Thursday, 9 May 2013

Is Forgiveness Necessary? #childabuse #survivors @Together_WeHeal

Forgiveness. What an amazing word. What an honorable act. What an indescribable sensation when once we receive it and also too, when we dispense it.
Our good friend Webster defines “Forgive” as – To pardon an offense or offender. To grant pardon for or remission of an offense; To cease to feel resentment against. Synonyms include, absolve; excuse; exonerate; exculpate.
Also mixed in with the word “forgive” is “forgiveness”. Words associated with it are: Mercy; Charity; Compassion.
I’ve struggled a long time with these words. You see, when the very organization that is supposed to teach you the meanings behind these words refuses to protect you. Even goes so far as to take aim and target you as being a bad person. When, in fact, you are the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a minister. It becomes increasingly difficult to find any forgiveness for those who allowed it to happen, for those that covered it up, for those that protected the abuser instead of the innocent child, and especially the one who raped, molested and sexually assaulted you.
I give lectures and presentations to civic and religious groups, to parent organizations, even to small groups of couples wanting to know how to better protect their children from sexual predators. And you want to know the single most asked question I get? I don’t mean it’s asked a little more often than not, I’m telling you I get this question more than all other questions combined. I’m asked, “have you forgiven your abuser?”
At first, I have to admit, I didn’t really know how to respond. I was taken aback. Shocked actually. Of all the questions I expected, this was not one of them. Initially I deflected. Because in truth, I had not even given it consideration. I was so focused on keeping my abuser away from more children, so intent on preventing more children from going through what I did, and so preoccupied with helping support other survivors of CSA that it never entered my thought process. Until now.
Now I was forced to face a daunting challenge. You see, my dilemma is this. My spiritual background is Protestant. And within that Protestant faith was a teaching that we were to forgive as we are forgiven. So it says right in The Lords Prayer. On the flip side was my heart. Having been torn apart by a man who has molested, raped and sexually abused an untold number of little boys. How do I forgive that?
So I did something it took me a long time to do after having felt betrayed by the very God that my abuser claimed to represent. I spent an awful lot of time in prayer and study. I went to every doctrine of various faiths and religious texts I could find having to do with forgiveness. And time and time again I saw, forgive as you are forgiven. Jesus, Gandhi, no matter the reference, If you don’t forgive, how can you expect to be forgiven? We’re these folks right? Was I supposed to forgive this most heinous of crimes perpetrated against myself and all those other little boys?
In all the passages, texts, quotes from people of faith, when they spoke of forgiveness, they did so when addressing those who had faith, who held in their hearts a belief in repentance for transgressions. Even those that had done them wrong.
But is was while having a bible study with my fiancé Linda that we came across the scripture that opened my eyes. My spiritual eyes, and my heart.
In Matthew 6:14-15 it talks about forgiveness. And most of this chapter has to do with Jesus explaining to his followers how to do certain things. How to pray, fast, etc. And as we read and prayed we began to understand. Jesus was talking about Christians forgiving other Christians, not about forgiving the unrepentant.
So this led me to a question. Is it within my ability to forgive someone who does not have faith or who has no regret or repentance? This led me to an even deeper question from a trusted friend and man who has spent his entire adult life in study and prayer. He posed the following query, “Is a person without faith or repentance even capable of receiving my forgiveness?”
I was blown away.
Rather than paraphrasing, I will simply let him explain in his own scholarly, yet layman terms.
“Until someone has been first forgiven by God unto salvation through Christ we do not have the ability to forgive them. I will take it a step further, until a person has become forgiven by God unto salvation they are incapable of recieving human forgiveness. Only God can forgive a non Christian. That is not to say that we should not pray for their forgivness. By praying that the non Christian be forgiven by God helps us deal with the wrong done to us by that person and help’s God understand our need to forgive…Hope that is not too confusing, for most Christians do not understand that part of forgivness. Certainly, you may offer forgivness by a non Christian, but still until that person is forgiven by God for his orginal sin forgiveness can’t be recieved by the non christian.”
And this led me to an even greater insight. To those who said, you must forgive to be forgiven, if that were the case, it would mean there are stipulations to my faith. A “work or act” I must do. And any Protestant who knows their faith, knows we do not come to our faith through works or acts. It is by faith alone.
So not only am I not responsible for forgiving my abuser; until he is repentant, he is incapable of receiving human forgiveness for any transgressions.
That doesn’t mean we, or rather I, am recused from praying for the faith of this particular person. But at least now I have the honest belief that it’s not my job to forgive him. That’s between God and him. And honestly, I don’t believe someone capable of such things wants redemption. Not when he’s looked me in the eye, cried crocodile tears saying he didn’t do that anymore, only to find out he was molesting at least two boys when he told me that. So he’s a pathological liar, pedophile and God only knows what else.
Ultimately I believe that forgiveness, with regard to the abused, is the most individual of decisions. I believe there is more than one way to skin the “forgiveness” cat. For some, they find it helpful. For me, it’s not necessary. I have no need of it for my healing. And that’s what it’s all about. No matter which way a survivor goes, as long as they find healing and not vengeance or bitterness in it, it’s a positive.
The bottom line, my focus is on my recovery, healing and that of others that have been through what I have. I know now my calling is to do all I can to educate parents on how to better protect their children and help survivors heal. And I don’t need a burning bush or talking mule to figure that out!


Author: Together We Heal

David Pittman spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. There is a real need to change statute of limitation laws on child molestation and sexual abuse. We are here to help promote that change and provide a safe forum for victims of abuse to share, learn and heal. “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Please follow us on Twitter @Together_WeHeal


Helen Hanson said...

A wise friend of mine said that she looked upon child rapists as having been "given over" to their sin. Recidivism is the norm with them. My Christian writing group was contacted by an inmate who wanted us to critique his work. One of the members brought his manuscript to our meeting. His story began with bewilderment at what was happening to him, his children cowering in fear at the arrival of the police. Then he launched into a sermon. Not great writing. The two halves of the manuscript didn’t belong together. But, the dude’s in prison. We all wanted to know: what was his crime?
A month later, after inquiry, we received an incomplete explanation about him being labeled a sex offender and another sermon. I announced at the meeting that he was probably a child rapist. A few thought my assessment a little harsh. I looked him up online and found that he was indeed a former pastor who had repeatedly raped and terrorized two boys from his church.
Can God move a heart of stone? Absolutely, he moved mine. But we can’t judge hearts, only the fruit of our labor. I saw no sign of repentance in this man’s writing. No comprehension of the violence and horror he’d inflicted. No shame at presuming to be able to interpret God’s word for others. He saw himself as a victim thrown into an environment that was beneath him.
That’s what I call evil. It’s never been man’s job to forgive evil. Personally, I think God wants us to bring our anger and pain to him. Socially, we need to prevent these animals from ever harming another innocent child.
May God bless you and lift you. May His peace fill you with contentment.

The Stepmom said...

Very interesting thoughts. Forgiveness is something I too have been spending quite a bit of time and prayer on recently.

If you're interested in checking out another point of view, I would suggest checking out Corrie Ten Boom. You may be familiar with her, but if not, in short, she and her family smuggled jews out of Holland during the 2nd world war. Eventually the family was captured (after being betrayed by friends) and sent to concentration camps where her father, brother, and sister all died. Only she was left, and released by accident shortly before she would have been killed. She shares her own findings from the Bible on forgiveness that I've found very helpful. You can check out some of her speaking here as well as looking at several books that were written by and about her. I hope this is helpful!

The Stepmom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I really appreciated reading this post. Although I am female and atheist, this question of forgiveness is one that folks still bring up when they find out that I'm an incest survivor.
I've gone 'round and 'round about the semantics of forgiveness and whether they apply to my state of mind.
It's been 22 years since my abuse ended. I've had about 8 years of intense therapy and work hard to support my own mental health. I consider myself happy and well-adjusted at this stage in my life and I have not forgiven my abuser, nor do I intend to.
Folks who say that all survivors must practice forgiveness in order to heal are mistaken. Like anything else in life, recovery from abuse is a unique and personal path.

Anonymous said...

With respect to forgiveness of a sexual abuser, especially a member of the clergy, I feel that the following scriptures deal with this issue well:

Luke 17:1-2: "1Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Matthew 18:5-6: "5And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Mark 9:42: "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."


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