Do we need to forgive?

What does forgiveness mean? I’d be interested to have your comments and start a dialogue on this one, because I realise that the more I think about it, the more I don’t understand the concept at all.

This audio poses a series of questions on the subject, based on concepts from other Survivors, what I read and my own experience.  Some of the questions I pose about forgiveness are:

  1. Does it involve a debt—a way of saying “You’ve hurt me, therefore you owe me? And until you pay I won’t forgive?”
  2. Does someone have to deserve our forgiveness. And if so, how do we really know they’ve met the standard?
  3. If we don’t forgive, are we condemning people for an eternity?
  4. Is all bad behaviour simply on a continuum?
  5. Does it mean “If I don’t forgive I have power?”  Is it a zero sum game?
  6. Do you have to let go of rage, of anger and resentment in order to forgive?
3 reasons to forgive might be …
  1. The perpetrator was abused themselves
  2. It might free us and help us to move forwards
  3. It’s an Act of Faith


3 reasons not to forgive might be …
  1. If  it’s some sort of moral duty
  2. If we forget—never forget. If my abuse makes any sense at all, then I need to remind Society of its damage
  3. If I’m seeking remorse and conditions—I somehow don’t feel I will ever really know someone’s intentions.


My alternatives to forgiveness are empathy and compassion. My abuser was just another human being who has made bad choices.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Nan Mykel says:

    Suddenly, when I opened my computer first thing this morning, you were on my screen, Serena. And when I got to your topic of forgiveness, I was reminded of Briere (1989, 138-39) who said, “recovery from sexual abuse can take years, and pressures for ‘forgiveness’ usually serve to stifle pain and anger that should be expressed.”


  2. Laura Black says:

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. I always like listening to you, your voice is comforting to me somehow, because I can hear so much strength in you. I am not religious and I don’t personally believe there is any use in forgiveness for me.

    What I want is to understand why. I want my abuser to explain why he did what he did, and I want to feel as though he is genuinely remorseful. It’s probably vengeful of me, but I hate that he is about to celebrate the birth of his son, with all my family around him, while I sit here suffering and feeling alienated.

    I cast myself as a victim I know, and I also know I feel as though I am owed something. From him or from all the people that failed me as a child. I go to CoDA meetings every week and I do try to believe in a Higher Power of some kind. The Serenity Prayer frequently brings me to tears, because I so badly want to believe in it. I so badly want to be able to hand everything over to a Higher Power and let go of it all.

    Laura x


  3. Lisa Meister says:

    Wow, I have not thought of those questions before. I generally shut down when people start talking about forgiveness because it is so complex and somehow it ends of twisted around with people accusing the victim of not forgiving just because they are a victim. I find this prejudicial towards survivors. But your questions are honest and thought provoking. I have also struggled with this word and it’s God given definition. Where I am right now is this: I would not want my abusers to go to hell. I just really don’t. I would prefer them to get right with God. I have thought through what judgement I would give if I was the judge and found them guilty, and found that I didn’t have anything that I would deem equal to what they did to me. Therefore I happily leave that part to God. My latest thought is that Jesus died for sinners, and there was no stipulations as to how evil the sinner gets, just that he is a sinner. It doesn’t not mean that I ever talk, write or communicate in any way with my abusive family.That doesn’t mean I don’t forgive, it means that I cannot trust them and must keep my children safe. I hope that is a balance God will approve of.


    1. Thanks for such an honest, thoughtful response Lisa. And yes, it’s vital that you prioritise safety of your children.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marcus says:

    It’s hard to forgive when I don’t remember all that which needs forgiven.
    Having written that I realize how empty it is. I may never remember all, but I still hope to reach that point of forgiveness. I realize it is a conscious act. Something I decide to do. I’m just not there.


  5. bethanyk says:

    I don’t have that word in my vocabulary. It does not fit for me in any way. I let go. I release. I move forward. But I don’t use the word forgive because it is too complicated and has so many emotions and strings attached it just weighs me down. those are my few thoughts on forgiveness. The only time I ever have used the word or implemented any part of this word is toward myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Bethany. Thank you for this. I’m relieved that you’ve said it’s a complicated word–especially the thing about “strings attached”… and yes: forgiveness towards ourselves is the single most important thing. Take care x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. dbest1ishere says:

    Forgiveness isnt even in the cards for me right now. I do not see that happening for me ever to be honest. To forgive my abusers would make it seem like it was okay and it certainly was not.


    1. Thank you for contributing. I agree: your abuse certainly was not okay. Never can be okay. Take care


  7. Thanks for your input here Liz. Yes, many people have told me that they can move on without the need to forgive.


  8. Liz says:

    For how my Dad was and treated me in my childhood, had he still been alive, he would have known what I was mot happy about and that I could not forgive. Even though he is not alive, I still don’t forgive, but as you know through my blog I had counselling and CBT as well. Both which helped me to move forward.

    Another that happened as an adult where I was abused. I don’t forgive him either. I never would. Again, overtime and through counselling, I have moved forward.

    But for those that have managed to forgive, then that is ok. It is their choice. I seen a documentary on TV a few weeks back. I can’t remember the excact details now, but I know one forgave someone else for their actions. I couldn’t understand at first, but as she spoke about it, it made sense. But if I was in the same situation, again, I would probably find I could not forgive.


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