In case you missed my last article about the Henderson twins; they are two sisters raped and molested for many years by their father, and their two older brothers. It has been six years since they were saved from that wretched situation. Now, understandably, the girls are struggling with forgiveness.
“There will be a time where I will face my fear—which would be Andrew—and there’s going to be a time later on down the road, it might be years, where I will forgive him,” Kathie says. “I’ll try and find the strength to forgive him.”
When the girls appeared on Oprah, you could see that they still carry so much pain. They are suffering very much inside. During the interview on, their torment was evident in their face, in their eyes, and in their words.
During the Oprah interview, the girls stated that their brothers confused them by asking for forgiveness. I think Oprah confused them even more. She told the twins that forgiveness means “giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” This has nothing to do with forgiveness. I know Oprah meant well, but letting go of the hope that people can be any different, or that your life could have gone another way, has to do with finding an objective understanding of life, and life’s harsh experiences. Oprah’s advice is about letting go of the need for those who hurt us to be any different. Oprah’s advice is about releasing the desire for our perpetrators to be anything other than what and who they are. All of this is a huge part of healing for a previous victim, and it is essential in finding peace, but forgiveness is not about letting go of a desire or a need.
Forgiveness is about offering mercy and compassion to the soul of another person. This, in no way, implies that we condone what happened, or that we allow someone to abuse us again, or that we must pretend that nothing ever happened. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean having to maintain a superficial relationship with those who hurt us, and absolution is not synonymous with having to remain silent about the abuse, or catering to the denial system of those who hurt us.
Rage is the most suitable reaction to being sexually molested, raped, or tortured. The sexual abuse of children, especially incest, is an atrocity. This is a degenerate and serious crime. The mere silence from the mother who turned away from her child’s screams may seem unfathomable to forgive, and it is often much harder to exonerate the mother who did not protect us than to forgive our rapist.
In April 2009, the Dr. Phil show had a few siblings on the program who had been victims of incest at the hands of their father. While under control of the father, the oldest sister had brutally beaten her younger siblings. Dr. Phil told the younger siblings, “Forgiveness is a choice.” He made it sound as if a previous victim of childhood sexual, or physical assault, can ‘simply decide’ to forgive their perpetrator like a person might choose an outfit. This would be a false forgiveness and will not heal anyone.
Dr. Phil is a prime example. He wears the badge of being a professional person who is supposed to help people with their psychological problems and relationships, but he clearly harbors much anger and resentment for someone he had a relationship with in childhood –probably his father, who was an alcoholic. Reportedly, his sisters married while in high school in order to escape the family home. Dr. Phil says his father’s mother beat and abused his father and that she was a vicious woman. Although he says his father was not abusive with him or his sisters, his father must have inflicted some kind of emotional pain in Dr. Phil. Alcoholics don’t make good parents, especially those who were beaten and abused by their own parents.
I think Dr. Phil is somewhat of an abusive person towards his guests. He frequently bullies them. His guests, some of which have serious problems, and who are people who suffer inside, are often told, “suck it up” or “get real!” He tells his guests, “You’re not going to bully me!” and then turns around and bullies them. I think that Dr. Phil has lingering rage, resentment, and emotional pain from his own childhood, but it is so subconscious that he doesn’t even see it in himself. His inner child might still be unable to forgive his father, but Dr. Phil doesn’t consciously understand this because his form of therapy is reality therapy, suck it up therapy, and behavioral modification therapy. All of these therapies only treat the symptoms.
“When we harbor negative emotions toward others or toward ourselves, or when we intentionally create pain for others, we poison our own physical and spiritual systems.”~Caroline Myss
No talk-show host, religion, self-help guru, minister, family member, or new-age belief system can force someone into forgiveness; because it would be a false forgiveness and would only cause repressed rage. This can create physical problems, illness, or serious disease in a person.
Forgiveness comes only to a prepared soul, and it usually does not come in its totality until the final stages of recovery. We can consciously say we forgive our perpetrators in order to feel better about ourselves or about them. We can say it to appease family members or in a faithful attempt to honor God, but if the child within us is not ready to forgive, then the child will express their anger with depression, physical symptoms, and even cancer.
The little one inside of us, the child within, is the one who suffered. It is the child inside of us who needs to feel cleansed through the natural process of driving out all negative emotions. If a survivor is able to develop and nurture forgiveness on the outside, then this is wonderful, but it is vital to listen to what our body and emotions communicate to us. If the child inside is not healed enough to forgive, the adult body of the survivor will say “no” to outward forgiveness.
Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection, says the human immune system is like a “floating brain.” He says the immune system has —in a sense— memory and that many common diseases and illnesses, especially autoimmune disease, are the result of repressed anger and unresolved childhood pain. I have experienced this truth first-hand.
Some survivors say they aren’t sure if they have found mercy for their abuser. Uncertainty usually means they have not completely forgiven, and it is possible that those who cannot absolve themselves might be hindering their ability to forgive their abuser.
A common belief is that forgiveness is for the victim, not for the abuser—but this is not true mercy. We must forgive ourselves for the shame and guilt we carried, and we need to forgive those who harmed us in order to release ourselves from the bond which a lack of leniency brings us, but we cannot say we forgive our perpetrator in order for it to be solely about us. This is not true forgiveness and is a form of selfishness. Forgiveness is essential for the soul of the perpetrator, and it will ultimately be crucial for ours as well.
True absolution – pure forgiveness- means offering it to the soul of the person, not to the acts, or to their personality. Absolution is for their soul. The human soul and the personality are not the same thing. It is even possible to forgive a person who has died. Absolution is for the soul, not for the physical body.
“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” ~Marianne Williamson
Turning anger into mercy can deliver vast amounts of positive healing energy for ourselves and for everything and everyone on the planet, but it must be authentic and offered from the heart. It cannot be manipulated or intimidated by another person or by a religion. Genuine absolution —the kind that frees our soul— must be unconditional and without reservation.
Resentment will always attack a person. Each abuse survivor has the ability to go beyond their pain. Giving the gift of forgiveness to someone who has betrayed and devastated our body and soul, without expecting anything in return, is how we create room inside ourselves for complete healing. To forgive is to purge one’s self of all hatred, “to give up” the hatred and anger, to cleanse one’s self of all bitterness towards the one who did the harm.
Leniency is not an act of weakness, but one of strength. By forgiving my parents, I released the power they held over me, but I also freed their soul, and my own, from the contract that would have kept us bound for an eternity. True forgiveness has the power to transform poison into a flower.
© 2008 Alethea Marina Nova All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author. Butterfly photo taken by author.