The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Forgiveness and Boundaries

For many abuse survivors, the traditional forgiveness advice doesn’t ring true. Most often people tell us that our anger, hate and resentment are harming us. For me, this focus misses the mark. For it is not hate and resentment that holds many survivors back; it is fear.

Boundaries issues are common in abusive family systems. When a child’s body, heart, and soul are routinely violated, their life is constructed in the absence of boundaries.

One of the reasons forgiveness was so frightening for me, is that it felt like I would be leaving myself wide open to injury. Forgiveness was premature until I had healed enough to protect myself from further harm.

Forgiveness and boundaries must go hand in hand.


Unknown said...

Nancy: You are so right, forgiveness is hard for me too. Im not ready for that yet, been having so many flashbacks lately, there is no way I am able to do any kind of forgiveness. take care.>Mary

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Mary,

I'm sorry you have been having so many flashbacks. They are so terrifying.

Like you, when I was in the "thick of it" forgiveness was not an option. It was way to premature to even think about it. My sole focus was on healing me!

Take care,

Strong and determined said...


Thank you for pointing out that when we are "in the thick of it" we are not truly able to forgive. There is other work that must be done before we can get to that point. This post really validated that for me. :)

Tamara (TC) Staples said...


What about forgiveness yet still having to maintain distance. I really believe I have forgiven my parents. I am no longer angry, I feel quite strong and ready to move on with my life. I do know that my parents (especially my mother) have not changed. In fact, by all accounts, they are progressively worsening in their entrenched ideas that everyone is wrong and to blame except them. I do not feel I can be around them and stay strong. Plus, while I am not angry at them and I wish them to be happy. I try to send them loving thoughts, I have no desire to put myself back in that situation even if I am strong enough to deflect any attacks.

Is this true forgiveness or am I kidding myself?


AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Tamara,

Sorry about the delay. I was out of town for a couple of days.

I don’t think you are kidding yourself.

I had much the same experience. Initially, when I became estranged from my mother, I did not forgive her. I believe that not seeing her was the ultimate boundary and the only way that I could heal and protect myself at that time.

After many years of estrangement, I began to "feel" forgiving. I realized at that point that I could forgive her even though I didn’t feel safe enough to see her. I wished my mother well and I prayed for her every day. I also believe that the only way I could maintain my forgiveness at that point was to remain apart. If I were to see her then and feel re-injured, feeling forgiving would have fallen to the way side. Not seeing her maintained my forgiveness and my sense of peace.

After I healed a great deal more, I became stronger about maintaining my boundaries (and protecting myself) and we resumed a relationship; something that I was unable to do any sooner. She also made some changes that allowed us to see one another including apologizing to me for the abuse. Her apology provided a new level of forgiveness that was unavailable to me without her participation. In other words, forgiveness moved from simply being a feeling to an action. She provided the “act” of an apology, and I provided the “act” of accepting the apology.

I realize that forgiveness as an action is not available to everyone because it also requires the participation of the “wrong-doer.”

If you “feel” forgiving, I believe you have forgiven, and to me forgiveness is all about finding a sense of personal peace!


AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Rebecca,

I'm so glad that this post was validating.

The pressure I felt from others to forgive before I was able was very damaging to me.

Healing took much longer than it would have if I had known that forgiveness was premature until I had healed sufficiently.

Thanks for your comment. It does my heart good.

All my best,