I’m sure you’ve heard the adage: “Bitterness is the poison you take hoping someone else will die.” So true. But you say to yourself, “I’m not bitter.” What about the person or persons who abused you? Have you forgiven them? Bitterness is nothing more than a lack of forgiveness that grows and foments in your heart.
I can almost see you rolling your eyes and giving me a “huh!” or “Yeah, right.” And for sure you’re thinking, “What? Are you kidding? Let that #@!? off the hook? Are you crazy?” Well, let’s see. No, I’m not kidding. No, I’m not letting the #@!? off the hook, and no, I’m not crazy, well not anymore anyway.
A wise doctor once told me that as long as I refuse to forgive my abuser(s), I’m connected to them. I’m spending energy on them. That’s the poison. If I’m holding on to the awful wrongs they did to me, I’m thinking about them, I’m letting their actions control my emotions, thus spending energy and keeping my connection with them strong.
Letting them off the hook? Nope? That’s not up to me. If they are to be let off the hook, they have some action to take, which includes repentance. And only God can let them off the hook, though as long as they live they will endure the consequences of their choices. Now, I know that it may appear that they’re not experiencing any consequences, but we can’t see the torture God may be working in their souls. And they’re certainly not going to let it show if they can help it. But it’s not unusual for these people to turn to a variety of behaviors to try to numb the guilt and try to kill the compulsion to repeat the offense. Think of heavy drinking, drug abuse, sex addictions, serial “relationships,” loss of family and friends and certainly of self respect. They are living every day with the fear that someone will find out about their “dirty little secret.” So, no, forgiveness in no way lets them off the hook.
Do they deserve more? Yes, I think so, but that’s really not up to me, except in the respect of reporting them to authorities. I had a lovely fantasy of torture that I entertained for some time, but eventually I gave it up in favor of forgiveness when I realized how much time I was spending thinking about my abuser. If I wanted to move on and be free from him/them, I had to forgive. It wasn’t easy, because I just didn’t feel like forgiving. Then someone pointed out to me that forgiveness had nothing to do with how I felt and everything to do with my will. I just had to choose. Whether or not I felt like it, I could choose to forgive them and release myself from the grip they had held on me.
It took a lot of forgiving in the beginning. I’d forgive, and then an hour later, I’d find myself thinking bitter thoughts, so I’d forgive again. Sort of like washing my hair. You know: lather, rinse, repeat. Only this was: forgive, release, repeat. Finally, I could go half a day, then a whole day. It takes practice, but it is so worth it. I certainly did not want to feel connected to my abuser(s). I learned how great it felt to be free, so I became committed to forgiveness. Now I practice it as a regular part of my life to keep my friendships in good shape and to release myself from bitter thoughts.