Abuse victims struggle with forgiveness . . . for good reason. The person they love most, and who was supposed to love them, has treated them worse than most people would treat their worst enemy. This is a betrayal of the worst order. How does one forgive that? Why even consider doing it? I believe there are many reasons, all for the benefit of the VICTIM. For more about that, check out my blog entitled “After the Abuse is Over, How Do You Deal With the Anger?”
Today I’d like to talk about a different type of forgiveness. The following is taken from my upcoming book, A Journey to Healing after Emotional Abuse.
When I work with abuse victims, some say forgiving themselves is harder than forgiving their abuser. Why harder? If someone else hurts you, you can ignore or get away from that person. But you can’t escape yourself. When you awake in the morning, you are still there. When you go to sleep at night, still there.
You are the victim. Why would you need to forgive yourself?
- For starting a relationship with your abuser
- For all the wasted time spent with him
- For the ways you allowed him to treat you
- For they way you acted and the things you did while you were with him
- For not protecting your child(ren)
- For getting a divorce/leaving him
- For not being “good enough” for him.
I can’t list every reason you might feel guilty, and might think you need to forgive yourself. Your reasons may not make logical sense, even to you, such as number 7, not being “good enough” for him. Possibly, you don’t feel you need to forgive yourself. If that’s the case, wonderful!
Perhaps you aren’t sure going through the pain of forgiving yourself is worth the benefit. Why bother?
Holding onto self-condemnation elevates your stress. Long-term, chronic stress can cause depression and anxiety. In addition, it can cause a long list of physical ailments including*:
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Menstrual problems, and an inability to conceive children
- Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Eating disorders and obesity
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
- High blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke.
2. To bring you peace
Guilt and self-blame weigh you down. You may hear a constant negative voice in your head reminding you of all the supposedly unforgivable wrongs you’ve committed. Whether that voice is Satan’s, your abuser’s, a parent’s or your own, doesn’t really matter. You will never be at peace with those negative thoughts constantly circling through your head. Forgiving yourself will release you to be at peace.
When you are focused on your own guilt, you have little emotional energy to give to others around you. Forgiving yourself releases you to be able to love others as you’ve loved yourself, (Mark 12:29-31).
When you can’t forgive yourself, you may mistakenly believe God can’t forgive you. This may cause you to pull away from Him, or constantly beg His forgiveness, when He has already forgiven you completely, (Psalm 103:12, Hebrews 10:17, 1 John 1:9). Once you forgive yourself, your relationship with God can be fully repaired.
In my next blog, I will give you practical steps to learn to forgive yourself. Until then, please remember Jesus loves you with a boundless love. If you are His follower, He has already forgiven you. As it says in Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . .
May you realize today the love Jesus has for you.
*http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body?page=2 accessed August 25, 2014.