Is it ok to forgive your perpetrator?

Forgiveness is not a single event. It's a life saving strategy that you'll visit over and over on your journey.

Oprah Winfrey, a fellow survivor, describes how one day, as an adult, she found herself in the kitchen making pancakes for a visiting relative - the one who had molested her. Something inside her snapped. This was after therapy, after she thought she had done the work, after she thought she had forgiven him. Don't make breakfast for your molester, she said, just don't.

If you follow my writing you may know that we have similar scars. Over decades of healing I have forgiven and rescinded my forgiveness many times. The first several cycles were something called "spiritual bypass". There were so many oogy, painful things about what happened that it's not surprising I wanted to cut through all the processing and just be whole again.

I want to tell you something now that I wish someone had told me. You are under no obligation to be consistent or graceful as you heal. Today's forgiveness is not a promise that next month won't be filled with bitter rage, or the month after that be overwhelmed with grief and then a dip into forgiveness again. You get to feel how you feel till you don't feel that way anymore. And if your flailing causes suffering around you, fixing your own messes will be part of the path.

Really recovering from sexual trauma and betrayal is like going down into a terrible mine. It's dark and damp and often the air is foul. Forgiveness is a place to rest in between descents. It's a suck of air. Feel free to forgive, and then, when you can, go back down.

Go back down because jewels are embedded in the walls - treasure you have already paid for. If you go deep enough you will find resilience, and patience, kindness and clarity. You will find self compassion and dignity, and the pleasure of inappropriate laughter. Deeper still is a dark spring where the suffering of your molester is indistinguishable from your own.

I will meet you there.


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