The F Word (forgiveness)
[January 9, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Forgiveness — the F word! Muddled concepts of forgiveness cause immense problems for victims of abuse. One of our Anonymous readers has pointed us to this immensely helpful interview with David Augsburger (author of Caring Enough to Confront and Freedom of Forgiveness), entitled The F Word: Forgiveness and Its Limitations.
She says “It’s a very insightful and intelligent piece on some of the confusing issues surrounding forgiveness.” And she gives us some quotable quotes from the interview:
….forgiveness does not mean returning to business as usual but crafting a new relationship with a level of intimacy appropriate to our level of trust….
….In this cycle [of abuse], forgiveness is the heart of the pathology. The same kind of cycle is common in any relationship which is affected by addiction. So forgiveness can be aiding, abetting and enabling. Forgiveness is the central function of the enabler. So, it’s understandable that people would reject this kind of forgiveness — it is part of the problem.
….It’s important to distinguish between a true apology and either an appeasement or what I call an account. An appeasement is when I suck up to you and put myself down….I grovel at your feet until you say “you’ve groveled enough now, you can stand up again, it’s OK.” In this process of appeasement I suck you into forgiving me because my talking so badly about myself makes you feel badly about the relationship or badly for me….An account is an explanation of why I did what I did. It is a story that is designed to minimize my responsibility by explaining all the reasons for my behavior….
….I think that when the person responsible for the injury is completely detached, emotionally dead, or physically dead, to talk about forgiveness is a kind of nonsense. There is no emotional transaction possible, no authentic recognition or repentance, so the only transformation possible is a kind of internal release — not a transformation in the relationship. I think what we really do in circumstances like this is to grieve. I call it for-grieving.
I’m adding The F Word: Forgiveness and its Limitations to our Resources page.
[January 9, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to January 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to January 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to January 9, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (January 9, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]