What Forgiveness is NOT…
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)
One of the steps in healing from Narcissistic Abuse includes the act of forgiveness. Holding on to the pain of the past can stunt your growth in moving past it and this is why forgiveness is necessary. For those of us who are Christians, we know that God requires for us to forgive one another so that we may be forgiven. But you may ask yourself, “What does the act of forgiving entail?” I’m glad you asked! One thing that we do not want to do is to confuse forgiveness with allowing someone to reinjure you or in other words, to keep harming you. That is not forgiveness but self-sabotage by prematurely reconciling with someone who has not or will not change. This needs to be clearly understood by those especially in the Christian community who either are or have been abused and feel the need to allow the abuser to reenter their immediate space based on a false understanding of forgiveness. So, let’s address what forgiveness really is and what it does NOT include.
Meridian-Webster defines forgiveness as the following:
Definition of forgive
forgave play \fər-ˈgāv, fȯr-\; forgiven play \fər-ˈgi-vən, fȯr-\; forgiving
1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon forgive one's enemies
2 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for *forgive an insult
b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt
If we were to go off of the Meridian-Webster definition alone, it would involve no longer being angry, bitter, or seeking to avenge a wrong that was done by the offending party. Forgiveness also does not keep records of wrong, but we will revisit this particular issue in just a moment because there is more to this than meets the eye. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV) When we forgive someone, we are showing them an act of love. We are letting go of the right to be resentful and the right to take vengeance on what they have done. We are giving them an olive branch by letting them know that even though they have wronged us, we will treat them with respect and dignity as if the event had never taken place. However, forgiveness does not mean that you must allow that person to hurt you again.
Forgiveness does not mean that you have to agree with the harm that a person has done to you. For example, it is not okay that your spouse beat you the other night and sent you to the emergency room where you had to get stitches. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that you are making it acceptable for them to offend you again. Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” (NIV) Condoning bad behavior it not a part of forgiveness and the victim must make it clear that that action that was done to them will not be tolerated in the future. You are not a person’s welcome mat where they can treat you any kind of way. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Forgiveness does not include sweeping the offense under the rug. Some people, especially Christians feel that if I forgive someone, I must cover up and pretend that the abuse never took place. They feel that if they talk about something that happened to them – something that has never been addressed, that they are being unloving and unforgiving. This is not the case! A person who has been abused has the absolute right to acknowledge that an offense has taken place and have the absolute right to address the party who has done the offense. Sweeping it under the rug does no good for the person who has been abused as well as for the person who obviously needs help who was the aggressor. We see this with the story of David when he had an innocent man killed to cover up his sin. 2 Samuel 12:13-15 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (NIV) God forgave David after he admitted to his offense, but God first addressed the issue and did not allow David to think that he was getting away with anything.
A part of forgiveness includes the offending party admitting to doing you wrong. This is a tricky one here because many people have such a callous heart that they will never admit to any wrongdoing. Acts 26:20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. (NIV) Not only should the offending party admit to what they have done, but they should STOP doing it. If a person says I’m sorry and yet, shows no sense of change in their actions, then their lips were only moving, but their heart remained unchanged. You must then forgive them independent of their actions, BUT reconciliation with this person does not have to take place. Matthew 18:17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV) Jesus was giving the order of how forgiveness and disputes were to be handled. If you have asked a person to stop hurting you, if you have tried to get help from others, if the abuser refuses to listen to anyone and stop the abuse then you are to discontinue your relationship with that person regardless of who they are.
God does NOT condone abuse. Forgiveness does NOT include allowing someone to keep abusing you time and time again. Even God has His limitations as you can see throughout the Bible when God will give man a chance to repent, but if he fails to do so, then the judgment will come. Why is there a hell? It is there for those who remain unrepentant and continue living in their wickedness. Yes, God is a forgiving God but even He will not tolerate abuses done by His creation towards Him. Someday, it will all end and for you, it must end as well. Forgiveness is for you and not so much the other person. You must forgive so that you can be a better person and grow stronger in your healing process, but it is important to remember that forgiveness NOT include reinjury even for Christians.