Too often forgiveness is a burden on the wounded. Instead the imperative of accountability must be on the abuser.
When I’m told to forgive, I think about
my math tutor when I was barely twelve years old, who shouted in my face and dug his fingers in my shoulders
a grown woman who beat me for “misbehaving” at a public pool when I was seven
students who randomly assaulted me in school calling me racial slurs
the thousands of hate crimes and murders both reported and unrecorded against POC
the dozens of stories I’ve heard from patients assaulted by their most trusted people.
But I’m told to just let go. “Forgiveness is a gift.”
Is it? How is it a gift to remove this knife from my gut that never should’ve been there? Why is abuse became the abused person’s problem to solve?
Forgiveness is powerful, yes. On the other side there’s freedom. But when forgiveness is demanded of a victim in a bad power dynamic—who benefits? Abusive people and systems often act in a remorseless repetition of violence. It’s that very violence which keeps power and profit.
I have learned it is more wrong
not to be angry at injustice.
Why demand the wounded
to be level-headed, neutral, watch their tone, to grow, be resilient, be the example, take the high road?
Sometimes the high road
goes right off a cliff.
I hear the voice of grief
because the abused person
had their life interrupted
and never asked for an apology
—they needed honor for their dignity.
Here are some of my rules on forgiveness.
1) Forgiveness does not mean friendship.
2) Forgiveness is a daily choice that can take a lifetime.
3) No one can rush your forgiveness, ever.
4) You can be angry while forgiving.
5) Forgiveness does not negate justice.
6) If you have been abused and traumatized, then forgiveness is not a prerequisite for your recovery. To make forgiveness a burden on the abused only enables the abuser. It also mocks the abused. To skip anger is to bypass pain and therefore true recovery.
7) Do not make forgiveness an imperative burden to force a romanticized outcome of “peace,” especially on the abused and oppressed. All you’ll do is guilt trip already wounded people into a false truce.