Forgiveness is not Forgetfulness
It is often said, “To forgive is to forget.” However, is that a fair or healthy approach when it comes to our heart? Are we, in doing so, denying the very core of the pain, hurt, and devastation that crushed our very soul?
When it comes to sexual abuse, holding on to this idea of forgiving and forgetting can be more damaging than beneficial. Simply claiming forgiveness does not help the victim deal with the devastating physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual lasting effects of sexual abuse.
Dan Allender in his book, The Wounded Heart, says, “The unclaimed pain of the past presses for resolution. Denial is not a solution.”
Yet, often as Christians, we believe it is our duty to forgive and forget. We hold on to a God of healing and try to live life as if the sexual abuse had never taken place, or as if we had moved on with no lingering hurt from the past, or as if we were not deeply affected – even in our present – by the crime that was committed against our bodies and souls. Somehow, we might even believe that if we do not move on we are not as “spiritual,” or that we did not trust God to heal us completely. We believe we are holding on to what God asks us to let go of. Yet, isn’t that the core of the issue?
Allender continues on, “Hiding the past always involves denial; denial of the past is always a denial of God. To forget your personal history is tantamount to trying to forget yourself and the journey that God has called you to live.”
No, the journey is not the abuse. The journey is the healing process. The true restoration. The experienced of being cared for and carried by God in the midst of the pain and sorrow. It is the journey of going through the tough moments with God. It is about the relationship with him and through him.
We don’t want to question where God was when the abuse happened. We don’t want to hold on to thoughts of, “Why didn’t he stop the sexual abuse from taking place.” So instead, we deny that the past holds influence in our present. We “defend” God, something that people that do not believe in Him don’t have to do since there is no God to question for the “Why.” They openly share and seek healing to deal with the pain. Christians, on the other hand, hold on to the belief of “healing and change” so tightly that they may ignore the process of restoration, or they might not admit to the depth of the damaging effects of the sexual abuse.
Like Dan Allender states, “The Christian community feels disposed to deny any data that points to the thorns and thistles in the lives of those who claim to be filled with the power of God.”
Somehow, the world outside of Christian community is more willing to embrace and acknowledge the effects of sexual abuse in the lives of those that have to go through such a wounding experience.
Instead, Allender urges, “Let us as Christians acknowledge without shame that regeneration does not alleviate, or in fact, diminish, the effects of sin quickly or permanently in this life. If we accept that, we are free to face the parts of our soul that remain scared and damaged by the effects of sexual abuse without feeling that we are denying the gospel.”
Denying the past only hinders us in our journey to reclaim our lives. It starts by admitting that we don’t simply forget, and working through the memories, the pain, the hurt, and the negative impact the sexual abuse had in our lives.
If you find yourself denying the past, and simply trying to forget, please be encouraged that you don’t have to. It is okay and natural to feel the way you do. It is time to face the past and journey into a healing process. You don’t have to do it alone. As a Christian Counselor, it will be an honor to journey with you as you allow the Holy Spirit to transform you and bring real healing to your life. It is never too late; it is always a good time to begin the journey.
Resources: “The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse” by Dan Allender
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.com -“Teenager Student With Fear” by David Castillo Dominici
“Ancient Lock” by Arvind Balaraman
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