Abuse and Forgiveness


How do I forgive my father for being abusive, and am I better off spiritually if I continue my relationship with my father despite his behavior? I would like to forgive my father, but I don't understand upon what basis.

He now admits the abuse, and he says he deeply regrets it, but he claims he did not know any better. He is a brilliant and successful businessman, and I find it difficult to believe that he was so self-centered as to be oblivious to my needs, as he claims.


Your situation is a good example of how forgiveness is not something you can rush toward just because you know that forgiveness is where you want to end up spiritually. The process of healing the hurts from our past is not an intellectual process.

Finding forgiveness, taking responsibility for your life, and letting go of the pain is not so much a procedure to heal the past, as much as it is a place you come to once the healing is complete.

The process of healing is, in many ways, really the process of mourning a loss, because when you mourn a loss you are releasing stored pain. We are used to mourning the death of a loved one, the loss of money, or a home.

We are less adept at healing the losses we may experience by the loss of love, health, respect, control, our childhood, or the countless other ways in which a version of our self is taken away from us.

The lack of care and protection from your father will always justify your anger and hurt as long as you relive it from the perspective of the child who experienced what you shouldn't have had to experience. Now that you have survived and are grown up, these feelings can finally come up to be healed.

The first thing to recognize is that the reemergence of these old feelings is a positive and healthy sign that you are now in a strong enough position to heal the old hurts. Allow them to come up, don't avoid them or push them away. Don't indulge or exaggerate the feelings either. Let them be what they are.

All the feelings involved in the mourning process: pretense, blaming, excusing, anger, resentment, regret, bitterness, and finally acceptance, should all allowed to come forward as they want to.

You need to recognize that what you experienced and lost was in your past, that you have survived and that you are now here in the present, safe and secure. From this vantage your old hurts can tell you what it is that hurts.

You don't need to know the exact details of what happened and when. You may only have a vague sense of the actual events, especially if they occurred when you were very young. It is enough that there is a willingness to see and feel what happened.

Learn why what you lost was so important to you, and why it had such power over you. You will discover how you handle loss, by showing you how you have avoided loss in the past and also what situations trigger memories of past losses, etc.

This is how the natural healing response is assisted. There is no set timetable for how long healing takes, it all depends on the loss that you have suffered, and no one can know the depth of your loss but you.

Through this process we discharge our emotional debt and spontaneously define a stronger spiritual self in the present. From here we learn to accept the loss, find forgiveness, and move forward in life.

When we have successfully mourned our losses, we are not just pretending things are OK, we are OK. We have not excused the abuser, we have finally outgrown our participation in that relationship and moved into a more powerful, loving self in the present.

Meditation will be helpful in developing and strengthening that spiritual self as a foundation for healing, acceptance and forgiveness, but it does not necessarily give you the courage, honesty, and patience required for the healing process.

Those qualities you must locate and cultivate within yourself to see you through your healing process.