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May 26, 2008
Part 1: Some words about "forgiveness"
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

I too was raised Catholic, and with the so-called "forgive and forget" philosophy. It was much later in life that I came to believe that what I had been taught was misconstrued to be taken too literally.

I came to believe that to "forgive" was NOT about having open, loving arms for people who continued to be abusive. Jesus said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." I believe that Jesus was talking about the actions of people who were living unconsciously from a spiritual, not literal, perspective.

Forgiveness is about understanding and compassion for abusive people, but I do not believe for one second that it should be at the expense of personal safety, be it physical or emotional safety. Forgiveness is about no longer giving up your personal power. When you truly forgive someone, you say "you no longer have the power to control my life." But forgiveness does not require a face-to-face with your abusers or communication of any kind. Nor does it require a continued relationship with your abusers.

I do not believe that one must have a relationship with one's parents in order to "honour" them. One can "honour" the fact that they were brought into this world by their parents; but the actions and inactions of some parents do not warrant a continued relationship. One can "honour" from a distance.

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, NOT for the abuser. Forgiveness allows you to be free of the encumbrances of living a life in constant fear and turmoil. It allows you to live your life in harmony, and thus invite more goodness and spiritual well-being into your life.

But most abuse survivors don't suddenly arrive at "forgiveness" just because someone tells them that they should, or that they must. Most survivors must first deal with the emotional residue of childhood abuse—usually through counselling—before they are healthy enough to get to that point. To insist that your wife have a relationship with her parents was to continue to expose her to abuse without the benefit of a support system that she absolutely needed (I make no judgments here; I offer only the benefit of my experience). Based on what you've shared, your wife is no more able to deal with her parents than she was when she was a helpless child (not unusual, under the circumstances). Indeed, every time she is thrust into a situation with them, she is likely transported back to those abusive episodes, over and over and over again. This isn't only about what her parents do today; it's about the fact that your wife has not yet received the help she so desperately needs in order to deal with all that happened to her as a child. You can help her get that help.

Part 2 follows below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

May 26, 2008
Part 2: Words about "forgetting"
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

As for the word "forget," as human beings, our brains don't work that way. Again, I believe the use of this word in doctrine has been taken too literally.

I believe "forget" refers to the inner phenomenon of surrendering to what IS, and that it further guides us to living in the Present moment, rather than living in the Past. Allow me to elaborate on both of these...

We cannot undo was IS or what WAS. The term surrender is not to be confused with giving up or accepting defeat. Surrender means to accept the Present moment as it is. That does not mean we sit idly by and allow ourselves to be mistreated or walked all over; on the contrary, we can take action to change the situation, but we must first accept that the situation is happening in the Now. Your in-laws actions are an excellent example: Denying that they are doing what they are doing does not change the fact that they are acting in a way that is detrimental to the well-being of your family. But you can act to change how their actions are affecting you and your family. You can make choices (such as moving far away) that will help keep your family safe.

Your wife came from a horribly abusive home, abuse so heinous that she may not even yet remember all of it; this is fact, this just IS. How she acts upon that Now is up to her, but to resist that she came from such abuse is futile. I do not believe that "forgetting" as it related to your wife, means to set aside what her parents did to her in favour of a loving relationship with them, especially given the way her parents still behave. In truth, their behaviour puts your children at risk. As a parent, you must act to protect them. But in combination with forgiveness as I've detailed above, and with proper support in the form of counselling, she can "forget" in the sense that she accepts that what happened to her is in her Past and that she can get on with her life in the Present—the Past has no power in the Present moment. In order to do that, she must first feel safe. You can help her with that by acting in ways that will protect her and the rest of your family, without putting them at further risk.

Within the context of this website, this is all I can offer in the way of advice. I sincerely wish you, your wife and all your family all the best.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jan 13, 2009
Lived thru it and still dealing
by: Kimberly

I really liked the comments Darlene gave regarding moving away from abusive parents. I have done it. Years ago in fact, and my controlling parents have pretty much made sure no one wanted anything to do with me. I abandoned the family is what they say..I had no choice..they were controlling me. This was 20 yrs ago.

Your wife is most likely terrified of her parents, as I still am of mine. I used to have nightmares all the time, even 3 weeks before I would see them after moving away. I miss them though, but it would never be a nice visit..I don't want them around my children either. I love my parents, but sometimes I hate what they put me thru..still will put me thru IF I LET THEM. I have head injuries to deal with.. It is better away from abusive parents...stress is less..you begin to feel safe. You do start to remember things...is weird. Good luck, don't walk, run for your wife and children. :-)

Oct 21, 2009
forgiveness
by: Anonymous

Being a Christian may require you to forgive, but it does not require you to forget, nor does it require you to associate with the people who harmed you.

May 13, 2010
personal points
by: Anonymous

I agree with all the advice given above. As I am in a similar situtation I would like to add a few personal points. One is your wife doesn t know normal life like you do. For her this treatment as hideous as it is , is normal. She needs conselling to be a partner on your side. Her decisions about her parents are not clear as she wasn t raised with any proper parental guidance. Second it doesn t matter how caring ,loving and empathetic you are, danger is danger. These people should be considered dangerous. Forget about all the guilt of breaking up a family or taking away grandparents. You need to distance yourselves from the source (inlaws) for awhile just to see a bit more clearly.Maybe being a scientist is not your main calling, maybe you are here to be a healer to your wife and children. Get your wife some therapy , move away and don t let them have your kids. The key is getting your wife mentally healthy so you have a strong partner. Step away from the fire.

Sep 04, 2010
Honor
by: Anonymous

It is so wonderful to read of a forgiveness and forgetting that is fair to victim. Yes, to forgive and have compassion for the abuser is not about exposing oneself to further abuse or strain.

And yes, I fully believe that there are so many people from abusive/dysfunctional homes who cannot break away from them out an deeply entrenched burden of "honoring" parents.

To truly honor one's parents is to become a full and healthy person- that is the ultimate honor to a family torn apart by abuse: that one of them overcame the problems, found health and lived a productive life, using the talents and gifts their damaged family members were incapable of using.

Nov 09, 2010
Wow
by: Anonymous

I would never let them watch my children are you seriously trying to get your children molested or abused. I mean I read the first few paragraphs in disbelief, you have to protect your children they rely on you for that and it sounds to me that you allowed your children to be subjectified to abusive nature baased off a false christian belief instead of common sense. You forgive in your heart to heal yourself from the pain thatt doesnt mean you keep the people in your life and keep asking for more

Jun 20, 2011
BE NOT AFRAID!
by: Carol Curtis

Your comments on how to deal with abusive in-laws is the best advice I have ever heard. Abuse in all its forms is hurtful, destructive, demoralizing, evil and dehumanizing. This is true for the abuser, as well as the abused. Because at one time, the abuser, was himself the abused. I believe that is why we can forgive the abuser for their deeds, but at the same time, we cannot associate ourselves with these deeds. There should be no guilt associated with distancing oneself from physical or emotional harm, even from your own parents or in-laws. God intended for you to live your life in peace. How can one be happy if you are constantly afraid of the people who are supposed to be your protectors? Unfortunately, life throws us curve balls and we have to adapt our coping mechanisms accordingly. As long as we recognize it for what it is, we can then go forward and fulfill the life that Christ intended for us to have. Be assured that you are one of God's children and you are loved. God is your true father in heaven. Even when all others forsake you, God is with you always. Take comfort in this and you will never be alone. No one can hurt you as long as you have Christ in your life.

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