When we are children, we learn about forgiveness (hopefully). We learn to apologize and we learn to accept apologies (hopefully). As children, we are taught that God is a personage, which allows a young mind to conceive a very abstract concept; likewise, the child’s concept of forgiveness is a superficial one.
It is important to be contrite when you have wronged or hurt another, any other, whether it’s someone you love, or a friend, or a stranger. And it’s equally important to recognize contrition in somebody who has wronged you or hurt you. So when somebody is sorry for what they have done, and they apologize, we can forgive them, let it go and go on with life.
Domestic abuse generally means spousal abuse, but when I say ‘domestic’ I’m thinking of spousal and/or child abuse; any abuse that occurs within the family or within an intimate relationship. One problem within the abusive relationship, probably more often in the adult abusive relationship, (since in the parent-child, the parent often feels his/her behavior falls within the bounds of ‘discipline’ (ex. Texas judge’s response to reporters); one problem is the abuser often does experience deep feelings of contrition and remorse after the violent incidents. The violent explosion has come to pass, the victim is terribly hurt; emotionally, physically or both, and often the abuser is sorry and will express remorse. And the victim, who loves the other, will forgive — again.
Love gone awry really.
What is forgiveness?
In my own experience the only possibility for forgiveness and healing is to separate these individuals. A child may eventually run away or otherwise leave home. The child will then have the chance to heal and develop some objectivity about the abusive relationship. Unfortunately, children who are treated abusively, are too young to objectively understand the experience and so it registers as deeply subjective trauma. ‘Trauma’ is something that occurs when a person is too young or too inexperienced, or possibly the event is just too violent, visceral and horrific; in any case there is the inability to process it in any rational or spiritual way. When we ‘understand’ something we are able to conceptualize it, to see it at a remove.
How can a traumatized individual ever really heal at a deep level?
True forgiveness comes from God and is an act of God. It isn’t something we can enact, no matter how much we wish to. And true forgiveness, is of course something deep within ourselves, that isn’t even truly about the other person. It is about the pain that lives on in us, flaring up whenever experience resonates too closely with the origins of that pain.
It’s obvious sometimes, to a grown person who is treated abusively, that the abuser is ‘projecting’ some inner demon on the victim that really has nothing to do with the victim, and everything to do with the abuser’s past pain. I don’t know that a child could see this objectively, having little life experience and having a natural deep love for the parent.