Forgiveness is a fuck you sandwich


As a therapist, I meet a lot of people that have been severely abused – physically, emotionally, sexually. They are often  angry.  I talk with them about how their anger kept them alert to danger during their abuse, and how it helped them get clarity about the fact that they weren’t being bad, the abuser was being bad. Their anger was a gift. It kept them alive, and it kept them sane. Similar things  can be said for other emergency emotions they may still carry, such as anxiety, or just chronic numbness.

But these emotions have a cost over time. They really wear people out – often leading to depression. These folks want relief from these emotions. As a result the concept of forgiveness usually comes up in our conversations.  I almost never have to bring it up. Some of them are religious. Others had the  notion of forgiveness mentioned to them by a loved one.

As you can imagine, just the idea of forgiving often pisses them off more.

My stance with this is that a lot of times forgiveness begins with a fuck you and a proverbial kick in the balls. You can’t forgive someone while they are hurting you, and often the emotional pain is still going on years later. Anger will probably always need to be at least part of a healthy response to coping with memories of the abuser.

What I see though, when I am talking to these victims, are heroes. T0 survive these situations people have to have all manner of admirable qualities: courage, cleverness, patience, intelligence, and forbearance. ( ie. it is often INTELLIGENT not to fight back so you can survive or avoid injury)  They fought these private wars and had no ticker tape parade. I want to give them one. I want them to see what I see. But I can only see it because I am not so emotional about what happened.

This is the only reason to forgive abuse that I can come up with. The process of f0rgiveness also often ends with a fuck you and a  proverbial kick in the balls resulting in some psychological distance from the abuser so the victim can actually see their own heroism as survivors of attacks on their bodies and souls.  Sometimes, they can  see the good  and strong and intelligent stuff they were made of while being abused, even in the most humiliating of situations, and the good stuff they are still made of now.

The fuck you’s are layered throughout the process, thus the sandwich metaphor.

The forgiveness is the mere realization of who the real star of the show was and is – who really matters. The abuser is appropriately relegated to exactly the place in the victim’s life they have earned – void of power or influence –  just someone who failed.

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