When we Christians use words like “forgiveness” and phrases like “True love keeps no record of wrongs,” I find myself wondering how that would apply to certain contexts, namely with victims of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional/mental)? I wonder if we should even be using these words when speaking with victims/survivors of abuse and how it might come off as to them?
For example, when we say to forgive an abuser, what does that look like? Does that mean we forget the harm they did and pretend like everything is okay? Do we welcome them back with open arms? The same questions also apply to phrases such as “love keeps no record of wrongs”. I ask because as Christians it would be good to be mindful how these words and phrases can sound like and that we tend to throw these terms around much without thinking. What is your take on this?
Hey dear friend, I truly appreciate your heart and care in this question. I am with you 100% here. The Christian culture so easily falls into a false martyr syndrome of “love and forgiveness,” which often risks our safety. The false assumption is that church-people walk in with no baggage or backstories or trauma or abuse. So when the preacher is going on about reconciliation, this is an extremely painful endeavor for the abused, who have lived through horrible pain at the hands of another and have a billion reasons not to reconcile.
The thing is, love must absolutely include truth, wisdom, boundaries, and grace for yourself. Love is not enabling, pampering, coddling, or letting someone off the hook—or it wouldn’t really be love at all.
For those who have been abused or traumatized: Forgiveness doesn’t mean friendship. No one should ever be rushed into forgiveness for the sake of “getting right with God.” We need healthy boundaries. We need to recognize patterns of unrepentant violence and gaslighting and manipulative language that will only guilt-trip you back into a vicious cycle. We can never mindlessly open the door again on an abusive relationship.
Many well-intentioned Christians try to act the part of a psychologist or social worker or therapist and have absolutely no idea about the real dangers of abuse, codependency, and compassion fatigue.