Friday, April 15, 2016


Q.  I’m angry and bitter about my life. I was physically and sexually abused as a child by several male relatives. I thought I’d escaped all of that when I got married but I still have nightmares about the abuse. My family doesn't understand how hurt I’ve been. I’m afraid to trust anyone. I opened up to a friend and she told me I had to forgive and forget. I’ve tried to do this, but the nightmares continue and so does my bitterness. What can I do to get over all this trauma? How can I forgive all this?

A.  Forgiveness is a lofty and important goal but not a simple one. Being able to forgive and also forget is questionable. If we were able to forget, forgiving would be easier. But the hurts and traumas of the past are buried in our unconscious. They creep out in our nightmares. They affect our self-esteem and our relationships. They are never forgotten.
No one feels content while tied to these past hurts. No one feels content while bitter and resentful. We must begin the road to forgiveness in order to help ourselves. Forgiveness is the goal we aim for in order to overcome our anger and bitterness about hurts and traumas.
Well meaning friends often urge us to forgive and forget instantly. They do not understand that forgiveness is a process; not something we can do immediately.  Nor do they understand the extent of our pain. If you are attacked and beaten by a thug, even if you forgive him instantly, it will take weeks for the bruises to disappear. Healing takes time. No one would tell you to give up your black eye, or to snap out of your broken arm, would they?   
Some of us might be able to forgive instantly an unkind remark made unintentionally by someone we know really cares for us. No one can instantly forgive physical, sexual or emotional abuse received in childhood. The deeper the wound the longer it will take to work through the painful emotions connected with it. 

To overcome your childhood traumas, the emotions connected with the hurt have to be re-experienced and acknowledged. It is necessary to talk about and "relive" your victimization. When we deny or minimize  this kind of pain we are apt to remain bitter and distrustful. 
Some of us have difficulty forgiving because we misunderstand forgiveness. We think if we forgive, we are saying to the person who hurt us, that what he or she did was OK. Forgiveness does not condone the hurtful, abusive behavior. Rather, the person who forgives, gives up their right to be angry and resentful - even though it is justified. 
Eventually you will be able to let go of resentment and bitterness. I recommend you see a Christian counselor or pastor for help in forgiving the abuse you experienced as a child. You have been through devastating traumas and have suffered long enough.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in God through Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32         

Blessings, Dottie

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