggers there.
What I find most disturbing is survivors who may feel as I do or who have decided they don’t want to forgive their perpetrators are not being supported in their position by “helpers.” It seems this issues arises most when survivors are struggling with a trigger that forgiveness of the perpetrator is offered as a guaranteed resolution to the struggle. Now what occurs is that instead of the survivor using her energy to confront the real trigger, her energy is now diverted to contemplating if her belief is wrong and the “helpers” is right.” So annoying. Why? Because the journey to healing is a varied as the people who travel it. There is no one way to anything or anywhere on this road. I wish professionals, in particular, would stop making this a counseling issue if it’s not one for the survivor.