Wednesday 23 March 2011

Christianity & Forgiveness from my dissertation

One of the concerns of the daughter is often the question of forgiving the abuser, of making some form of peace with him. Part of the reason for this is the need to find some external validation that the victim was not responsible for the abuse that she/he suffered or validation that it really happened the way she remembers it. This is seldom forthcoming and puts the victims in the position of having to find within themselves that validation. However, forgiving the perpetrator is not a necessity for recovery from sexual assault or any other form of child abuse. These fathers did not do the best that they could. They are not entitled to forgiveness, it has to be earned. Even then, the daughter should not feel obliged to forgive what may be for her, unforgivable and unredeemable. If she wants to forgive, it must be for herself not for the father, the family or her therapist. The daughter has another option. She can simply let go, a feat that is difficult for the daughter. When all of her anger is vented, when she truly understands what happened to her, she can let go of the resentment, rather than let that resentment and anger control the rest of her life." She has then become a survivor.

Forgiveness of one's enemies, of anyone who has harmed you, is one of the 'prime directives' of Christianity. It is not just encouraged but regarded as necessary that a Christian adult survivor of incest should eventually, not just come to terms with her experience of sexual assault, but also forgive her abuser. It is argued that without forgiveness the survivor will always remain unhealed. Christianity with its emphasis on loving one's neighbour and turning the other cheek, forgiving seventy times seven or forever, gives divine sanction and authority to the repression of that anger. It is axiomatic for Christianity that one is always striving to be like Christ, the 'imago dei' is placed as the epitome for which Christians should strive. Christians must emulate Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him even while he was suffering on the cross. There is little material written on therapeutic spiritual intervention for the incest survivor in terms of Christianity. However, a fair amount of material for battered women in abusive domestic relationships is beginning to accumulate. With respect to battered wives, it is argued that forgiveness requires that the abusive husband undergo true metanoia or repentance. These men must turn their lives around and truly understand the evil which they have committed when they beat their wives. At the same time, however, women are told to look to their 'sin of silence' and pray for forgiveness from God. But if the daughter speaks up, she is often not believed. Chaos ensues, and often the family is broken apart. On the other hand, if she forgives her father, maybe everything will be all right.

Christianity, with its emphasis on forgiveness can give the daughter the idea that she must forgive her father even while he is abusing her. And even more distressing, she may feel that she must continue to let him keep abusing her. Letting go is a difficult option for the Christian daughter. Jesus forgave his murderers even while he was on the cross, Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro while she was dying. All the daughter's training propels her to forgiving her father - to the detriment of her recovery. For forgiveness can be premature and impede recovery. To force forgiveness means that the daughter will have to stifle her anger at her father and her anger at god. To make the process that much more difficult, how would she go about forgiving the father god for his failure to protect her after he had promised?

NOTE: I omitted the footnotes from this - people can click on the link to the dissertation if they want to see those.


Angela said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheila Redmond said...

Why this post was removed.

It said "Good work.I like your awesome post..!" posted by someone called Angela (with a link to absolutely nothing but the name on blogger).

HOWEVER, it came attached with a link to "direct lenders for payday loans". Under NO circumstances will I allow advertising on this blog. If I wanted to make money off of this blog, I would advertise with Google Ads myself. Hence the comment has been removed.

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