Moving On | Choose your lifeMoving On | Choose your life
Safe Passage Foundation - Support to youth raised in high demand organizations

Saturday, January 31, 2009    

Home | New Content | Statistics | Games | FAQs

Getting Through : Dealing


from GoldenMic - Wednesday, March 28, 2007
accessed 1065 times

Adressing the potential value and limitations of forgiveness in the healing process.

Hi, I am a cult survivor, an SGA from a tiny little cult known as Isot up in northern California. I was there until I turned 25, and have been gone for 25 years. In addition, I have been a licensed counselor (pardon the inherent irony of my occupation), married, with two children. For the last five years I have been active in cult recovery and healing, including work with the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). This year I am doing a presentation in Brussels on the clinical aspects of forgiveness for cult survivors, addressing the issue of how forgiveness may be part of a survivor’s process of healing, though forgiveness is neither required or even always helpful, and certainly is not deserved by the scum who caused the damage (note a wee bit of antipathy and bias there).

Anyway, I am doing a presentation on forgiveness, including identifying where it can be helpful, and what features can make forgiveness more likely. I have listed some of the basic issues I am going to cover, and I wonder if anyone here would like to comment. Please feel free to offer thoughtful analysis and reaction, accusations about my bias or lack thereof, or you can offer other useful commentary (y’know, the positioning of various objects into various dark and meaningful places, facts about my parentage, etc…) letting me know how much you like being a test subject, guinea pig, or object of study by some jerk outsider, all comments I have made to others and will honestly attempt to receive with some grace, and without becoming defensive.

FORGIVENESS - This is NOT: “you need to forgive“, or “you should forgive”, but about asking ourselves to analyze our own current position on forgiveness.

One typical comment about relational forgiveness is “I forgive, but I don’t forget”. That often translates as “I want to SOUND and FEEL like a forgiver, but I don’t actually forgive you”.

Forgiveness has little to do with forgetting, erasing the memory, or pretending that a wrong thing is somehow turned in to a right thing. The wrong is done, and that wrongness remains a fact, bearing its own consequences.

We do NOT have to forgive. We have every right to hang on to our sense of being wronged. However, sometimes that hanging on becomes a poison to our soul, warping our lives, and we then may feel the need to forgive, to let go, FOR OUR OWN SAKE. Sometimes we let go of a thing in order to free ourselves of the anger and the bitterness, whether or not the wrongdoer deserves it or not.

The advise of friends, platitudes, and idealistic sayings about the “should” - “should-not” of forgiveness tells us only what others want us to do, and has little value. They say we should never forgive, but they don’t have to carry the weight of hate and bitterness; or they counsel pious forgiveness of every wrong, as if we can grant forgiveness just because it may be the holy or righteous thing to do, but its not their heart that has been damaged.

Of course, it IS easier to forgive a thing, wiping the slate clean, if the wrongdoer sincerely apologizes and changes. In these cases, we often benefit from having an opportunity to:

1) Tell the Story (establish the “narrative”) of how we were wronged. Ideally, this would eventually include the opportunity to tell my story to the oppressor, while that oppressor respectfully listens without defensiveness or justification.

2) Receive a sincere apology,

3) The making of amends where possible and appropriate, and

4) Clear evidence and policies and procedures to ensure that the wrong is not going to happen again.

Certainly, forgiveness is sometimes necessary for my own sake. While we do not OWE forgiveness, if we cannot grant it, many relationships will whither and die. It may be true that I cannot grant forgiveness, the pain being too fresh or too painful or simply unforgivable. If this is the case, if forgiveness is not going to be available in a relationship, might it be better to free ourselves and the other from the ensuing guilt and revenge and resentment? Maybe we should seek distance from that person, since the relationship is surely doomed without forgiveness. Seeking vengeance or retribution does feel good, but in the end, it may make us into people who have simply learned to justify and excuse ways we consciously hurt others, and this may harden us and poison our soul.

Sometimes, understanding WHY a person did me wrong helps me let them off the hook. Also, sometimes I learn forgive others so I can learn to forgive myself.

Reader's comments on this article

Add a new comment on this article

from rainy
Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - 02:47

I'm going to get all deep and personal on you again, just because this is something that is an issue in my life at the moment.

my ex was awful. I don't want to go into full detail, but I will say briefly that I didn't expect ever to get away from him and live to talk about it. I didn't think what I have now, my freedom, was ever going to be an option. I was partially trapped psychologically, from his guilt and mind games and horrible systematic dessimation of my spirit, and partially from a very real fear that he would kill me and my family if I ever made the attempt. After leaving him (with police assistance)I had the awful task of writing down all the things I suffered. Those papers are in the top of my closet, and if I even begin to read them, I shake and cry and feel so angry.


He was suffering the most awful depression and alcoholism when I was with him. After I left, he went into rehab, and I do believe that he has not had even a sip of alcohol since. He has spent this time doing whatever he can possibly do to try and put things right. He knows that he has no right to ask me to come back, and I never will go back. But we have a son. He loves his son very much and very genuinely. I can see this. And over the past couple of years, he has proved himself trustworthy and that he wants a relationship with his child. My little boy certainly wants a relationship with his dad too.

So I find myself forgiving. I worry that it is my weak character. But I'm not giving in to him. He is now like he was when I first met him, all the things that clicked with us are still there, and I can quite comfortably be in his company, and feel quite secure in the knowledge that I now belong soley to myself. He says he wants me to tell him in detail all that I suffered, and how bad he was. Just because he wants to make it right. I don't want him to feel that it will ever be alright, and I think he knows that. I am not healed. The pain is still fresh just below the surface. Yet, I forgive the person he is now. I'm ashamed I think, of the fact that I forgive him. But I look at him and see a good man who is deeply ashamed of his actions. I also see the evil manipulator and will not allow him to ever be close to me again. But I trust him not to be that way with our son. I think he wants to give our son strength and self confidence. He always wanted to do that.

Am I wrong to forgive? I'm not REALLY asking you, as I know that only I can know that. But that's a question always in my mind. I'm tortured by the question of who I would leave my son to if I were to die. His father, after all he's done? Strange as it may seem, I don't think anyone else can love him the way his dad does.
(reply to this comment)
From shins
Tuesday, September 04, 2007, 15:04

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Hi Rainy

Forgiveness is a very big and strong word although it is easy to say. Thing is, you can pretend to forgive but inside you don't really want to, because of the situation he put you in- and the situation you allowed yourself to be in for a period of time.

It is great to know that you are thinking of your son- however- does it matter whether you forgive him?, won't your son have the same relationship with his father?. If not- you shouldn't worry whether to forgive or not. If you don't want to, then don't. Simple. Tell him you don't forgive him. Simple. Its your life.

What if you had stayed and continued with that life?- would your husband still have managed to get help for your sake and your sons sake?- I doubt it. You were an easy catch and he preyed on you- until you realised you had feelings!.

Take one step at a time and enjoy your life with you son. Its your husbands problem now. If he wants his son to look up to him and be proud and all that- then he needs to fight for it- his turn!.

The Lord forgives those who asks for forgiveness, not your decision but do what you need to do for yourself.

Take care.x(reply to this comment

From Nick
Tuesday, April 03, 2007, 10:07

I think everyone deserves a 2nd chance. Just as long as they are able to show that they are sorry. I think your doing exactly what you should do. (reply to this comment
From vix
Tuesday, April 03, 2007, 03:20


In my humble opinion, no, you are not wrong to forgive, and you should not feel shame for doing so. I don't think it's a weakness in your character, in fact from what you say it seems like your strength in finally walking away from him might have helped him, too, to find the strength within himself to fight his demons. I think you know where your boundaries are (like you said, you'd never take him back) and were he ever to demonstrate that he could not be trusted to properly care for and love your son, I'm sure you'd walk away again.

(reply to this comment

From GoldenMic
Tuesday, April 03, 2007, 10:07

I agree that outside opinions are meaningless, and it really comes down to you and your own situation. But I can also see that forgiveness was necessary for you, part of your own real-time attempt to move forward... I think that happens many times, that we forgive in order to honor our other commitments, as you have done for your son, and that seems a worthy and courageous motivation. In some ways, the more we have been truly victimized, the harder it is for our own loved one's to see why forgiveness might be necessary for our own sake, but it really comes down to me doing what I have to do. There can really be no doubt, I believe, that forgiveness is often a necessary part of my own healing, and it looks like you know that.(reply to this comment
From vix
Tuesday, April 03, 2007, 09:36


^^^ Hmmm, just reread it and realised my wording was really clumsy. I can't tell you what you should or shouldn't feel, so I'll say instead, I don't feel there is any shame in forgiving him.

(And I know you don't need me to tell you so, but once in a while it helps to hear it from someone else, eh?)


(reply to this comment

from Lauren
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 13:31

GoldenMic, I've many thoughts on the subject of forgiveness but rather than put far too many words into your thread, at the risk of seeming self-promotion, here is the link:
(reply to this comment)
From GoldenMic
Thursday, March 29, 2007, 15:29

very good article, Lauren, and thanks alot for pointing it out to me. Now I REALLY can't wait to get that book!(reply to this comment
from Falcon
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 07:40

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
That is indeed a healthy perspective to practise on a personal level. I would like to point out however, that while you might feel like the bigger person for forgiving an abuser, your forgiveness is effectively void if that abuser does not wish for your forgiveness, indeed, does not even see that he has caused you harm. While a Jewish survivor might forgive their Nazi prison guard, if the Nazi prison guard continues to try to harm other Jews, then whether the survivor forgives or not, it is their moral responsibility to protect their fellow brother or sister through working to bring about justice against that abuser to effectively disarm them from ever harming anyone again.
If an uproar had not been created over the atrocities committed in the Nazi prisons, the world would never have known of the tragedy and worked to ensure such a thing never happened again. This is why survivors who find their voice shout out loud over and over again, till the world sits up and takes notice. It may appear that they are in fact holding on to "bitterness" and refusing to forgive. I would defend such actions as commendable to those survivors who find their inner strength and become the voice for the defenseless.
I am all for forgiveness. But just because I may forgive my sister's murderer, for instance, and even if that murderer feels some form of regret over his actions, does not negate the fact that the murderer must still pay the consequences for his actions, or there would be no incentive to prevent him from murdering again.
So yes, it is a wonderful thing to forgive, but so long as you know your abuser is still on the loose, free to abuse others, then there can be no closure or peace of mind and the memories remain very close to the surface.
I would venture to say that of former abusers in The Family who have honestly repented, asked their victims for forgiveness in all humility and have made an effort to make reparation, they have been forgiven and the victims have for the most part been able to move on.
But until this is done, I cannot in all honesty believe that forgiveness should be liberally distributed to those who do not wish to be forgiven, worse yet, would harm again if given half a chance.
(reply to this comment)
From Odd
Thursday, March 29, 2007, 12:39

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(
I agree. While some victims may choose, -often for their own benefit- to "let go" or attempt to find self closure and forgiveness for their abusers, this does not release a perpetrator from the consequences of his/her actions. In some extreme cases, the Vili Fualaaus and Soona Fualaaus may not even consider a certain instance of abuse as abusive, yet even this does not exonerate the Mary Kays. Child abuse is child abuse, no matter how you cut and serve it.

Further, a perpetrators apology is not some magic currency that buys forgiveness as if it were a tin of soda from a vending machine. While the William Beebes may consider themselves having made things right by apologizing, the Liz Seccuros by virtue of being of the wronged party, is the only party with any say on whether closure has been achieved. True repentance is the knowledge and acceptance that no amount of penance is worthy of forgiveness. True repentance is not to crave redemption, but to crave atonement.(reply to this comment
From GoldenMic
Thursday, March 29, 2007, 11:59

Thanks for the feedback, Falcon. I agree with your basic premise that true forgiveness does not include letting oppressors off the hook or allowing them to continue their oppression. I also echo your admiration for those who set forgiveness aside in order to speak for the victims. I fully agree with the caution implied in your concern about "liberal distribution" of forgiveness, often the oppressors desire. (reply to this comment
from Phoenixkidd
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 07:25

Mic, Fogiving without a formal apology from the wrong doer is of no avail. Unless the wrongdoer has solicited forgiveness from those they have wronged it almost seems like the act is debasing oneself and saying that recovery has been made on your part. Some wounds will never be healed. I know mine will never be healed I will not be ready to forgive untill my parents leave that cult and admit their entire life in the cult was a mistake.
(reply to this comment)
From GoldenMic
Thursday, March 29, 2007, 11:56

I agree with your point,, and I am actually only talking about how forgiveness might hep me, the individual, to do some healing. Frankly, as noted in the post above, true justice and reconciliation would have to include the oppressor's sincere apology and acceptance of responsibility, which just isn't going to happen for most of us. Thanks for the feedback.(reply to this comment
from SilverAmp
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 18:22


That was good, thank you.

On this topic, have you ever read "Revenge: a Story of Hope" by Laura Blumenfeld? It was one of the most important books to me personally, that I have ever read. I should probably read it once a year.
(reply to this comment)

From GoldenMic
Thursday, March 29, 2007, 12:00

thanks for the resource, I will pursue it! (reply to this comment

My Stuff

log in here
to post or update your articles


2 user/s currently online

Web Site User Directory
5047 registered users

log out of chatroom

Happy Birthday to demerit   Benz   tammysoprano  

Weekly Poll

What should the weekly poll be changed to?

 The every so often poll.

 The semi-anual poll.

 Whenever the editor gets to it poll.

 The poll you never heard about because you have never looked at previous polls which really means the polls that never got posted.

 The out dated poll.

 The who really gives a crap poll.

View Poll Results

Poll Submitted by cheeks,
September 16, 2008

See Previous Polls

Online Stores

I think, therefore I left

Check out the Official
Moving On Merchandise
. Send in your product ideas

Free Poster: 100 Reasons Why It's Great to be a Systemite

copyright © 2001 - 2009

[terms of use] [privacy policy] [disclaimer] [The Family / Children of God] [contact:] [free speech on the Internet blue ribbon] [About the Trailer Park] [Who Links Here]