In my 25+years of treating victims, or I should more correctly say survivors of childhood abuse, there invariably comes a moment when the crucial question is asked: should I forgive my abuser, and how do I do this.
But, the question that needs to by asked first, is what does it mean to forgive? So, here are some thoughts for serious consideration:
Forgiveness is to fully and unequivocally acknowledge the harm done to you and the burning rage it causes and yet accept that revenge or punishment is not yours to deliver, because the need for revenge ties you inextricably to your abuser, for ever.
Forgiveness is to let go of the often hidden desire to get your abuser's love, acceptance, and apology. This need too ties you to him/her with chains of steel.
Forgiveness is to truly understand your abusers limitations to meet your needs and finally grieve the death of the hope or illusion that he will change, "see the light". There is no light, there never was.
Forgiveness is to let yourself off the hook for what you fantasize you could or should have done to stop the abuse. These fantasies are also based on your need to believe that your abuser is a good person and he could still be rehabilitated if you could only find the right way, if you were a better daughter, son, wife.
Forgiveness is not accepting your abuser back into your life or confronting him, especially if you are not in therapy. This will more likely than not lead to more abuse, more hurt.
Forgiveness is a process not an one time event. It is not a decision made in one moment of magnanimity, it is the outcome of healing and it takes time and often the care and safety of a skilled professional.
Finally, and most importantly, forgiveness is the gift of freedom you give to yourself not an absolution of wrongdoing for your abuser.
May you find freedom and healing.