HEALING FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
People can heal and escape this vicious cycle of violence Forgiveness can play a significant role in the healing process.
Toward Forgiveness: For the Offender Seeking Forgiveness
In Hebrew the word 'salah' means God's removing sin from the people. In Greek, the word aphiemi means "to leave off, release" (to release what blocks a relationship with God). In the Quran, the word "forgive" (a'fo) means God's pardon of one's wrongdoing, which requires recognition of one's mistake, repentance, and asking for forgiveness.
Becoming able to experience forgiveness, a healed conscience, and restored self-esteem are not the responsibility of the offended person, but the offender.
To experience forgiveness, one must:
Acknowledge responsibility for doing wrong. Acknowledge wrongdoing to oneself, to others, and to God. Apologize with sincere remorse to the person(s) hurt.
Show understanding and empathy for the pain caused.
Change the behavior. Work to heal the emotional basis for the behavior.
Practice appropriate use of power. Make amends; provide restitution directly to the offended party, or symbolically to a related cause or group.
To be granted forgiveness before doing the hard work described above constitutes "cheap grace," and sabotages the healing process for the person who abuses. Only after completing the process will reconciliation with the offended be possible - if and when the offended indicates that he or she is ready.
Toward Forgiveness: For the Offended Letting Go
In the ancient language of major religions, the word "forgiveness" carried the connotation of releasing or letting go (of a debt, of bitterness, etc.). To prepare for forgiving (releasing the hold abuse has had on a person), one must:
Acknowledge the situation as an unchangeable piece of the past. Remember. "Forgive and forget" is the formula for denial, which makes painful events more likely to happen again. Tell the story many times in many ways.
Grieve, to discover and honor what was lost.
Change, by giving oneself permission to:
Feel, especially the anger and passion, respecting that anger can be useful on the path to justice
Take one's time to heal
Get support to explore the hurt and move on towards wholeness
Honestly reflect on one's strengths, limitations, and needs
Practice appropriate use of power. Go beyond thinking/feeling and express oneself in action, even if symbolic. Provide restitution. If appropriate, confront the behavior and/or report it to authorities.
After this preparation, one may experience release from the fear and damage of the abusive relationship and be free to live life fully. Forgiveness is not exoneration; the offender must still be held accountable for his or her actions. Forgiveness does not require trusting the offender, whose behavior may not have changed.
"Reconcile" means "to settle, to make content." If the offender has completed his or her process toward receiving forgiveness, it may now be possible to reconcile with him or her. To rush reconciliation before both the offended and the offender have completed their inner work is cheap grace and dangerous! Reconciliation with God is the reconciliation necessary for healing.
2002, Kyros Ministry