Reflections on Emily Yoffe’s article: Why I keep perseverating on the abuse, and why forgiving the abusers may be unneeded: Repost from 2013

I originally posted this here in 2013: https://nyssashobbithole.com/main/refections-on-emily-yoffes-article-why-i-keep-perseverating-on-the-abuse-and-why-forgiving-the-abusers-may-be-unneeded/

Emily Yoffe recently wrote in The Debt: When terrible, abusive parents come crawling back, what do their grown children owe them?:

Bruce Springsteen’s frustrated, depressive father took out much of his rage on his son.

In a New Yorker profile, David Remnick writes that long after Springsteen’s family had left his unhappy childhood home, he would obsessively drive by the old house.

A therapist said to him, “Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.”

Springsteen finally came to accept he couldn’t. When he became successful he did give his parents the money to buy their dream house.

But Springsteen says of this seeming reconciliation, “Of course, all the deeper things go unsaid, that it all could have been a little different.”

I get this.  This explains everything.  He kept driving past the old house because he wanted to fix it somehow.

This explains why my mind has had so much trouble closing the door on Richard and Tracy: Not only did their constant presence on my blog keep me mired in the past and their hard-heartedness, seeing all the proof I put up that they were abusive, but refusing to apologize and make it right–

–but I kept going back to the situation because I wanted to fix it somehow, make it right.

Figure out what happened.

Figure out if I had it pegged correctly or was way off.

Figure out if I could post just the right thing which would get Tracy to realize how badly she had treated and misjudged me.

More importantly, figure out if I could post just the right thing to get Richard to realize how badly he had treated a loyal and devoted friend who would have done anything for him.

Yoffe also writes:

In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim:

“[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, writes that,

“There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’ ”

I agree with these more bracing views about what forgiveness should entail. Choosing not to forgive does not doom someone to being mired in the past forever. Accepting what happened and moving on is a good general principle.

But it can be comforting for those being browbeaten to absolve their parents to recognize that forgiveness works best as a mutual endeavor.

After all, many adult children of abusers have never heard a word of regret from their parent or parents. People who have the capacity to ruthlessly maltreat their children tend toward self-justification, not shame…..

It’s wonderful when there can be true reconciliation and healing, when all parties can feel the past has been somehow redeemed. But I don’t think Rochelle, Beatrice, and others like them should be hammered with lectures about the benefits of—here comes that dread word—closure.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just close the door.

How can I forgive someone who refuses to repent? who would continue to violate my boundaries of being left alone, if I hadn’t switched to self-hosted Wordpress and blocked them at the server level?

Even though my old blog is no longer maintained, and even though they are blocked from the new one, my abusers/stalkers continue to check my old blog at least every other day.  They know about the new blog, so I am quite certain they have tried to come here, but can’t get in.

The biblical passages on forgiveness seem to refer to, forgiving someone who has repented.  If my abuser refuses to admit to abusing me, how can I absolve her of it, treat her as if she never abused me?

Even a simple “hello” if I see her at church, would feel like soul murder.  How can I possibly do that?

I can, however, accept that she abused me, accept that she refuses to admit to it, and treat her as I would a rattlesnake. 

You don’t need to forgive the rattlesnake if it bites you; it’s doing what comes naturally, and would not be sorry for it.  You don’t say hello to a rattlesnake; you give it a wide berth and then run the heck away from it.

 

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Repost: Whether and when to forgive an abuser

I originally posted this nearly five years ago now!  Read full post here.  Excerpts:

I don’t intend to go forever without forgiving.  But I have also come across blogs and blog commenters who have been abused, and say that forgiveness is impossible until you’ve healed; otherwise, it’s premature and false forgiveness.  But I do want to come to forgiveness eventually.

This monk’s blog says that if I forgive the abuser, I will be justified before God, and I am only responsible for my own response, not the abuser’s.  It also says that forgiveness is only possible through Christ: It’s not something humans just naturally do.

Reconciliation is a different thing from forgiveness, and is only possible if Richard and Tracy apologize and end their abusive and violent ways–not just to me, but to each other, the children and other people as well.

…I keep going back and forth about whether or not to blog about these things publicly.  But I see all sorts of other blogs on the Net about personal abuse stories.  It’s one way people are using these days to deal with it.  It’s part of that “if you’re silent, the abusers will get away with it” way of thinking.

I do like reading such blogs and finding I’m not alone, whether it’s reading a story of a narcissistic friend, or a note about how hard it is to forgive any kind of abuser, or forum posts about seeing the abuser again at a restaurant or in family get-togethers.  It’s far more real than, say, reading some magazine article about what you’re supposed to do to forgive/get over abuse.

And if such a writer can talk about some horrible abuse story and how she was able to get through the pain and forgive her abuser, then I know it’s possible for anyone.

Because while the anger is necessary for a time, if you hold onto it for too long, it can begin to twist you into an abuser yourself.

As you can see from reading my posts on Richard and Tracy, I have a lot of crap to get out of my system and deal with.

It’s a lot harder when the perpetrators act like their treatment of you was somehow deserved by you, that you just need to “GROW UP” and “stop feeling hurt over the consequences of YOUR behavior.”

When one of the perpetrators even posted on her Facebook wall that she was having a “GREAT day” because she was yelling and screaming at you.

When these perpetrators occasionally show up at your church and, instead of trying to make peace with you and apologize as you had hoped, they freeze you out as if you were scum who still needs to “GROW UP” and apologize to them, and then leave without saying a word of kindness or apology to you.

When one of them was a very close, very dear friend whom you trusted with your darkest secrets.

It doesn’t just go away, and I fear the pain that would grip me if I let go of the anger too soon.

Read more of post here.

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Reblog: Stop telling me to forgive my abuser

From Christina Enevoldsen, Stop telling me to forgive my abuser:

It’s easy to understand why there would be so much disagreement considering that there are so many definitions of forgiveness. To some it means accepting the past. Others define forgiveness as letting go of negative emotions. To some, it coincides with reconciliation or feeling no ill will toward towards the abuser, while others believe it has nothing to do with a relationship the abuser.

Added to that, forgiveness is very often preached as necessary for other survivors. It’s one thing to say that forgiveness is important to you, but quite another to insist that it’s important for all survivors or to tell others what’s best for their own healing. That’s when forgiveness discussions turn into defenses against boundary violations and condescending remarks.

….Saying that we all need to be forgiven isn’t helpful. That discounts the serious and repetitive nature of sexual abuse. It’s a shame-making statement to compel a survivor into doing what they “should”. It’s each survivor’s decision to work out what’s best for him or her.”

….“holding a grudge”
“resentful”
“bitter”
“angry”

Those are all very triggering words to most survivors that I know. Why wouldn’t they be? Who wants to be around someone who is bitter? Who wants to extend support to someone who is resentful? Being labeled as angry means rejection. Those accusations are intended to get us “in line”—to make us conform to cultural norms and to put the happy face back on.

….What’s wrong with feeling ill will toward your abuser? What wrong with complaining about them? What wrong with feeling indignant about their abuse? What’s wrong with expressing anger?

Those are the things I needed to do to heal. Previously, I was numb to the things that happened to me. Coping with the abuse required me to agree with my treatment and to shut down my feelings. But unfeeling isn’t the same as being healed.

….To heal, I had to do the opposite of what forgiveness demanded. I had to finally become my own ally instead of my abuser’s. I had to acknowledge the depth of betrayal and offense that I’d experienced. I had to get in touch with my emotions and feel the pain and anger that was buried. I had to turn with compassion toward myself and give myself the comfort I needed.

While I was pressured to forgive, I didn’t make any progress in my healing. I only healed once I started to make me the focus of my healing without worrying about my abusers or my feelings toward them.

I highly recommend reading the entire post.

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