The Myth of Forgiveness translation of „Mythos der Vergebung“ by netzwerkB

Again and again, the keyword „forgive the perpetrator“ appears in connection with the processing and healing of traumatic childhood experiences. It is time to put away with different myths, which are entwined around it.

1. Myth
Forgiveness/reconciliation with the perpetrator would have a healing effect for the adult aggrieved party

Many psychotherapy trends, and unfortunately also some trauma therapy movements, consider the victim’s forgiveness of the perpetrator the crowing conclusion of a successful therapy. Often, people also talk about „making peace.“ But what does this forgiveness mean for the victim?

From the perspective of the abused child in the adult, it means that the child, who just began to communicate, must be silent again. This is particularly devastating concerning violence within the family because following forgiveness, contact with the perpetrator takes place again, or continues to take place, which traumatizes the victims all over again.

From the perspective of the adult victims, forgiveness may at first bring some relief because they no longer have to feel guilty for their alleged „inability“ to forgive towards the perpetrators and, sadly, also towards the majority of society. The „ability“ to forgive is presented as a virtue. And maybe, it’s just the opposite: maybe it’s about lacking courage and the ability to resist the pressure of the perpetrator and the environment.

But forgiveness stands in the way of a profound healing because it implies a recurrence of the trauma as forgiveness restores the power structures that existed during the traumatizing deed: a perpetrator that is not prosecuted and that does not have to have to feel a bad conscience – and a powerless, silent victim.

This re-traumatization will be aggravated even more if the perpetrator is unreasonable and does not show remorse. Victims who forgive such a perpetrator suffer enormous damage. They have to shoulder all the blame. And as most child abusers are unreasonable, unwilling to face and admit their crimes and, least of all, show any remorse, it is irresponsible to recommend the „remedy“ of forgiveness to victims who endured violent crimes in their childhood.

2. Myth
Forgiveness/reconciliation would make our world better

The background of the myth of forgiveness are religious traditions (not only of Christianity) that idealize masochism. Despite the enlightenment, attitudes like „vale of tears,“ or „If someone hits you on your cheek, you offer him the other one, too,“ or the admiration of masochistic martyrs have survived all the way into our time.

The myth of forgiveness can also be found in spiritual/esoteric worldviews; it is even an essential element of these worldviews because through forgiveness – especially towards violent parents – the old world order and the existing power structures are restored, respectively sustained. Thus the believers and followers stick with them.

Such religious/spiritual/esoteric worldviews originated at a time when the individual did not yet have the chance to lead a self-contained, self-designed and independent life. Although this has changed dramatically, but there are of course still people in our time who have an interest to use forgiveness in order to keep other people constrained as victims. It is useful for politicians greedy for power, if people remain victims throughout their lives. Victims can be exploited and don’t rebel. In this way, religion benefits politics and vice versa.

In other words:

  • forgiveness supports oppressive, exploitative power structures
  • forgiveness only benefits the child abusers and damages the victims

This is not an improvement for the world. On the contrary.

Myth 3
forgiveness would lessen rage, hatred and vengeance

Child victims of violence, who are forced to forgive and thus to remain silent, cannot process the feelings that go along with the abuse, feelings like rage, hatred, vengeance; they split them off. Forgiveness is a synonym for repression.

The victims retain these feelings until they have the possibility as adults to inflict violence on children and to thus avenge themselves for the violence of their perpetrators.

Hence, rage, hatred and vengeance are not lessened by forgiveness but only displaced onto the next generation. Thus violence and traumatization are reproduced anew in each generation through forgiveness.

The best example for this are the pedo-criminal priests, who, due to their profession, had to forgive everyone who ever has hurt them. They forgave their perpetrators, and for this, they retaliate upon the children entrusted to them and their care.

Naturally, the transfer of violence from generation to generation happens first and foremost in the family, where it is facilitated by a dense net of cover-ups, hierarchical structures, the lack of empathy towards children and of course with the help of religious myths like the one of forgiveness. So, forgiveness increases all rage, hatred and vengeance after all.

Also this is not an improvement for the world, just as as the reproduction of trauma victims in each generation is not an improvement for our world.

Quelle: Barbara Rogers

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