They say that the happiest people are those who don’t have an ounce of hate in their hearts and are always happy to forgive, but try telling that to someone who has been abused or neglected by their parents.
When you’ve been hurt by the people who are supposed to love you the most, you’re entitled to feel angry and upset, and no one would begrudge you if you used your energy for vengeance and not forgiveness.
Tips for Forgiving Abusive Parents
Although it can be difficult to hear, forgiveness really does make you feel better.
It doesn’t mean you have to embrace the person who hurt you, tell them that everything is okay, and start spending time with them, but rather that you should stop letting that hate consume you.
It’s about you, not them. If your hatred towards them doesn’t bother you, your parent is not in your life, and you’re happy and safe with the distance between you, there’s no need to go any further.
However, if you find yourself constantly fretting over the relationship and it’s impacting your mental health, it could be time to forgive and forget.
Here are some tips to help you:
Be Honest with Yourself
It’s hard to admit that you have been abused by your loved ones. Whether you were abused physically or mentally, and whether that abuse was a single incident or a prolonged series of events, accepting the truth is the first step to moving on.
And “truth” doesn’t mean their version of the truth. It’s not the thing that they told you to keep you happy or quiet. For instance, a child who was beaten may have been told that it was all part of making them tougher and stronger, but it is never acceptable or justified.
Focus on the Way That Your Life Changed
Individuals who experience terrible abuse when they’re younger are often the kindest, gentlest, and most understanding people you can meet.
There is a certain stigma attached, however, as movies and stories of real-life serial killers have created a misconception that every abuse victim is somehow broken or capable of committing horrible atrocious.
Really, though, they’re not more capable than anyone else, and the vast majority of people with abusive histories are empathetic. They understand what it’s likely to suffer at the hands of loved ones and never want to put other people through that. They may be stronger and more dedicated, and a lot of these strengths come from hardship.
You should never be thankful for the abuse that you received, even if you’ve convinced yourself that it was relatively mild. However, you should be thankful for your own inner strength and resilience.
Appreciate the person that you have become after overcoming adversity. Your abuser is older, weaker, and if they weren’t very happy, smart, or strong to begin with, so they will be even less so now. You, on the other hand, are stronger, happier, and smarter. You can hold your head high.
Look for a Reason
While there is never an excuse for abuse or neglect, if you’re trying to come to terms with your past and forgive your parent(s), it may help to see things from their side. There is never an excuse for serious abuse or sexual abuse, but you may be more sympathetic if they were neglectful or absent.
For instance, one of your parents might have left you when you were younger, making life very difficult growing up. As hard as that can be to accept, it’s much easier if they are remorseful and explain that they were struggling with mental illness at the time. By the same token, it’s easier to forgive neglectful behavior if they were abusing drugs/alcohol and are now clean and apologetic.
Focus on Your Own Mental Health
Ultimately, it all comes down to what you are happy with. You’re the victim. The ball is in your court. If forgiving them and spending time with them means you’ll be happier, go for it. On the other hand, if it will make you angry, depressed, and insecure, then don’t.
Take a look at the following two examples. Both of these hypotheticals concern parents who live alone, don’t have many years left, and are seemingly remorseful:
- Your father abused you physically and sexually as a child. You ran away as a teenager and never looked back. Decades later, after being diagnosed with a serious illness, your father tracks you down, asks you for forgiveness, and hopes to be part of your life again.
- Your father stole some of your inheritance from you and used it to pay some of his debts. Prior to this transgression, you have a long and loving history with him, and he is remorseful. You wish the theft didn’t happen because you love him and want your relationship to return to the way it was.
In the first instance, some people will forgive, while many will not. The problem is, you would be forgiving them for their sake, not yours, and because you don’t love them or trust them, you will never feel happy or safe in their company.
In the second instance, it’s clear that you want to forgive them, but simply don’t feel like they deserve it. This is when you should definitely take the steps to forgive them. You will be miserable if you don’t and that means their transgression will only cause more pain.