Why do we keep hearing and/or reading, “Forgive your abuser and move on with your life?”
I have to speak up about something I have continually seen reoccur within the ranks of the Advocacy/Activism/Survivors/Alumni groups online. I’m talking about way before Facebook was ever even thought about. What I’m referring to goes back much farther even than when I came to the harsh realization that the IFB children’s home of which I was a former resident, New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La., was not just a surreal, multi-million dollar con job of a “home for wayward girls/boys” that nobody would believe existed because (I thought for years)it was the only one of its kind. But I don’t want to get off track too much, so I’ll try to get to the point and not ramble.
I have seen, within the archives of the “Survivors of New Bethany” website on Multiply, going back for quite a few years, those who (appear to?) deem it necessary to pop up like a bad penny occasionally and declare that those who were abused should forgive their abuser. And now, after having become a member of several groups comprised of survivors of IFB/religious institutions where they themselves were horribly sexually/physically abused, or had direct knowledge of it happening, I sadly, not to mention infuriatingly see how commonly, and loosely given this advice is. Much like the be-all-end-all of wonderful, Godly instruction. Frankly, it makes me sick and tempted to punch something. It’s a good thing I value the use of my hands so much.
Has anybody really tried to figure out why there are some who feel like this is good advice to give? And where the hell they would come up with such a horrible idea? Primarily when sexual/physical abuse is a factor, and the abuser has very little chance of being stopped or held accountable? My conclusion is that the “forgive and move on” idea was firmly planted in their heads. Healthy logic and reasoning do not coincide with this concept. I’m tired of our religious leaders stressing the importance of “forgiveness” within their churches and institutions, especially with children, beginning at a very young age, in order to assure that the guilt of speaking up about things that are wrong is set like concrete within the psyche of each individual human being who is under their umbrella. And with this being done primarily to protect the reputation of their “leader”, church or institution, it reeks of evil. The very opposite of safety, love, holiness and the spiritual well-being of every person.
I have no doubt, however that there is the occasion where a well-meaning person, hoping to help a hurting individual will, with this deeply-ingrained and years-long taught “forgiveness” concept, will suggest that another person “forgive and move on” from those who have wronged them. When this suggestion is given to someone who is, or has suffered from abuse, then the giver of this advice has left their logic and reasoning at the door. The “forgive and move on” advice in such situations needs to be recognized for what it really is. And by that, I mean it is a conveyance of a pre-programmed idea, crammed into the head of the advice giver, that has no more logical sense than repeating the same word over and over again until it’s lost its true meaning. (Much like memorizing whole chapters of scripture under the threat of being beaten and humiliated. Knowing how to recite huge passages of scripture, over and over and over again, totally annihilates the meaning of what has been memorized. Like saying the same word over and over again until it sounds just plain silly.)
I see the “forgive and move on” (FAMO) concept as the very same. Unsuspecting people say it to others without understanding the hidden meaning behind why they have been taught to say it. All they know is that it’s supposed to be the right thing to say. And, yes. My conclusion is that it is something taught, rather than learned or experienced with a guaranteed healthy outcome. There is no way that telling someone who is, or has been abused, that everything will be okay if they FAMO, even resembles logical sense. And every person alive has a sense of logic, or even better, a conscience……..until it becomes twisted and perverted under the direction of a leader or leaders who are given free reign to do it, whether by a consenting adult or defenseless children.
There is a multitude of us who had the FAMO (or forgive and forget) concept branded into our brains and hearts. For some, who have also suffered abuse, it seems that the only way to alleviate their own anger, fear and guilt, is to cling to this concept, because they are psychologically and spiritually unable to revert themselves back to logical thinking, or else they are simply afraid to, as thinking outside the box of their religious instruction is alien to them. For others,and for more reasons than I could list, there develops an epiphany. “What if this is all wrong?” (For me, personally, my realization was worded “I have been fed a line of bullshit my entire life! I’m outta here!”-followed by a descent into a hole of feeling worthless and undeserving. It’s been a hard climb back up. But now, no one does my thinking, or feeling for me.)
Sexual and physical abuse of children is wrong. Inside, outside and upside down. Wrong. And evil. And inexcusable. Regardless of who the perpetrator is. A pastor, church elder, teacher, coach, parent, whatever.
“But our Brother in Christ has been disciplined within the church, sent away for awhile, and now we must “lift up our fallen brother.”
“It’s under the blood!”
What a crock of horse-pucky! The reality of it is that this “fallen brother” is still free to continue perpetuating the same abuses, and will likely never be held accountable for the harm inflicted on the innocent. But at least “the cause of Christ hasn’t been harmed, and we must protect the cause of Christ at all costs!” Another crock of horse-pucky. Christ can protect himself just fine, thank you. Allowing predators to continue with their prowling does not lift up the cause of Christ. It destroys it. What sounds logical to me, would be seeing that those who harm little ones be put in prison, for the cause of Christ.
Anyone who honestly parrots the FAMO spiel with good intentions needs to realize, before they inflict any more harm on a suffering person, the real reason they had this concept crammed into them. You cannot honestly say that you yourself, independently, and with no human influence, decided that FAMO was a great idea. You are repeating what you have been taught to repeat, much like some of us recited entire chapters of scripture with no complaints. We were afraid of the consequences if we didn’t. However, if in being completely honest with yourself, you can say that FAMO worked for you personally, good for you. But you have no right to suggest that it’s right in every situation. You need to stop doing that.
And let me mention this. By telling someone suffering from abuse that they should FAMO, you are putting yourself (in their eyes) in a position of authority to dictate to them what is or is not a “forgivable” offense against them. Not to mention trying to assert a time limit on their hurt.
Chances are very good, that in you being taught that FAMO is the solution for yours or another’s pain from suffering abuse, instead of “I’m so sorry this happened to you. How can I help?” the real and diabolical reason you had this crammed firmly in your head is because, somewhere down the line, an abuser of children may face real accountability.
And the “Godly” leaders who command you to FAMO, or command you to say that to others ain’t having any of that.
Before you turn the FAMO switch to on, think for just a second. If you wouldn’t give the same advice to a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s, then you sure as hell don’t need to give it to anyone else who suffers like that.
(Disclaimer: The above essay is a compilation of my own conclusions and personal experiences. I don’t claim to be an authority on anything.)