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A Different View of Forgiveness

Copyright 2014 by Abigail Blackburn, PsyD

In my view, forgiveness is a spontaneous act. True forgiveness requires remorse on the part of the perpetrator.

One of my colleagues said something to the effect of "Instead of asking victims to forgive, we should be asking perpetrators to be more contrite."The idea of forgiveness being a requirement of "moving on" is another offense. I agree.

Not only does the victim bear the horror of injury, but she also must now bear the burden of forgiving if she is to get through what has happened to her.

I talk with clients instead about empathy.

I teach clients the importance of paying attention to their feelings to help them learn more about what might be going on in their environments. Emotions are like pain sensors, they give us essential information about what is going on so that we can make good decisions.

I work with many trauma survivors and have for almost 20 years. These are people who are highly successful and high functioning adults. They are doctors, teachers, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, business owners, artists, waitresses, first responders and athletes. They are loving parents, friends, partners, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

Their anger and frustration about what has happened to them in childhood did in no way keep them from "moving on." In fact, these feelings helped them develop strength of character and wisdom.They often come to therapy once they feel truly safe enough to work through feelings of loss that continue to frighten them.

Nobody ever taught them these feelings are normal to have and that they are a part of them that has value and meaning.The people I see who have alcoholism, anger management problems, eating disorders, self mutiliation, social isolation, etc. are people who push away their rage and hurt, believing if they don't it will result in their not being able to "move on."

These folks end up turning their rage into action - towards themselves and others.

I don't believe in "moving on." I believe in "working through" and in the latter case, all of our feelings are embraced fully.

Image of a couple symbolizing adults thinking about divorce. Abigail Blackburn PsyD helps clients find empathy
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