From my experience with my recovery and communicating with others about their recovery, it’s clear that we all have very different interpretations of what it means to forgive. Depending on many factors such as our religious beliefs, spirituality, and life experiences, we put various degrees of importance on forgiving our tormentor(s) and even define “forgiveness” to suit our plan. The beauty of this community is that we respect each other’s interpretations and give each other room to grow and recover unrestricted and at a pace and with the tools that work best.

Unfortunately, it’s the folks who have not experienced the extreme effects of emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial abuse who seem to have the most criticism of how we choose to heal and move forward. I think many on the outside of sociopath/narcissist abuse fool themselves and judge many survivors with regards to forgiveness. These seemingly, well-meaning folks insist that we must forgive, according to the traditional “rules” of forgiveness, otherwise, we won’t be able to free ourselves from all that hate inside of us. 

I think this is rather presumptuous and unfair and a burden to recovery as it relates to freeing ourselves from self-blame and self-shame. The self-righteous are forcing me to believe that my inability to forgive is a hindrance and that because I refuse to forgive, I most assuredly am carrying around a bunch of hate that’s blocking me and holding me back?

(Thanks for informing me that I carry around something that I didn’t know I was carrying. What else do you see in my soul that I don’t? Please, I’d really like to know, oh great and powerful one.)

Just because many of us, including myself, do not forgive our sociopath/narcissist, doesn’t mean we hold hate in our heart. Neither forgiveness nor hate depend on the other. The presence of one does not mean the presence or absence of the other. There is no direct equation that links the two. It’s a myth.

(Probably one of those myths a sociopath created so we WOULD feel obligated to forgive him!)

Just because I won’t forgive doesn’t mean I hate. And it shouldn’t be assumed that the people who choose to forgive do not hold hate and contempt within their hearts.

I forgive myself and all of the pain I caused my family and loved ones. I still hate what I did, and I still hate the person I was. I’m allowed to feel that hate. That hate doesn’t keep me stuck despite what all those self-righteous folks think who preach that forgiveness is the only path to freedom.

It isn’t.

I do not forgive the sociopath, the person who ignored my direct questions regarding his behavior, lies, and abuses against myself and my son. I hated the sociopath for being so spineless and for hiring a lawyer in an attempt (a failed attempt) to force me to end my questions…I absolutely hated the coward. I was allowed to hate him. I was allowed to wish for him to suffer like I suffered. I wished a lot of things upon him that came from a place of extreme hate.

Today, however, after much internal work and meditation, I’ve accepted that the sociopath is what he is. I no longer hate him, and I’ve moved beyond feeling sorry for him, too. But I refuse to forgive the creep, the abuser, the despicable human I once trusted with myself and my son. After all, he has never claimed accountability for his behavior nor acknowledged any of my accusations. According to his delusions, he did nothing wrong. According to him, what I think and feel does not matter.

What I do feel for him is indifference. Other than using what I know of him to apply to sociopath awareness, I am indifferent to the sociopath today. If he succeeds in hurting others, oh well, it’s out of my control; but I will never stop hoping for peace for his victims. If he gets hit by a bus tomorrow, oh well, one less asshole the world has to worry about dodging.

I don’t hate him, because I truly do not care about him.

Hate and love require energy and a bond, as does forgiveness. I don’t feel the bond, so my need to forgive doesn’t even enter my consciousness (until someone tries preaching to me about how I should forgive).

Maybe it is important to clearly define what the idea of forgiveness means to you. Clearly defining it may prevent you from getting wrapped up in feeling guilty the next time someone starts preaching to you about “moving on” and “getting over” the abuse through forgiveness.

Forgiveness to me means indifference. So according to my definition, I forgive the sociopath; I am indifferent to him.

(Hey, sociopaths redefine history everyday. Why can’t we redefine what  “forgiveness” means to our recovery?)

How do you define your idea of forgiveness?

Namaste!
~Paula

Category:
abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Forgiveness, Love, Mental Health, mindfulness, Narcissist, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Sociopath, NPD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychopaths, PTSD, Rape, Recovery, Relationships, Self Improvement, Sociopaths, Spirituality
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Join the conversation! 47 Comments

  1. I only just found this excellent blog through a link and it helped to clarify much for me. I love those who wrote that the abuser is in no way concerned with/about our forgiveness since in their eyes it was justified and we probably caused it simply by being real and vulnerable. It takes a long time for the penny to drop that they in no way care about us in a true empathetic way of which they are incapable and to realise they will callously turn the tables on us if we try to point it out. The best remedy is to wake up to the truth let go and move on. Healing starts from then and there. To realise we didn’t deserve it and yet it was a lesson. We deserve better and must commit ourselves to that. Loving self care and showing our empathy to those who deserve it, most especially ourselves.

    Just one final point. I went through a Catholic education and we were taught to forgive and that we wrong if we didn’t, most especially abusive nuns, this conditioning can keep us trapped for a long long time.

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  2. I think forgiveness should be up to the individual victim. I agree that I no longer feel hate because it would require me to feel…and if he got run over by a bus tomorrow
    ..I wouldn’t shed any tears;). But I do forgive him. It took a very long time and it required me to come to a place where i longer had any residual feelings. But over a year out and with no contact ,I do forgive. I forgive because I need to for my peace of mind. I needed to feel it to set myself free. I believe that somebody in his life probably hurt him in a way that I have never been hurt. That doesn’t justify his behavior by any means…I forgive him;) and I’m grateful for the experience because I wake up everyday and thank God for where I am. For who I am. I am thankful for my safety and my ability to feel. To know what love and intimacy feel like. He will never know how anything real feels. He is souless..
    He is doomed to an empty and meaningless exsistance. And knowing that is enough for me:) Whether to forgive or not should be up to each individual.

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  3. […] Oh, dear, not another post about forgiveness! #sociopath #abuse #recovery […]

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  4. […] Oh, dear, not another post about forgiveness! #sociopath #abuse #recovery […]

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    • i was taught to believe that forgiveness was to help you continue in a relationship with someone and act as if the behaviour did not occur- because we all do shit and we are all assholes at some level-and this is so with average people who do things that hurt but do not threaten the relationship society. but there are people and situations that go over the line and society should not forgive, for to do so places us all in danger-god has given us a full range of emotions and none of them are bad, but should used in the appropriate situations-if you forgive a sociopath he will just think you are stupid and a sucker, not a nice person-he will only respect people who set boundaries and are prepared to enforce them-so ask yourself if you have the time and energy to do this? if there is no bond there can be apathy but this is not forgiveness and if you are in a forced relationship you don’t have the luxury of that-but you can warn others

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  5. I’m ready for any backlash I may receive, but it’s okay! 🙂 I know most of us are in pain; I hope this doesn’t offend anyone. I just had to write.

    When you hold a grudge against someone else, it’s like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die.

    I have to forgive. I’ve been abused, but I also know that if I don’t forgive, I’ll still carry it around with me forever. I’m not FORGETTING, but I’m forgiving. You know why? Because of a book I read titled: “Left to Tell”, about a young Rwandan woman whose entire family, save for her brother, were killed by the Hutus. She had to live in a small bathroom with 5 women and one little girl for 91 days. She was a skeleton when she got out. She visited the man (who murdered her family and friends) while he was in prison. He was a pathetic little man sitting behind bars. He was ready for her to scream and yell at him. She said to him: “I forgive you.”

    “Ilibagiza’s remarkable path to forgiving the perpetrators and releasing her anger is a beacon to others who have suffered injustice….This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind’s seemingly bottomless depravity.”

    I

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    • Thank you for commenting and sharing your side of the issue. I’d like to add that just because someone chooses not to forgive or chooses to call a spade a spade doesn’t mean they are holding a grudge. That’s an unfortunate assumption you make. And this woman’s story is tragic, but she actually received justice, much more than most, because the murderer of her family sits in prison and is serving consequences.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post and wonderful comments which I can relate to totally, especially the bit about having total indifference to your narc (in my case my mother) . Thanks everyone for sharing.

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  7. […] Oh, dear, not another post about forgiveness! #sociopath #abuse #recovery […]

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  8. Love this for several reasons. I like what you say that hate and love require a bond. Many of us are able to move beyond hate because we move on, fill our lives up and don’t have space to care about the sociopath any longer. However, I agree with you- forgiveness is another story. I feel we are each here on this Earth to grow and learn. I do not have to forgive or understand those who do not take up this task and instead use and belittle those who are trying. IN fact, I find such actions unforgivable.

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  9. Hi there, thanks for posting this.. it brought up some things. What does forgiveness mean to me? It means no longer tripping or stuttering when I confront the person I have an issue with. I guess forgiveness, reallll authentic forgiveness, means no longer placing such a crucial role on the one person who did the most damage. I think forgiveness requires an ability to replace the focus on whoever it is that wronged you, and basically place it back on yourself. It means taking back your own power. Its having the ability to learn from the experience without it impacting how you look at yourself. It’s the ability to look at the situation totally objectively and peel off what u don’t need like a dead leaf. It means never losing yourself in hatred like I did for many many years. It means being master of your own domain..no matter what the circumstances.

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  10. Paula, you’re so right. As far as I’m concerned, to hand our forgiveness to our abusers on a platter is just another way to enable them. From a spiritual perspective, it’s the opposite of a compassionate response. A compassionate response is the one that allows another human being to become all they can be; to grow in maturity and spirit.

    I haven’t forgiven mine either and don’t foresee it in the near future. The man destroyed my health, my life, my career path…and took my home from me. I blog about it now as a means to reach out to others and help educate and enlighten. I’ve walked the path and have done much study on the subject over the past 11 months; all of which has helped my own healing. It appalls me to discover so many others like myself who have been through this form of torture in their lifetime, and rather think a collective ‘No!’ would bring about change more rapidly than a begrudging forgiveness. I look forward to reading more of your blog…a quick peek has me intrigued.

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    • Our numbers keep growing, too, which is a good thing when it comes to creating a really loud and really powerful collective voice. I’ve been out here writing for a little over two years and have watched a lot of healing take place. Beauty out of the ashes. 🙂 ❤

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  11. Reblogged this on An Upturned Soul and commented:
    Brilliant post! And very worth reading if you are struggling with the concept of forgiveness.

    This issue comes up a lot when trying to recover from a traumatic relationship. Especially when other people weigh in on our story.

    I discussed this in a reply to a recent comment on one of my posts – Forgive and Forget and F*** Yourself Over and Over Again – and in my reply I said this:

    “Forgiving a narcissist is more about forgiving ourselves for having loved them and allowed ourselves to get caught up in their reality. For having been fooled by them and for having denied our own truth to support their version of it. So we really need to focus on cutting ourselves some slack, being gentle with ourselves, being compassionate towards ourselves. Forgiving ourselves.

    They don’t really need our forgiveness, they’ll just waste it if we give it to them, use it against us, but we do need it. But as always we get caught up in what they need and forget our own needs, and that festers.

    Other people (interfering) tell us to forgive them, but what do they mean by that? If this had happened to them, would they forgive as easily as they expect us to do so? Most people tell us to forgive people like narcissists because 1) they don’t want to hear about our problems anymore, they want us to shut up. 2) It sounds like the sort of thing a ‘good’ person would say and they see themselves as being a ‘good’ person. 3) They can’t think of anything else to say. 4) They feel superior when they say it, and they’re fairly certain that nothing like this would ever happen to them. 5) they’ve never been in a relationship with a narcissist, don’t understand the situation and think (as perhaps we used to) that all people are good and sometimes do bad things, and thus should be forgiven and given another chance, or at least a chance to make amends. There are other reasons, I’m sure.”

    As I see it, the only person to whom you owe forgiveness is yourself. Everyone else can take care of themselves. If someone is pressuring you to forgive someone else before you are ready or willing to do so – ask yourself why they need you to do something which you are not ready or willing to do. What is their vested interest? And if you do what they want you to do, perhaps to win their approval or because you feel you should, who has to deal with the consequences of that – them or you?

    Take care of yourself, look after yourself, focus on what you need to do for yourself.

    Thank you for sharing this, Paula. Great post from an inspiring soul!

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    • Thank you for the reblog and kind words, Anupturnedsoul! ❤

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    • Hey there,

      I hope you don’t hate me for writing this, but I forgave my narc; not for him, but for ME. I forgive myself too for getting involved with him. I feel that if I don’t forgive myself, I’ll get involved with another abuser. I saw the flags, yet I did nothing. I hated him for so long, wanted something bad to happen to him, but that made me feel bad. So, I don’t hate him, I don’t love him, I don’t pity him, I don’t feel guilt anymore, but I do forgive him. But I will NEVER, EVER forget. The next relationship I will be in is going to be on equal footing.

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    • Conni, I think it’s great that you have gotten to this place! No one hates you because you forgive your abuser. I think most who read your comment will find hope and inspiration from it. 🙂

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  12. Some people do not deserve forgiveness. I gave gave gave …not giving him anymore! Including forgiveness and its only another wasted emotion…my love meant nothing so why would my forgiveness…that’s his indifference!! Hell, im still trying to forgive myself for giving and losing so much of myself to a soulless…@!#!!!!….And he wears his abuse on me like a badge of honor on his chest. If someone really loved and cared I think they knew they hurt you they want earn your forgiveness just like trust should be earned. Its all jacked up! Another thing why do people always make excuses for the abuser and pass judgement on the victim. TOTAL BS.

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    • It is very frustrating. It’s as if we are to bend over, take it, and not complain or even share the truth. People are mostly hypocrites, I am discovering.

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  13. Another great post but when I saw it in my inbox my first thought was,oh no,please don’t tell me Paula that I have to forgive the narcs in my life. Oh What relief as I read it as I too have issues with societal,but most espcially Christian view points on forgiveness. I don’t belive in forgiving someone who has not asked for forgiveness. I don’t believe in the adage of ,forgive and forget. How can one forget something henious that happened to them. What I do love is the definition given by Fred Luskins in Tela’s response,’ to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.” But maybe the word isn’t forgive that we need in our vocabulary because what Mr. Luskins really is describing is TRANSCENDENCE. I do not need to forgive the sociopath for my healing I need to transcend the exerience such that it does not define or limit who I chose to be from this point forward.

    ps I also love what your mother said–it’s not up to us anyway. It’s between them and God. Yeah now I can release any guilt I have had about not forgiving and just transcend the shit in life.

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  14. Great writing. This is Lynna, My Sociopath, didn’t log into my wordpress account, hehe. I just elaborated on this on My Sociopath facebook page and linked it back to your article. Thank you for the inspiration!

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  15. Paula, I so enjoy your writing. You are one of the most honest, lay your cards on the table, this is how it is writers I’ve read, it’s such a pleasure to read your words, I so respect your honesty. Su x

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    • Thank you so much! 🙂 ❤

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    • Sorry I’m meaning to comment on Paula’s post not this comment… For some reason my phone wouldn’t let me comment unless it was on a reply. Anyway, Paula- what you explained about “indifference;” that can definitely be part of forgiveness! To me, forgiveness is letting go. Forgiveness is rising above your emotional attachment to a person, the situation and the feelings resulting from that. Forgiveness is for the forgiver not the forgiven. It lightens your load. Just cuz you forgive someone doesn’t mean you hafta have any kind of loving relationship with them… or even cordial feelings for them… I wouldn’t wish my abusers dead but I wouldn’t give a damn of they died either and that’s ok. That is still forgiveness cuz I’m detached (in a good way).

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    • Thank you, anonymous. It’s important none of us feel like we are failing at our healing and recovery just because we choose to “forgive” in our own productive and thoughtful ways. 🙂

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  16. A happy day is one that ends with a wisp of a thought that leaves as quickly as it passes by…usually late a night when I’m drifting off to sleep….the knowledge that for one entire day my N didn’t cross my paths, either consciously or in dreams….today wasn’t interrupted with a sudden shudder, a flashback, sadness from a memory of stolen dreams. I didn’t freeze at the mention of his name by a friend, I didn’t run to re read a blog on No Contact when coming across an old email thought to be long sent to the trash bin, I didn’t look in my spam file for any new messages….it is as if he never existed. If that’s forgiveness then okay, if that’s indifference, then okay, if that’s healing, then okay because in that moment of realization I am aware of how truly happy and content I have grown and it will only get better.

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    • Wow, Pam. Thank you. You captured what I think we all eventually feel and have felt. The sudden realization that the sociopath/narc didn’t take up space in our day in any way. 🙂

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  17. Forgiveness in this situation does not apply. This person is a psychological aberrancy. All descriptions representing a “normal” human being does not apply. The focus for me is on the innocent people continuing to interface with this person. Exposing their behavior through legal channels to prevent further damage and removal of the innocent will help us to move forward with our lives.

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  18. remember thepsychopathis voidof any feelings of wrong our conscienceto them they never did anything wrong ever they’re perfect

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  19. “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
    Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.
    Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.” fred luskins

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    • Why can’t everyone’s definition of forgiveness be like Fred’s? Thank you, Tela. 🙂

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    • Yes! That’s the proper definition for forgiveness. That’s what i teach. Paula- what you explained about “indifference;” that can definitely be part of forgiveness! From what I understand, forgiveness is letting go. Forgiveness is rising above your emotional attachment to a person, the situation and the feelings resulting from that. Forgiveness is for the forgiver not the forgiven. It lightens your load. Just cuz you forgive someone doesn’t mean you hafta have any kind of loving relationship with them… or even cordial feelings for them… I wouldn’t wish my abusers dead but I wouldn’t give a damn of they died either and that’s ok. That is still forgiveness cuz I’m detached (in a good way).

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  20. Deep subject…I became indifferent toward my abuser, but still the anger surfaces when I see the effects of continued emotional abuse of our children after their visits…it is hard work to move on and stay the path when there are reminders of the abuse-triggers…everywhere. At least I CAN move…being out of the abusive environment! JOY💜

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    • Army of Angels, I would never claim to understand fully the extent of the anger you must feel knowing and directly seeing how this person continues to hurt and impact your children’s perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. But because you are aware of your anger and its source, you are empowered to detach from and suppress it as you need to, so you can be there for your children emotionally and spiritually. I think anger makes us more determined to overcome our circumstances. Anger serves us in many profound and positive ways. If it were not for my anger, I never would have started writing about what I experienced…I’d still be alone, probably, struggling to live. 🙂 ❤

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  21. for me forgiveness is a selfish thing, in the sense that I am on a journey now to accept and forgive myself for how I have come to feel – the things I wrote – the perceived need to expose the narcissist – I am letting all that go and coming via no contact to forgive myself of my confusion when confronted with the covertly malignant cancer that was the narcissist and his cabal of sick minded sidekicks…

    like you say – what they have affected – how their abuse manifests in your life is done – it is as it is – whatever… I find now in these recent days that I do other things – that I meet other people – that I have nice times and that I am coming to be happier inside me…

    those moments tell me more about me and nothing about the narcissist nightmare – I come to seek to forget or rather than forget become indifferent to what they did… I recognise that they were so fearful of me and my energy and intelligence – of my opinions and the regard to which I was held that they had to attack it – what I see there is not now what I have lost but that thing the narcissist was fearful of…

    I am those things – I am a loving man full of thought – full of wonder… maybe I will come to be thankful for this time where I am reflecting on this fact… rebuilding that man as he was but now only better – stronger – more aware… fully compassionate in how he engages with his world…

    your articles are beautifully felt Paula – thank you…

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    • I think it is wonderful that you are able to see yourself in such ways, silkred. You ARE all of those wonderful things that the narcissist rejected and feared. That is a very clear and thought-provoking approach. You understand that what you did and how you reacted and THOSE are the things you choose to forgive and grow from. Becoming indifferent to the acts of the narcissist is simple from that place. 🙂

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  22. Reblogged this on Ladywithatruck's Blog and commented:
    Paula hit the nail on the head with this post.

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  23. Paula I apologize in advance for the length of this reply, I know I am going to ramble on because this is one of the issues that I have had many discussion about on my blog and with others. I agree with you 110%. I do not think forgiveness is necessary to heal but I do think a bit of anger is extremely helpful when leaving the N. The problem most victims have had is, they are too forgiving and have forgiven far too many times to their own detriment. The Narcissist/psychopath/sociopath
    (abuser) uses it as a tool to manipulate the victim and hurt them further.
    The only forgiven needed in order to heal is the victim forgiving themselves, the guilt of staying with their abuser and what they put their loved ones through and the destruction of their life they inadvertently allowed; is much more important that any forgiveness shown the abuser.
    The abuser doesn’t even want to be forgiven, he thinks he is justified in what he does, he doesn’t lose sleep at night because of what he does, the only time he loses sleep is because he is plotting his next move in the destruction of his present victim.
    I( don’t hate, I don’t care what he is doing or I don’t wish him ill will but I don’t forgive him and I don’t feel guilty about that. He used my forgiveness and compassion to destroy me, financially, emotionally, physically and continues to make attempts at ruining my life, more than 3 years after I left him.
    I see red when I am told to “let it go” “forgive and forget”, I “turned the other cheek” and got punched in the head for it.
    Occasionally I get a visitor to my site that says they healed through forgiveness of the abuser and if that is what works for them I am behind them 100%, but it doesn’t mean it works for everyone. I think anger is normal and healthy when someone tries to destroy you and can be a big help in healing. To obsess about the abuser and exactly revenge is not healthy, ambivalence is what I consider healed.
    To me healed means not caring one way or the other what the abuser is doing as long as he stays away and leaves me alone. Like you, I don’t get angry about my ex until someone tells me I “should” forgive him, then I am flooded with memories of the times I forgave and he took my forgiveness and purposely, methodically and plotted to use and abuse me further. If I would have ever seen any genuine remorse or attempt to change his behavior I would consider forgiveness but I have seen NONE.
    People say it is not up to us to judge and to leave it in God’s hands. Well, I believe God will forgive me for not forgiving and I am willing to take my chances that he will understand why I won’t forgive my abuser. People who judge the victim’s for not forgiving need to keep their opinions to themselves until they have walked in the victim’s shoes and even then, leave the judging in God’s hands. grrrrrr I will get off my soap box now, forgive me for ranting! Hugs to you Paula once again you hit it out of the park.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, yes, yes!! I struggled with forgiveness for a long time. Then my mother, who is a very faithful Christian said to me, “Paula, it is not in your power to forgive this person. It’s up to God. It’s between him and God. Worry about releasing and freeing yourself from that guilt.”

      You’re right, Carrie! They don’t care to be forgiven. They probably find it funny we struggled with the idea in the first place! And who is guilting whom? Not God. God doesn’t want to guilt any of us into forgiving someone who doesn’t even care if he is forgiven. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I, too, was told I needed to forgive to move on and have now discovered that forgiveness is not only impossible for me but definitely not needed or wanted by the N. Rage was a newly observed emotion for me and I agree with Carrie. It was sorely needed to get thru the leaving, this nasty divorce, and fueling my NO CONTACT. I have to constantly remind myself that this man doesn’t care and doesn’t want my forgiveness. According to how I see it. even God requires us to acknowledge our sins in order to be forgiven. If the N doesn’t acknowledge he did anything wrong, how can I be expected to forgive? I cannot do what God himself cannot do.

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    • Absolutely, Dennis. How can we expect to accomplish something that even God must find to be a difficult task? 🙂

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