Forgiving Oneself Before Forgiving the Abuser: Healing and Domestic Violence

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Justice without forgiveness?  Forgiveness without justice?  Considering these questions in the context of domestic violence, to my mind, at least, both questions focus on the ability of the so called “bad actor” to receive or achieve forgiveness.  But victims need to forgive themselves, too, without reifying victimhood.  Here’s how Rebecca Burns describes it (here):

Forgiveness is difficult to achieve. As much as you don’t want to hear the F word, it is the first thing you must do to move on, Forgive the worst one of all … YOU!. I don’t mean to say you are the worst one but I felt that I was to blame for all of it. After all I stayed when he passed out drunk. I stayed after the first time he hit me. I stayed when he tried to kill me. But my life changed when I finally began to forgive myself. It doesn’t happen in a day, all better, I have forgiven myself. It has taken years but since the first glimmer of my own forgiveness I have begun to heal. Honestly, I forgave my abuser in my mind, not to his face, long before I even forgave myself. * * *

It has been over 10 years now and looking back being alone for so long was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It gave me the first chance in my life to get to clear out my head and get strong day by day. Living with domestic violence day and day you become so used to the cruelty. It was difficult but the time alone allowed me to get rid of all the crap my husband had filled my head with over the years, you are fat, ugly, no man will ever want you. Just insert the crap you were fed. Again, being able to clear my head was the best gift of all.

Forgiving the self may be the most difficult forgiveness to achieve.  Strength to all of the survivors, and you know who you are!

-Bridget Crawford

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