How Can I Forgive Someone Who Sexually Abused Me?

You took the difficult and vital step of confronting your abuser, but far from bringing some resolution, his reaction made it clear that he still is remorseless and unrepentant. It isn’t surprising that you are upset.

You needn’t feel guilty about your strong feelings. God designed us to have an intense emotional response to evil. Your natural revulsion to unrepented sin isn’t wrong in itself, nor should it be considered contrary to forgiveness. Forgiveness never ignores the harm that someone has caused us. But even though your feelings of outrage are no reason for you to feel guilty, it’s good that you are aware of them. Your awareness of your feelings will make it possible for you to be instructed by them, rather than being consumed by them.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger in itself isn’t wrong. What is wrong is being controlled by it in a way that leads to sin. Our anger may be partially driven by righteous outrage, but because of our fallen nature an element of our anger is always like the fury of a dangerous beast — rooted in a lust for power and vengeance. That’s why even though we can’t keep natural feelings from erupting,we need to take charge of our response to them.

It took courage for you to broach the subject with your abuser. Further, the fact that you are disappointed by his response implies that you would be ready to forgive him if he were remorseful. At this point the emotional distance that exists between you and your abuser is mostly the consequence of his attitude and behavior. You can’t bridge the distance alone.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. Loving means to seek the best interests of another. Through our relationship with Christ we can find the strength to seek the best interests of those who harm us. But seeking the best interests of others involves holding them accountable for their sin ( Matthew 18:15-17 ).

There is nothing loving about shielding an evildoer from the ugliness of his sin. Jesus didn’t serve as an “enabler” for evildoers seeking to conceal their deeds. Although Jesus was the personification of love,He truthfully characterized people who consciously resisted the truth as vipers ( Matthew 12:34 ), thieves ( Matthew 21:13 ), whitewashed tombs ( Matthew 23:27 ), liars ( Revelation 3:9 ), and murderers ( John 8:44 ).

The key issue is the attitude of your abuser. Jesus made it clear that forgiveness and reconciliation are linked with repentance ( Luke 17:1-4 ). Only when an offender confesses his willful sin can we rightfully forgive him for what he has done. This man will have to sincerely repent 1 to be a beneficiary of God’s grace ( Leviticus 26:40-42 ; Job 42:5-6 ; Psalm 32:5 ; Proverbs 28:13 ; Jonah 3:8-9 ; Luke 15:21 ; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ; 1 John 1:9 ). Although we can pray for an offender and take action to seek restoration, a relationship cannot be healed until he has done what is right in accepting the responsibility for his past wrongs.

Is it really loving to be so confrontational? Yes. It is sometimes the only truly caring course of action. Confrontation can be the first step in demonstrating that you believe in a person’s potential for godliness.It is likely that King David would not have repented of his wickedness in taking another man’s wife and arranging the death of her husband if the brave prophet Nathan had not told him a parable that portrayed his sin in all of its ugliness and then said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12 ).

This pattern reflects the way God Himself deals with our sin. The Bible declares that God can forgive all sin — including the cruelest and most intentional. God Himself paid the price for the reconciliation of all sinners ( John 3:16 ; Romans 3:24-25 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; 1 John 4:9 . But though God provided the basis for forgiveness, He imposes forgiveness upon no one against his or her will. He also expects those who have harmed others to make restitution where possible, or to take whatever measures are necessary to minimize the chances of harming others (Isaiah 1:16 ; Luke 19:8-10 ; John 8:11 ; Hebrews 10:26 ).

Your angry feelings are an important factor in keeping you from offering a premature forgiveness that would let your abuser minimize and ignore his evil. Yet your actions shouldn’t be based on your anger, but on a willingness to honor and obey God ( Exodus 23:4 ; Proverbs 24:17; 25:21-22 ; Matthew 18:21-35 ; Ephesians 4:32 ; Colossians 3:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ).

Each of us begins life hating God and the Son He sent to redeem us.In Christ, God provides the supreme example of forgiveness. His example makes it clear that we shouldn’t be nurturing hatred or desiring vengeance. Instead, we should be willing to forgive when our offender truly repents. Forgiveness and restoration, however,can’t take place until your abuser is truly sorry for what he has done.

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