How to Forgive People Who Have Abused You

Dec 24, 2009 No Comments by

One of the most challenging aspects of forgiveness comes in the wake of abuse. When you’ve been the victim of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, your rights have been violated. Even as you begin to rebuild your life, you may struggle with the question of how to forgive acts that seem, at first glance, to be beyond forgiveness. For some of us, it can even seem as though forgiving our abusers might be the equivalent of validating their behavior against us. However, you can still find a path to forgiveness—albeit not an easy one—even in the wake of unspeakable abuse. If you are fortunate enough to find a private rehab program with a holistic recovery emphasis, you can work with drug and alcohol counselors to find forgiveness that can help you break the bonds of attachment to those who have wronged you. This can be an important part of your healing process, as you overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

How to Forgive People Who Have Abused You

Those who have abused you do not “deserve” your forgiveness—but then, forgiveness centers more around grace and freedom than it does around justice. Even when we have been abused and treated unjustly, we can still find forgiveness for abusers, with time and healing. When we come to the place of true forgiveness towards abusers, we find greater growth and freedom in our own journey towards healing. Here are a few strategies for those finding it difficult to forgive abuse perpetrated against them.

  • View Forgiveness as a Choice
    Few of us feel the urge to forgive when we have been abused. Forgiveness often a choice to let go past wrongs, and move forward with our lives. However, few of us can “force” the desire to forgive until we have fully confronted the ramifications of the abuse we’ve suffered, and found safety and healing. Make the long-term choice to find forgiveness for your abuser, and seek out avenues of healing for yourself.

  • Let Go of Bitterness
    Feeling angry and resentful over abuse is normal—however, it has a downside, too. Bitterness and resentment perpetuate our ties to the abuser—we become too heavily invested in the outcome of an abuser’s life, or our own revenge fantasies. No one who treats you with abuse is worth your future, your health, or your time. Letting go of unforgiveness can often become a route to true emotional freedom.
  • Treat Forgiveness as a Process
    Forgiveness isn’t an instant event, but a continual process. Be patient with yourself, realizing that feelings of anger and unforgiveness may be necessary at a certain initial stage of healing. When negative thoughts come, make a choice to opt for forgiving ones instead. Avoid minimizing your abuse in order to justify forgiveness. Simply allow yourself to slowly move forward, taking the lessons the Universe has for you from your experience.

  • Trust the Universe
    Trusting the Universe, God, or society is one way to help foster forgiveness. Abuse will never be rewarded in the long haul—and justice or change will come on your behalf. Trust that the Universe will take care of your needs, guiding you down your life’s path, even in the wake of the abuse you have experienced. Often, we hold on to unforgiveness as a means of control, or as a hope for justice. Recognize that while we may not be able to control every outcome, positive acts will bring positive gains, and negative ones will never prosper.
  • Find Empathy for Your Abuser
    Finding empathy for those who have abused us can be an extremely difficult task. Perhaps our abusers have shown no remorse for their actions. Perhaps they have truly acted without conscience towards us. However, a lack of empathy on the part of the abuser does not have to rob us of ours. Consider the pain the person may have acted out of—or the love and joy missing from a life of someone who treats others with hate and disrespect. Recognize that without bonding to or excusing the actions of your abuser, you can still find some humanity in him or her. Choose to forgive on this basis, and trust the Universe to take care of the rest. Also, pay attention to times you have wronged others (perhaps during your alcohol and drug addiction), and remember that the same grace that led them to forgive you can help you find the keys to forgiveness for others’ actions.
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