That’s the definition of forgive by Merriam-Webster. I am having problems with forgiveness. I’ll go step by step. Let’s look at the first explanation of the word forgive, as follows,
to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
If I am to be honest, I have to say that many of the things my husband has done to me are insults. He may have not used insulting words, but he lied to me, he distorted my reality, he has disrespected me. By doing all of that, he has basically broken his vow to love me. And this is something difficult to forgive and I have resented him for doing all of that and more.
The problem is that I am also the one who is losing here by resenting what he has done to me. For every minute that I spend resenting him for what he has done to me, which I can’t change since it’s in the past, I am losing out an opportunity to heal, to move forward, to be there for my daughter and my mother and those who truly loved me.
I am now moving away from the resentment phase, if there’s such thing. I am not sure. There might be. I can’t allow myself to stay stuck resenting him. I feel that he wins. Because he’s out there, living his life, not caring one bit for me. So I can’t give him the pleasure of taking away my time from me.
Should I forgive him for what he has done to me, for what he’ll continue to do to me? I don’t think I can. And I don’t have to.
If you’re a Christian like me, what you just read might shock you. As Christians, we are taught to forgive and forget, move on. A therapist might even tell you that you can’t move on until you forgive and forget. But guess what: It is not for a therapist to tell you to forgive. It’s up to you.
Society will tell you to forgive and move on. But society wasn’t in your shoes. So let’s say you decide to not forgive him or her. Does that make you a bad human being? No, I don’t think so. It just makes you human. Forgiving is a personal choice, actually. It is not something necessary. You don’t need to forgive your abuser. You don’t have to forgive your abuser.
I’m going to repeat that: You do not have to forgive your abuser.
Your abuser knew what he was doing to you. Your abuser, if you’re still in contact with him or her, knows what he or she is doing to you. He or she deliberately and maliciously decided to harm you.
Let me put it in other words. This is something that I still have to remind myself to this day because it’s so mind-blowing to me that I have a hard time accepting it. Your abuser knows they are hurting you. Let me assure you: They know. They believe that their actions are valid; therefore, they never feel guilty. They are convinced that the pain they’re causing is necessary. They think they are the victims, so they feel and act like a victim. They think that they are superior; therefore, they believe they are superior. They think they are entitled and, therefore, feel entitled. They just think and feel they are correct and, therefore, justified to harm others.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? So how can you forgive someone like that? Maybe you can, maybe you cannot. But it’s up to you. Do not let others tell you that you have to forgive him or her, which takes me to the second explanation of forgive:
to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
The way I feel about it, they are forever in your debt for what they have done to you. They will never pay that debt, at least not to you. However, life is strange and it has its own way of collecting. Eventually, they will have to pay their debt, even if it’s not to you.
Let’s move to the next definition:
to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
These days, I feel I have ceased to feel resentment towards my husband. What I’m having trouble sometimes with is feeling resentful for the loss of what could have been. I feel he robbed me of maybe getting old with my soulmate. However, my daughter would have never been born had I not married him. So while I feel the whole marriage was a lie and act on his part, I still had something good coming out of it. Hadn’t it been for my daughter, maybe I would still be stuck married to him and trying to figure out what the heck happened and second-guessing every one of my decisions.
Let’s look at the last part of the definition I posted above, as follows,
to grant forgiveness <had to learn to forgive and forget>
This takes me to another person that needs forgiveness: Me. Now that’s something that I need to learn. I need to learn to forgive myself. Am I going to be able to forget? Actually, I do not want to forget. Because I’m afraid that if I forget, I may end up falling for yet another narcissist and I would also not be able to provide my daughter with the tools and skills she will need so she doesn’t fall prey to someone with NPD.
Forgiveness is necessary when it comes to oneself. Forgiveness is necessary to heal and move forward. There are days when I do not show compassion towards myself. I can’t forgive myself for having fallen prey to my husband, for not taking care of myself better, and for not looking out for my safety, my interests, my dreams, my goals. I did not protect myself when I needed to do so.
In order to forgive myself, I need to repeat to myself that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know back then what I know now and what I’m sure I’ll learn in the future. I have always been very hard on myself and going through this is experience has not helped in that sense. Or has it?
I am slowly forgiving myself. I am now learning that I am not perfect. And that I’m not stupid. There are days when I keep on calling myself stupid for having fallen for him; for having let him trample my boundaries; for not regarding my boundaries. But I was a trusting person. I trusted him. My husband. The one person who was supposed to look out for me, to love me, to accept me as I was and not try to change or control me. Because ultimately, when we’re in a loving relationship, especially a committed one, we choose to love that other individual, with all the good and the bad parts that make him or her who he or she is. We shouldn’t tolerate immoral behaviour or sins towards us. But we should help them become a better version of themselves. However, it’s up to them to change. We cannot control that. We can only influence them and promote change. But it’s their call, not ours.
A narcissist won’t change. They don’t feel they need to change. In their minds, they are perfect and we are broken. But we have the power to change and determine how much we’re going to tolerate; how much we’re going to forgive and who we’re going to forgive.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive him for what he did to me and for what he failed to do for me. But I can’t now and I won’t.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to fully forgive myself for my mistakes, for not seeing it coming, for believing him and letting him fool me. I am not perfect, nor I want to be. People who truly love us accept us with our imperfections. They may even love us because of our imperfections. But they will not try to control us.
So if you’re struggling with forgiveness, tell yourself that you don’t need to forgive him or her, but commit to forgive yourself one day. Maybe not today; maybe not tomorrow. Whenever you are ready. Just remember that you won’t be able to start truly healing until you’re capable of forgiving yourself. Relieve yourself from your own debt.
They say forgiveness is the final form of love. I’m not sure who said that, but I can see why they say that. I can’t love my husband anymore. Actually, I stopped loving him long time ago, when I couldn’t connect emotionally with him anymore because, in fact, he cannot connect emotionally with anyone but himself. But by forgiving myself a little bit each day, I’m closer to loving myself once again, as a whole.
The other thing I may need to learn to forgive is the person I once was. Because while other survivors say that you can become once again the person you were before the abuse, I’m not sure I want to be that person again. I’m sometimes angry at that person because she’s the one who fell for my husband. The person I am now, the person I am becoming now would not fall for my husband. But I have to learn to let go of resentment and I have to learn to forgive myself for the days when I’m resentful. Otherwise, I won’t be able to heal the parts of me that are still there from before and that were good parts. And I won’t be able to move on and become the person I know I can be.
If you can’t completely forgive yourself today, pick one thing you’re upset about and try to work on that. I am upset at myself for having been so forgiving during the times when he hurt me. And I think I can forgive myself for those times because it’s actually a good thing to be a forgiving person. However, I’m learning to use more discernment when it comes to forgiveness and I’m choosing to forgive me a little bit more today.
What are you going to do today that will allow you to forgive yourself a little bit more? The one thing I am allowing myself to do today is try to understand that I didn’t cause any of this and neither did you. And the other thing that I have done today to forgive myself is share all these thoughts with you. It’s not easy sometimes to look inside your heart and soul and pour it all out. But this is the one thing that is allowing me to heal. By writing I can make sense of my thoughts. While you’re going through abuse, it’s normal to put thoughts and feelings aside and bury them deep inside of you because you’re just trying to cope and survive. I find that when I write, I can pull them out and it allows me to heal and forgive myself a little bit.
I hope you find today one thing that allows you to heal a little bit today. One step at at time. One day at a time.