Manataka American Indian Council

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Forgiveness - Releasing Yourself

by Sallie Culbreth and Anne Quinn


Forgiveness is a pretty straightforward task, but to reach that moment when the task takes place is usually preceded by years of chaos, bitterness, and a painful sorting-through of what happened. Once you arrive at that moment when it's time to forgive, you take a deep breath and release yourself.

That's pretty much what forgiveness is: RELEASING YOURSELF. It's cutting off the bitter cords that keep you bound to the painful actions of others. It's not letting offenders off the hook. It's not some sort of convenient amnesia that denies what happened. It's not minimizing or rationalizing. It doesn't make your scars or challenges disappear. It simply releases you, so that you can move forward no longer emotionally, spiritually, sexually, or physically bound to the actions or the people that hurt you.

Obviously this is a process, and by process, we mean that it is rarely a one-time thing. Most survivors go back and forth with forgiveness like the ocean tide that ebbs and flows. You forgive. You don't. You forgive. You take it back. That's normal, because this is a process.

What makes this process of forgiveness more difficult is when people impose their misinformed ideas or beliefs on you and your circumstances. One of the more insidious pressures put on survivors is to ask them to wrap up atrocities in a nice, tidy bow of "...and they all lived happily ever after" by demanding that survivors "trust" the predators. This is especially common in faith communities where people are uncomfortable with the loose ends of broken relationships caused by the abusive, exploitative actions of abusers and sexual predators.

This kind of pressure once again places the responsibility of resolving injustice on the survivor, regardless of the unchanged character of the predator or the predator's enabling support system. It piles on more false guilt for not pretending that an untrustworthy, abusive predator is suddenly a pillar in the community. It blames the survivor for rocking the boat, for not "just getting over it," and for breaking the toxic code of silence by not playing along.

When you forgive - YOU are changed. You are free. Your liberation does not in any way mean that an abusive predator is magically transformed into someone you can trust.

To live free means that you also live wise - that you know what you're looking at when you are in the presence of one who is still exploitative, manipulative, and dangerous.

To live free also means you live safe - emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually - and that you protect vulnerable people who have been entrusted to your care from people who cannot be trusted.

It has been said that in relationships with people, you must build a fence with a gate - meaning you establish boundaries around yourself and do not give access to those who cannot be trusted within your fence.

Survivors must face many unfair challenges in their journey beyond abuse, exploitation, and sexual trauma. Part of that journey requires forgiveness, but it absolutely does NOT require that you trust untrustworthy people, nor does it require that you remain in toxic circumstances that endanger you or others.

There is an interesting story about Jesus and this issue in John 2:24-25 (New Testament Bible-NLT): "But Jesus didn't trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like." If it's okay for Jesus to know this, it's okay for you, right?

Forgiveness releases you. Trust must be earned, and it is a fact that there are some people on this planet that will never be safe or trustworthy. Remember that and free yourself. You have nothing to prove when it comes to dangerous, manipulative, and untrustworthy people - except to yourself. You can prove you are free - released by your choice. That is empowerment - wise, appropriate empowerment.

2015 Committed to Freedom - P.O. Box 20916, Hot Springs, Arkansas 71903 - 501-545-0791 - fax (501) 251-1154


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International Forgiveness Day



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