Goodbye, family that takes my brother’s side, despite what he did to me

Goodbye, family that takes my brother’s side, despite what he did to me November 11, 2014

Woman leaving travels from there with her luggage
If you’ve been reading me long enough you might recall my Feb. 2012 post, Must I forgive the brother who serially molested me for seven years?, in which I answered a woman who wrote me to ask if, as her parents were pressuring her to do, she, a Christian, needed to forgive her brother for serially sexually molesting her from the time she was five to twelve years old.

Part of what she wrote to me was:

My brother, seven years my senior, started molesting me when I was very young. My first memory of it is when I was about five years old. I believe it went on until I was about twelve. I know he raped me multiple times. … Now my brother is begging my family to talk me into sitting down with him. My family (who for years has known about what he did to me—and who allowed the abuse to occur) insists that now I’ve not only opened a can of worms, but that I “owe it” to my brother to meet and talk with him. They say I owe my brother because I am a Christian, and so must forgive him. … Do I really need to forgive him?

Part of my answer to her was:

… You do not need to forgive your brother. “Forgive and forget” sounds spiritually enlightened, but the fact is that it’s simply not possible for any person to forget an egregious violation against them. Your brother did do what he did. You literally cannot forget that. And you’re under no moral obligation whatsoever to make him feel better about it. His conscience is his responsibility, not yours. …

Open up a Gmail account you can shut down whenever you want; tell your parents and your brother that they are fee to contact you there and in no other way; ignore from them any emails that aren’t positively ringing with the unmistakable tone of true contrition. …

You don’t belong to [your family] anymore. You belong to you, you belong to the God who saved you, and you belong to those of us out here who, like you, finally decided to claim for ourselves an identity grown and nurtured in the ground of truth, not lies.

I published my response, and that was the last I heard from her.

But then, two days ago, I received this email:

Hi John,

I wrote to you a few years back. I believe it was 2012 or so. I wrote to you because my family was insisting that I need to forgive my brother who sexually abused me as a child. Your response was very helpful and in that response you also encouraged me to break ties with my family who continued to dismiss my feelings.

Fast forward to today, more than 2 years later. I did it. I finally did it. I finally broke off my relationship with my family. It took a long time to do it. I was stuck even after your post. Now I’m not. Why the change?

They turned on me (not that they were ever on my side), and now, rather than their encouragement that I should forgive my brother, they just don’t believe me at all, and have told me that I’m tearing the family apart.

And what did I do to cause the tearing apart of my family? I refused to be around my abuser or allow my daughter around him during the holiday season.

I want to thank you for your words of encouragement over 2 years ago. It may have taken a long time for me to finally do what I needed to do, but I did it. It just took a long time to find the courage. By the way, I’ve also had counselor’s for at least 15 years tell me exactly what you did in your response to my email. I was just so scared and questioned myself so much.

Anyways, thank you for your input 2+ years ago. I know it took awhile but I finally found the courage to walk away from that toxic environment.

I’m sharing this (with permission, of course) because, in the same way this woman thanked me, I wanted to thank all of you who do so much to help heal the people whose letters I answer on this blog.

When one year ago I moved my blog over here to Patheos, a lot of the comments left by readers on posts I’d published up to that point didn’t make the transfer; in the case of the original post in which I answered this woman, 208 comments didn’t make it.

But I remember them. They were fantastic. As happens time and time again here, so many of you opened your hearts and gave of yourselves, and through your sharing, sensitivity, and intelligence helped this then-lost soul to know that she was not alone—that you had heard her story, listened to her pain, felt her struggle. You let her know that, because of your own life experiences, you knew what she was going through.

It’s a blog, sure. And obviously there’s only so much we can do here. But words matter. And I just wanted to thank those of you who use your words here to help make life just a little bit easier for myself and others to bear.

Do not on this blog dare to suggest that any victim of sexual abuse is required to forgive their abuser. See today’s 6 truths about “forgiving” sexual abuse.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Brandon Roberts

    I’m so sorry to hear that.

  • lymis

    Thanks for the update on this, to both John and to the letter writer. As much as it sucks to be in the position where one needs to, I absolutely support someone who finds the need to break all ties with a toxic family. As a gay man among gay men, it’s a situation I’m far too aware of.

    It’s probably something I said at the time, but I’ll say it again. Far too many people think of forgiveness as telling someone “That’s all right. I don’t mind what you did.” Usually with a side order of “I know you didn’t mean it” or “No harm done.”

    But that’s ridiculous, because often, what they did is NOT all right and never will be, it was most definitely deliberate, and harm most certainly was done.

    Forgiveness is removing the ability of past hurts to do future harm. In some cases, sure, that means saying, “I’m not willing to let this thing ruin our relationship, so let’s move on together from here.” Sometimes is actually is a matter of saying, “I understand that it wasn’t deliberate, so I choose to focus on your intention rather than the consequences.”

    But sometimes, forgiveness means saying, “I am not willing to allow you to keep hurting me, but I am no longer going to put all this energy into defending myself, because that just reopens the wound every time. The only way to forgive is to end the relationship entirely, knowing that I cannot have peace with you in my life. I am willing to allow you the possibility of your own peace, and leave you to God, and possibly, even to wish you well, but I’m not having anything further to do with you, even in my own mind.”

    People confuse forgiveness with absolution, and think it means, “Let’s agree to pretend it never happened.”

    There are over 4 billion people on the planet. It’s not unchristian to prefer to spend holidays with people who don’t hurt you.

  • Dear letter writer,

    We are SO proud of and happy for you. From what you’ve written about your family, the pressure you’ve been under would have broken most people, and you’ve come out of this so strong.

    I’m going to take this a step further, and I hope it doesn’t hurt you: these people are NOT your family. They may have given birth to you. They may have raised you. And they may be related by blood. But they are not a family to you. No true family would try to force a woman whose childhood was stolen from her, a woman who was repeatedly assaulted, to sit across a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner from her attacker while everyone laughs and chats and pretends “it’s all OK.”

    And no true family would allow their young granddaughter or niece to be in such close proximity to a child molester. I hope that every time you feel a pang of regret or guilt, you look at your daughter and take pride in the fact that — unlike these people who claim to be your family — you’ve the courage and guts to protect her, as well as yourself.

    I don’t know what kind of friends you have, but my husband and I discovered our true families were those who loved us and believed in us when our so-called families rejected us. Make some great holiday plans with those people, your true families … you’ll have a blast.

    much love your way.

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    To the letter-writer,

    You have found a strength in your life that many people never will. It’s the strength to say “No more.” You are amazing, and your daughter is fortunate to have such a resilient person as you raising her. May the peace of God, which transcends our understanding, guard your heart and mind as you move into this new place in your life.

  • I also have some sexual abuse by a family member in my past and found it necessary to break ties with the abuser entirely for awhile (in my case, I did resume contact with him after a few years, but it certainly isn’t required). Lymis is right that forgiveness doesn’t mean saying “that’s all right” and it certainly doesn’t mean that you pretend nothing happened–that’s not forgiveness, that’s sweeping it under the carpet. Forgiveness in my own case has been learning to let go of the bitterness and rage I felt, and then coming up with a healthy way to deal with my abuser (which can include no contact at all). I’ve also found that it’s a process–I’ll think I’m done with it for months at a time, and then I’ll have to deal with it again, though fortunately every time it gets a little easier. Forgiveness is about MY healing, not the abuser’s or the family’s. It isn’t for the abuser, it’s for me, so that I can move on free of the burden of rage, bitterness, anger. What happens to the abuser is not my problem.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    You are not tearing the family apart. He did that. They did that.

    I do not at all understand people who value pretending everything is ok for the sake of “being together” as if “being together” is some sort of duty or obligation, more than they value doing the right thing and supporting those who have been hurt.

    You are doing the only healthy thing possible when people choose to continue to hurt you: No longer give them the opportunity to do that.

    Many blessings to you as you continue on your healing journey.

  • BarbaraR

    I think you have expressed it perfectly.

  • Sarah

    To me, forgiveness means wishing for redemption and healing for those who have hurt us. It doesn’t mean forgetting, or absolving, or having to be in the life of the people that have hurt you. For me, it means letting go of a desire for revenge, and hoping and praying that those who have done evil find God’s grace. Thank you for your courage to share.

  • Jon

    This has really made me think. And that’s no bad thing, of course, although it’s often painful. Families are so incredibly complicated and hurtful and grief-bringing – or that’s all true in my own case.

    Luckily (“blessedly” for those of a fundie leaning), I have my natural family to fall back upon even though I never met them until I was about 35 (out of a sense of loyalty towards my adoptive family). I have much pain and many sad memories because of my upbringing, but choosing to walk away has still been the hardest thing. It took gut wrenching courage for me to present my surviving adoptive family with the truth – and it was ultimately worthless, because they never accepted that they had done anything wrong.

    I remain almost completely screwed up by my upbringing. Trusting others remains a distant hope and dream. Detaching myself emotionally as well as physically has not proved to be the solution – although it has been an essential first step on my long journey towards recovery. I will get there, probably just in time to die of old age.

    Comparisons with other people are pointless, but I know that I am luckier than some. I am at least grateful that Dad never interfered with me sexually; he reserved that treatment for my (birth) brother Mark. He dealt out severe physical beatings to me, but never to Mark.

    But, and here’s the weirdest thing, I still miss my Dad. I wish he was still alive so that I could talk to him. But I know in my heart of hearts that he wouldn’t be pleased to see me – he would be disappointed in me, just as I am in myself.

    Jeeze, this is so painful to write – sorry if I have gone off topic. Thanks for reading. x

  • Sarah Spencer

    I too have been a victim in the past, not of a brother, but of a grandfather. I understand the need to break the soul ties. However, I disagree with your position on not forgiving. Unforgiveness actually keeps the negative soul tie in place and eventually lends itself to a hardened heart that becomes bitter and angry. It is God that makes forgiveness a requirement. “Mat_6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:” KJV. However, it is up to the brother and other family members to see their own wrongs and to seek forgiveness. Once that is done, it is the duty of the sister to forgive. On the other hand, to keep the relationship between her and God pure, she needs to forgive so that her soul will be clean. God also says to love our enemies,”Mat_5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” KJV. Forgiveness is necessary to love our enemies. Forgiveness is necessary to have pure heart. Forgiveness is necessary to break the negative soul ties.

  • Matt

    I am so glad to hear this, Letter Writer. I had wondered a little bit about how you were doing. I lost my family too, for the exact same reasons. I stood up for myself, even begged my mother to help me, but it made no matter. They simply got rid of me. I did nothing wrong. They made choices that made it impossible for me to keep ties with them.

    That’s not to say it isn’t hard. It is. It’s easily the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. I went back and forth for months, agonizing over the possibility that I could be wrong, and maybe I was the really the problem. The only thing that would have hurt more, in fact killed me, was staying with them. I’m so glad you were able to gather the strength to do what needed to be done.

    If you ever wonder about forgiveness, I do not forgive, and I am not bitter. I am happy that my mother recently re-married to a good man, although I did not come to the wedding. I know that she made a huge mistake that she will end up regretting (and I think she already does), but I want her to be well taken care of. I am happy to have a beautiful niece, although I don’t visit her because seeing her father is too painful. It has never been hard to see the value even in the people who hurt me so deeply.

    Not forgiving gives me space to feel what I need to feel and do what I need to do. I was pressured to forgive as well, and it was nothing more than another exercise in telling me to shut up and go away all wrapped up in nice words. Without forgiveness, I still work each and every day toward resolution of what happened to me. I may forgive if that’s the next step that I need to take. I won’t if it’s not.

    In other words, it’s up to you. It’s not necessary for happiness, peace, or closure. You do what you need to do. Keep being strong and awesome. Much peace and love to you.

  • Let me pose one possibility: you miss your Dad, but not the monster that clung to his back. It’s rare that a person is entirely evil, and I imagine there were moments when your Dad’s humanity (love?) peaked through.

    I believe the “Dad” in your father would not only be happy to see you … he would be proud of you for being so strong and heartbroken at what he did to you and your brother. Unfortunately, the monster seems to be in control.

    Don’t be disappointed in yourself. Your writing here shows a lot of self-insight, and that insight can lead you down the healing road.

  • Matt

    I know for a fact that to be around my dad would be painful, just like when he was alive. It doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally miss having a dad. Don’t feel bad, Jon.

  • Jon

    Thanks Mike. My Dad definitely had his own demons to contend with, and he only stopped smoking about 3 weeks before he died (of emphysema), and pretty much the same with his drinking. He was a lovely man, and you are right – that’s the part of him I miss so much. I wish to goodness I had got to know that part of him better. I don’t know why i still cry when I think about this stuff – maybe I will never be free of it.
    But, thanks for your kind and thoughtul words.

  • YS Inclusiva

    My stepfather raped me and my mother never believed me or took my side. I did the same you recommended, I separate myself from the abusive family. Thank you for leading people to the correct path.

  • Junie Girl

    Of course words matter! The good ones and the bad ones. They are powerful, and too many people don’t think about the harm their words cause. I’m glad she has found the strength to finally walk away from those who are harming her. Blood or no, there’s no reason to keep people in your life if they are consistently harmful.

  • Jon

    Thanks Matt.

  • Anne

    God bless her. Separating from a toxic situation or abusive relationship is harder than most people know. Believe it or not, there is still a grieving process one must go through as one moves into a healthier place. So many of these stories resonate with me as I carry my own story. John, such sound advice, such powerful words. Most people who’ve been through this have to work their way to their own time and place in which they can take those words you’ve shared and use them for good. I remember your friend’s story when it was first shared. And I remember thinking, “Oh honey, be brave, be strong and be patient with yourself. You will get there, you can be healthy, you can be whole. I am praying for you.” Thank you for the update. And thank you for you.

  • Kelly

    We Christians really need to learn to disconnect the two concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation and not use the former when we mean the latter. Forgiveness is about coming to peace within yourself. Reconciliation, which is what her family really was demanding of her, is about the relationship and can only happen if the person who damaged the relationship does the work to repair it. Forgiveness does NOT require reconciliation, nor does it require forgetting!

    Given what she says about the way her family has treated her, reconciliation is not possible, and kudos to her for severing ties and for taking the necessary steps to protect herself and her daughter.

    I do hope she either already has or will someday come to a place of forgiveness (peace internally), both of the original abuse and the continued abuse by her whole family. But reconciliation? Absolutely not, not given the circumstances. What a brave woman to not let them guilting her into a reconciliation that would be damaging to both her and her daughter.

  • Junie Girl

    I am so sad to hear that you feel disappointed in yourself. You are amazing–you survived a chaotic and traumatic life, and yet you still have tenderness in your heart towards what was good in your dad. I wish you peace and joy, and friends with listening ears and sympathetic hearts to travel your road with you. A counselor that you trust might help, too.

  • Tom McCool

    I don’t know why or when “forgive and forget” became one word instead of three. My guess is that transgressors dreamed this up to whitewash their crimes. You can forgive, and not forget. You can decide to stop feeling hurt, ashamed, angry, manipulated, or whatever feelings have been boiling up inside of you. Once you have made peace with yourself, you aren’t required to forget as if the crimes never happened. You can walk away from the transgressor and those who join him or her in the misguided emotional abuse that follows. Forgive, but do not forget.

  • This is SO TRUE! Thank you!

    Forgiveness is merely acknowledging that the value you have _already_ paid (had stolen from you) will _not_ be returned to you, and that nobody can/will pay you back for the suffering you’ve gone through already.

    Reconciling with someone who keeps harming you is NOT part of that process. In fact, forgiveness allows you to let go of those destructive relationships by no longer binding yourself to the hope of reconciliation.

  • I love this part! —> sometimes, forgiveness means saying, “I am not willing to allow you to keep hurting me, but I am no longer going to put all this energy into defending myself, because that just reopens the wound every time. The only way to forgive is to end the relationship entirely, knowing that I cannot have peace with you in my life. I am willing to allow you the possibility of your own peace, and leave you to God, and possibly, even to wish you well, but I’m not having anything further to do with you, even in my own mind.” —

    And it is such a relief to act on this thought, too!

  • Jon

    Thank you Junie. You have a real gentleness.

  • Kelly

    Well said. I like using the term “absolution” here. That really clarifies what many people *think* forgiveness means and requires (along with reconciliation). Forgiveness requires neither absolution nor reconciliation. “Sweeping it under the rug” is another good contrast to what true forgiveness really is. I really wish we’d stop using the term forgiveness to mean all these things, because while forgiveness is such an important part of emotional and spiritual healing for the abused, sweeping it under the rug, or absolution and reconciliation where the abuse is ongoing has the opposite effect. Yet we continue to conflate these terms, making it hard for people to find the healing that comes with forgiveness because they can’t (and shouldn’t) absolve or reconcile.

  • Sheila Warner

    It sounds like their definition of forgiveness is really to recant the reality of what she told them. I’m glad she’s cut those ties.

  • Julie Payne

    Strength is Forgiveness. Are you actually Christians!? How many times has the Bible said ‘You Must forgive.” This is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You have to remember that Forgiveness is NOT for the person being forgiven, It is for the person who gives forgiveness. God is the one who judges us all. Forgiveness is the act of releasing them to that fate. Saying that you are not holding them to your judgment and trusting that God will do it for you. Forgiveness is an act of faith. I forgive you, because I know the punishment God has for you is worse than any hate I can hold in my heart.

  • Thomas Dummermuth

    Forgiveness is never “owed”. I found very helpful reflections along these lines in the following article “Structures of Forgiveness in the New Testament”

  • Carol Thomas

    I think it depends on the way you look at the word forgiveness. As well as being a Christian I am also a member of a 12 step program. In that if you take the full package on board with the steps we are taught that forgiveness comes from the person. I.E in this situation the abused woman. Forgiveness is not about a demand from other people. That is blackmail and manipulation as well as denial and is toxic.

    I have learnt I can choose to forgive with detachment, however within that is about my boundaries my safety and most certainly doesn’t mean reconciliation.

    No one can demand forgiveness. I have learnt to forgive because the only person it chews up is me. It doesn’t matter what the other person is thinking or feeling, whether they are around my life or not. I can acknowledge that person sickness, yet that does not mean I have to be reconciled to that person/persons.

    It is about the person peace and value of one self. I hope that makes sense, as I am coming from a place of 12 step program (The principles come out of Christianity and The Bible)

    God bless you! You are a very brave courageous lady

  • Sharla Hulsey

    When you get to the place where not forgiving is harming you, then maybe are at a point where you’re ready to forgive. That does not, however, as John points out in the next post, mean you have to let such an evil person or his enablers back into your life, EVER.

  • matchtlevel

    I don’t think she is required to forgive her family. She deserves peace.
    I wonder if the brother was molested before he molested his sister.

  • This.

  • Pavitrasarala

    Bravo and well done! I reached the same decision with my birth family for very similar reasons over 12 years ago. It was hard and heartbreaking, until I realized one day that the more time went by, the fewer regrets and doubts I had. This especially rang true all the more when their attempts to violate my no-contact rule proved they hadn’t changed one iota and that they still had no respect or regard for me as their daughter/sister, let alone a human being.

    My father in law once gave me a ration of sh*t for my choice, arguing that “family is family.” He was right *and* he was wrong. Family is family, but family also has to BE family, and act like it, and family can be people of your choosing when the one you were born with or even married into fail at their post.

    As a side note, my father in law retracted his statements when I told him the reasons I made my decision…

  • Mginiafriend

    Way to go!!! I know it was a rough decision but I’m very glad you cut your ties. Standing up for yourself and what you know to be true – hardest thing ever. Protecting YOUR daughter – Priceless! You are truly an amazing, awesome Mom. 🙂

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    Forgiveness does not mean putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation or associating regularly with the person forgiven. It does not mean accepting what a person has done and forgiveness does not absolve us of the consequences of our sin. But your “advice” is far from biblical.

    Jesus commanded his disciples to love their enemies, Christians were expected to forgive those that murdered loved ones (Saul who was renamed Paul is one example of this principle in action) and to remember that we are all imperfect and all sin.

    You might as well just call your followers Shoreians, because there is nothing Christian about telling people that it is OK to NOT forgive.

    Matt 7:1,2; Rom 3:23; Matt 5:44; Rom 12:19

  • Supong Longchar

    Its a fallen world not all is right with people whoever they may be parents, teachers, friends,acquaintances etc… for sure what happened to her was not right in the sight of Men and in the sight of God of the Scripture. I pray and hope that all the affected life would find their worth and dignity of being as an image of God in Christ restoring work which is ever progressing. May the grace and mercy of God comfort her and make her dear ones to see that Christ can offer in the midst of such violation of law inherent within individual. Surely if they all see Christ of the scripture the Love of God shed abroad in heart Rom 5:5 can break all barriers.

  • I don’t read John’s words as you do.

    This family is insisting that definition of “forgiveness” is for this woman to do exactly what you yourself state forgiveness doesn’t mean: “putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation or associating regularly with the person forgiven.” Now this family says these events never happened, and they even want her to bring her daughter around this molester.

    I doubt this what Jesus meant by “forgiveness.”

  • Hi Jon, It sounds like your Dad made it almost impossible for you to get to know him. I don’t say this to be cruel, but your Dad sounds comparable to a mean dog: clearly, you couldn’t never trust him, never be sure if you’d be greeted warmly or be bitten. Your instincts may have kept at safe distance, protecting you, whether you realized it or not.

    And there’s nothing wrong with crying. Something to consider: I’ve experience with PTSD, and if you’re crying a lot, that can be a symptom of PTSD. Given what you’ve gone through, it’s a possibility.

  • Andy

    None of those verses say forgive your enemies or those that murdered loved ones, as far as I can see. You can show love to someone who has wronged you without absolving them of their wrongdoing.

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    From a reference work I use: “…forgiving others for personal offenses, regardless of the number of times involved, is a Christian requirement. (Lu 17:3, 4; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13) God’s forgiveness is not extended toward those who refuse to forgive others. (Mt 6:14, 15) However, even when serious wrongdoing leads to expulsion of “the wicked man” from the Christian congregation, that person may in due time be accorded forgiveness if he proves that he is truly repentant. At that time all in the congregation can confirm their love for him. (1Co 5:13; 2Co 2:6-11) However, Christians are not required to forgive those who practice malicious, willful sin with no repentance. Such become God’s enemies.—Heb 10:26-31; Ps 139:21, 22.”

    Repentance is part of forgiveness as well.

  • Andy

    It’s really hard to read this with all the abbreviated citations interrupting the flow. Just thought you should know.

    And what is this “reference work” to which you refer? Who wrote it?

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    The abbreviations are scriptural references. (Lu 17:3, 4 is Luke chapter 17 verses 3 and 4: “Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother commits a sin, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”; Eph 4:32 is Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32: “But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”

    I will gladly expand all of the abbreviations when I have a moment. Right now I am running out the door.

    It is better to focus on the scriptures as opposed to any commentary. The bible speaks pretty well on it’s own concerning the subject of what forgiveness is and what is required of someone for them to be a Christian.

  • Andy

    It’s not that I didn’t get the verses. I am perfectly capable of reading and of exegesis. It’s that I asked what this reference work you mentioned is. Is it something you wrote, for example?

  • BarbaraR

    The bible speaks pretty well on it’s own concerning the subject of what forgiveness is and what is required of someone for them to be a Christian.

    Most of us here do not rely on the Bible as a rule book about who’s in and who’s out, and exactly what will get you booted from the team.

    And no, I don’t agree that it’s “better to focus on the scriptures as opposed to any commentary.” There are approximately 59795499654 interpretations of what scripture means, and every one of them is convinced they have the only correct one.

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    When the subject is Christianity then the bible is supposed to be the rulebook. People try to fit a square peg in a round hole but the scriptures cited are as clear as day. No wiggle room for interpretation.

    If the author did not intend his article to be directed to Christians he should not have written it addressing Christian doctrine.

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    Staying away and protecting her daughter I agree 100% with. But do not confuse these with not forgiving.

  • Diana

    Forgiveness is a gift. So is the ability and the willingness to forgive. Both of these come from God and to suggest that anyone can forgive another without God granting them that gift is egregious, especially when it comes to forgiving an abuser. Moreover, I don’t believe this woman’s family was at all repentant. They knew her brother was abusing her and they let him do it. Then they expected her to act all “sugar and spice and everything nice” about it and expose her daughter to the potential danger that the same thing would happen to her. Excuse me? It’s one thing to forgive an abuser, it’s another thing entirely to continue to expose oneself and one’s child to continued danger at that person’s hands.

  • BarbaraR

    You’re new here, right?

    We do not hold to dogmatic beliefs, i.e. there is only one way to interpret scripture. If you do, great. If that’s what blows your skirt up, have a good time. But that point of view – that there is only one correct interpretation – isn’t going to work here.

    We hold that there are multiple possible interpretations, that the Bible has been translated imperfectly over centuries by people who were not impartial, that there have been additions and subtractions over time by people with their own agenda. We believe the Bible is made up of personal letters, personal experiences written down long after the fact, allegories, poetry, personal opinion, and long boring historical documents. One size does not fit all because God transcends these words. We don’t worship the Bible as the be-all and end-all.

    John Shore wrote the article via his own Christian stance and experience. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but you don’t get to tell him his doctrine is in error.

  • Diana

    It seems to me that her family refused to forgive her for standing her ground and continuing to hold her brother and the rest of them accountable for what they did to her. I’m sure that if they were to come to her in genuine understanding of how they sinned against her and a genuine willingness to change (repent), that she would be more than happy to forgive them. But as long as they remain unrepentant, why should she forgive them? They still present a danger to her and her child.

  • Andy

    Which author? There were a lot of authors of the collection of books we now know as the bible. Also, there are many versions of the bible, some of which contain writings the others don’t. And they had many different audiences. Paul, for example, wrote letters to many different peoples. What he had to say to one, he may not have said to another. Also, the idea that Paul’s writings should be viewed as the word of God is pretty tenuous. Is there a basis for assuming that short of biblical inerrancy (an even more tenuous idea)?

    And, of course, the idea that most scripture passages are “clear as day” is even more laughable. Especially given how much time has passed since they were written and how they have been translated, losing context for the sake of brevity, believe it or not.

  • Alfredo De La Fe

    I will bow out of this conversation after this reply. IF you believe that there is a God and that the bible is his inspired word then how incredibly sad that you think him so weak that he would not ensure that his word would survive.

    There is a great deal of evidence that the original text of the bible did NOT change much over the centuries. In fact, the customs of the early scribes was to destroy a copy if even a single error was made.

    To be a Christian means to be a follower of the Christ. The only way we can do this is via the sixty six inspired books and letters which are “living” documents which were passed down to us and translated over the centuries.

    The message passed to us by the only written record of Christ is loud and clear- we are expected to verify the things we hear or are taught as being “truth” from the scriptures. This message is VERY clear all throughout the bible, but one example is Acts 17:11: “Now the Borean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” To do otherwise is simple NOT Christian.

  • Diana

    It brings me back to something I’ve probably said before: everybody has a religion. For some people, that religion is country (“My country, wrong or right.”) For others it’s family or the illusion of family. It can be a sports team, an entertainer (Hello, American Idol!), or even an actual religion. But everybody’s got a religion.

  • BarbaraR

    Then clearly this is not the forum for you. There are all those other forums out there where people will completely agree with you and you should probably find one of those.

  • Andy

    There are so many issues with this comment, but if you’re bowing out I won’t bother pointing them out. Peace to you.

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    Hello, there. Thanks again john, for all this.

    I am reminded of a couple things. The absurdity of the vogue of forgiveness that we are sometimes held to–we aren’t able to forgive because we aren’t able to forget. Being changable, mortal beings other people’s actions change us, and thus an erasing like that is impossible. I’m glad she’s finally out of that toxic situation.

    Then there is the part of me who has been through what i’ve been through in life, abused (along with my two oldest siblings) and seeing how that damaged and changed each of us–and trying to extrapolate back on what must have happened to mess the guy up so much (he was my Dad’s roommate at the time, and as far as I can tell is long since dead). My heart hurts all over for the woman, her brother, the family that enabled this, much as thinking about my family makes me hurt for that man, his family, my oblivious dad and stepmom, etc. It is all just so wrong, that I wonder what left each of them damaged so. I’m glad for her own daughter’s sake she has got free of it. The last thing the world needs is another innocent victim.

  • Isaac Whitcraft

    Forgiving and forgetting is not the absolving of someone else’s sins.

    Never think that in forgiving and forgetting you are giving someone a free pass, the weight of their actions and their responsibility for their wrong doings still fully belong to them. In fact, it would be a point of arrogance to think it is even in our place or power to absolve any wrong doings.

    However, forgiving and forgetting is still important for the sake of ones own soul. It is not a source of sin to find yourself incapable, it does not put you in the wrong, but it does your own very soul great justice to break shackles that bind you to old pains.

    I applaud this woman’s efforts to escape such a source of pain. Amends are of deep importance, as are families ties, but if a family is holding you back then you must be willing to abandon so you may find peace and greater closeness to God.

    If the woman who wrote to you in this post is reading this, I admire your strength. I am sorry for what your family and your brother did to you, and for any Christian who believes that you can, in any way, be declared a sinner for your response to such abuse. So here is to a reaffirming of your emotions, uplifting that whatever you did or do feel is valid and your right. Truthfully, I have never known such wounds, but I pray that you may forget and forgive, not to absolve, but as a reclamation of your own soul. So that you can rest knowing justice is in the hands of God, and that every part of us, even the parts that have been made bitter from hardship, is not only fully accepted, but loved and cherished.

    I know not how to wash away deep stains from the soul. I’ve had many far more trivial than yours, yet I have found myself incapable of fully confronting all that has stuck with me and brought me down. Again, with that and all else considered, know that nothing is required of you in any sense. Know that forgiveness and forgetting is not for anyone but you, so you owe it to no one. Forgiveness and forgetting can look like different things to different people, so I can’t tell you how to even begin to find what it will be for you, but I can only say I pray you find it so that the only thing that can ever define you is God’s love for you and the strength, confidence, and resolve that comes with.

  • Lynne

    Sounds like we have very similar experiences. Thank you for your comment. I am the one who wrote the letter. I agree with what you say about this easily being the most painful thing. I also felt like the problem. And I still have moments where deep down I just feel unstable and feel as though I must have made it up. Anyways, take care.

  • Lynne

    Thank you. I am the writer. I push myself daily to look at who my
    “family” actually is. And none of them gave birth to me and the only blood relative is my kid. I have chosen who will sit across from me at the table this year.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’m glad she continued on with therapy and took your advice. There’s a lot of messed up stuff in this whole situation, and it pretty much figures that part of it would involve the family refusing to believe her. You see a lot of that in rape and abuse cases. They’d probably even use her therapy against her in that regard and claim that somehow she just got messed up in the head and imagined it.

    L is under no obligation to forgive them, and she should keep doing what she needs to for her health, physical and mental.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’m sorry, but I find it disrespectful to blame all this on Original Sin and insist that these people are No True Christians. I’d prefer it if a lot more than praying was done about this situation. Unfortunately, even though the statute of limitations only starts running on crimes against children once they turn 18, it’s probably run out by now. And any mercy of god could have done a lot more by stopping the abuse or preventing it from happening.

    With how people around here don’t expect any punishment about this in an afterlife, I’d much rather make sure these folks were shown the errors of their way during their lifetimes. I’m not a fan of the concept of hell, but I am a fan of the concept of justice.

  • This is not a religious matter, its a human matter. Its a legal matter, it a cultural matter. The sentiments you profess will be of little comfort to a jewish woman or child, or a Muslim one, or a Brahman. They don’t want to be preached at. They want comfort, healing, safety, and justice, and to know that this will not happen again, as well as people actually giving enough of a care to try to stop sexual abuse

  • Supong Longchar

    I contend and enter into the event from the context of Judeo- Christian perspective as to how it provides an explanation to the question of the depravity of the human heart irrespective of position they hold in the structure and institution they occupy. We all look to an event with certain preconceived lens and I’m no one to vouch for to impose otherwise. In this case an unconditional acceptance was offered to her which in Christian creed condemns to be specific when the call is to lay down life for one another to see such abuses of Christian principle by apparently so called Christians i call them phoney and hypocrites who’d eyes of under staining needs to be restored.
    i only seek to position this fact that depravity of the human heart is a reality and it degree varies from person to person that is the reason why we need a framework work of law which secures that condition and environment which would secure to realize and flourish the potential dormant within each individual and none has the right to any means either it may be a religious persuasion, position, status, hierarchy to rope any being of that condition. And i believe i have the right to hold on to my perspective irrespective of the opinions other hold towards my position.

  • The depravity of the human heart is not a reality, but a religious doctrine, not even shared by all within Christianity, not to mention, not a basic tenet of the Abrahamic faiths.
    The problem with basing laws on such a dogmatic belief is the assumption of guilt on all people. That is the problem too damned many victims of sexual assault are already having forced upon them, like what happened to them is in anyway their fault. The doctrine of human depravity helps to foster such a filthy lie.

    That is why the law should be secular, removed from the religious ideals of man, impartial to personal beliefs, religion or a single set of cultural norms.

    Yes you are entitled to your opinions, which you have shared. It may seem a reality to you, but don’t be surprised that others see things quite differently.

  • Yeah, the “oh they’ll suffer in the afterlife” is of little consequences in the here and now.

  • Supong Longchar

    “The depravity of the human heart is most intellectually resisted but it is the most empirically verifiable”. Needless to mention i forward not my views to antagonize or being polemical but to exercise the very same right to express and hold onto the narrative that irrespective of the consensus of others i hold to be valid and true.Its not uniformity of a view or believe i subscribe or wait for a consensus to emerge using the majoritarianism to base my believe I’m not as stupid to be waiting for emergence of such a unanimity. The heart of the matter here is the we seek the victim to be given the dignity and owner that is due to her as a human being created in the image of God, alive to live for His purpose and all means necessary to attain that purpose is the attempt of our collective endeavor.
    We all hold a belief, which is the bedrock, the core upon which person builds their life and conditions them to survive. Here implicitly and explicitly every one invokes a world view through they assign meaning and purpose.

    Yes i concede to your position that a state law cannot be theocratic and politicize religion but can a being compartmentalize water tide into the private and the public sphere, sacred and the secular,doesn’t the values one holds gets into the slippery, fuzzy distinction we’ve subject a being unto ? If we evict one then what ramifications do we see ? Does it leaves the former in the same state it was then or with it affect the whole. The theistic construct is not devoid demarcating moral boundaries and conditionalities upon impingement of which does not leave without consequences.
    The question calls forth for the positioning ones ethics of law and what informs ones ethics determines the narrative and perspective upon which hinges one’s outlook to all that pertains to life.

  • Supong Longchar

    Gecko in no way is says that like we humans are determined on the other hand each will have to bear the responsibility of ones action either for reward or damnation. And in no way we would to do away with the Law of the land for it serves a purpose. Yes, one must face the consequences even if a person is being forgiven we can clearly see that in the scripture lets take the life of King David yes he was forgiven of his adultery but as a consequence his kingdom was divided into three. And yes the prayer that in line with the burden for righteousness will cause a person to act for Faith is a “substance” of things hope for and evidence of things not seen… and the heart of the father God is inherit that life of Christ that God in His mercy has given to a humanity embedded in a nature that enslaves to that which one long to overcome.

  • Ok, In simpler terms. The doctrine of heart depravity, is merely that, a doctrine. A doctrine is merely a set of beliefs held by particular groups, usually religious in nature. In the case of the doctrine of heart depravity, there is no concrete evidence, of its existence, only empricial or doctrinal. Empricial evidence, is evidence based on observation or experience, therefore is going to naturally be biased and limited to the person observing or experiencings. It is NOT an objective, or necessarily an accurate means of evidences. Empirical evidence, therefore is based pretty much on opinion.

    Moving on.

    Any victim, regardless of beliefs, faiths, cultures, etc. needs support, understanding, love, compassion, justice, time and healing. It is that simple.

    One last thing, I understand every big word and feel that there is serious over use of them in your statements. However, such language is not necessary. It is rather plodding to wade through the verbiage, of eight big words then four simple ones would have just as easily sufficed, as well have been much more easy to follow to our general audience.

  • Snooterpoot

    Forgiveness doesn’t mean one has to forget. I have forgiven the man who raped me but I will never forget what he did to me. It would be virtually impossible for me to do that.

    What I have found is that forgiveness takes away his power over me. As long as I have forgiven him I can remember the incident without it taking complete control over me. I am no longer thrown into an uncontrollable rage. I am no longer afraid of him.

    Forgiving him has cast those chains away, though I do find myself having to forgive him again when the anger begins to eat at my spirit. I can distance myself from the attack and I think that is healthy for me.

  • lymis

    “IF you believe that there is a God and that the bible is his inspired word then how incredibly sad that you think him so weak that he would not ensure that his word would survive.”

    On the rare and unlikely chance that this comment was an actual confusion and not the arrogant and summary dismissal that it seems to be, I’ll explain. From MY own experience and beliefs.

    I don’t believe that God inspires books. I do believe that God inspires people, meeting them where God finds them, in their lives, in their cultures, and in their time periods. I believe that that inspiration, while genuine, isn’t intended to make anyone infallible, nor do I believe that it is all or nothing – that an inspired person ceases to be human, and becomes incapable of error, bias, and agenda.

    Since I don’t believe God intended the Bible to be the sole source of our contact with God – Jesus himself didn’t seem to see the need to write it all down and pass out copies, or to appoint anyone to do so, and the Church had no such documents for generations, despite the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in the early church – I don’t find it necessary to believe that God personally oversees copying, selection, and proofreading of the documents contained in it.

    On the contrary, Jesus is recorded as promising something vastly different – that he had explicitly NOT shared everything that God had to say, since people were not ready to hear it, and that he would send the Holy Spirit to continue speaking and teaching. I see no reason other than (in my mind, badly misunderstood tradition) to think he meant that the Holy Spirit was going to be confined solely to the production and preservation of the Bible.

    Since God himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, would continue to speak in the hearts and minds of humanity, directly, I don’t find it compelling to think that God remained focused on keeping Bible translations pure. Instead, God works in each of us so that we approach things like the Bible with a new and open heart in each age and each generation and each life. And that we also approach each other, those who act prophetically among us, in nature, and yes, in the religious traditions of those to whom God speaks equally genuinely in a different voice.

    The Bible is an inspired work – but it is nothing more (though certainly nothing less) than the human attempt to put into words the authors’ interaction with the Divine that passes all understanding. I’m confident they did the best they could, and that to the degree such things concern God, that God was pleased with their efforts.

    But because they are human works, they are flawed – and those flaws are, in a way, also a gift from God, because those of us in this age who find ourselves compelled to know God also find that we cannot take the questions as closed and the answers as given, but have to approach them fresh in our own hearts and minds, filtered through our understanding, our our lives, our culture, and our age.

    I think that anyone with a genuine call to God is called to seek their own answers primarily through their personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, and write our own Testaments and find our own Good News – not to merely rely on blind acceptance of the answers others struggled for, however well or poorly.

    We can honor, and even revere, what Divinity shines through their work. We can, in their words, sense a clear reflection in their lives and works of the same Light that shines in us and, if we allow it, through us. We can learn from their work, but we have to find its place in a world with vastly different understandings of things like race, gender, orientation, technology, physics, and cosmology.

    A five year old can have a genuine, unquestionable, and beautiful relationship to God, but it’s not OUR relationship to God, even if we share a common tradition and religious worldview.

    Look at some of the most important parables – the servant who was condemned for not investing and growing what came to him in trust, the Prodigal Son who was forced to understand for himself the value of what he had taken for granted as his birthright and forced to encounter it anew, the Good Samaritan who stepped outside his own faith tradition to care for the human needs of someone his faith told him he should condemn and avoid, the Sheep and Goats, who were told that salvation rests entirely on how we treat those around us we would see as cursed or to be avoided or deserving of their misfortunes.

    Those are not the lessons you would teach a people you were preparing to idolize a book. Nor the lessons you would teach to a people whose salvation depended on obedience to authority.

    On the contrary, those are lessons you would teach to people you wanted to be individuals in a community of individuals, who are both responsible to choose for themselves while at the same time responsible for and to each other in love.

    The Bible itself doesn’t say that the Bible is the source of authority, and that salvation comes from adherence to the dictates of tradition. On the contrary, the Bible explicitly makes it clear that we are, in Jesus, each individual children of God called to find our own relationship and make our own choices.

    If YOU believe the Bible is the authority in your life that you claim, I’d rethink the meaning of those lessons, because I don’t believe that they lead to the place that you seem to be describing.

  • BarbaraR

    Lymis, once again you have said it better than anyone else.

  • Snooterpoot

    It seems to me that the “depravity of the human heart” is based on the dogma of original sin. There is no way I am going to buy in to that doctrine. If I did I would have to believe that an infant would be doomed to eternal suffering if it died because it hadn’t been “saved.”

    Of course there are people whose hearts are depraved. We see examples of that frequently. But to say that applies to everyone is just abhorrent to me.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but you must be willing to accept that others, many others, disagree. Some of might even find your opinion to be somewhat depraved.

  • Snooterpoot

    Your comment boils down to “anyone who disagrees with me is not a Christian.” Dude, if I had to believe what you believe to be a follower of Christ I’d be running out the door as fast as I could.

    I suggest a big dose of humility. Sometimes it’s a bitter pill to swallow, though.

  • “As we clearly see in the scripture”.


    So David, whose legacy continued, a little over 40 years after he died with the leadership of his son, who apparently spent more time horizontal than his Dad, yet keeping the kingdom intact, then leading to his decdsendents fighting over territory after that king dies as well.

    The division into two parts is David’s fault… Just like an infant dying is the fault of its parents having sex, or a disease outbreak the fault of a king making a decision utterly unrelated to the physical health of its people.

    You see, if you blame david for the actions of people long after he dies, it misplaces responsibility…. badly. Its a cop out, long used to cast blame.

    It happens to victims of rape, as in this case. The family doesn’t want to acknowledge the true depth if the crime against one of its members by another, so is pressuring the victim, blaming her for the fall out in family dynamics.

    Its crap, and sadly happens all the time.

  • Have a GREAT time at that table!!

  • David Shine

    I have a similar situation but the abuse was perpetrated by a friend of my brother. When I told my parents they told me I had a good imagination. They dismissed it as some tale a child would tell but was pure fantasy. I never told them anything again and dealt with my traumas by myself. This created distance emotionally and was never the same. I felt betrayed. Fast forward to this month , my mother died and my half brother was caring for her in his house after appropriating her things and left me out of the loop. Through the years when ever I had to deal with him and my mother, it made me very stressful to the point of illness. I was advised by the doctor to maintain my distance from these people because they were toxic to me.

    Keeping company with toxic people is deadly.

    They never let me know what was going on with my mother, what drugs they were giving her. After she died I asked my half brother why they never called me to tell me what was going on. He said it was not his obligation.

    If that is not a moral obligation towards his sister what is ?

    I thought there may be some way to salvage this but in all my life he never lived up to his end of the deal. After he said that to me, I realized I had no more family and no reason to be around them ever again.

    My mother was the glue that kept everyone in touch but now that she is gone, they are doing whatever they want and feel like they have no obligation towards me so I will take myself out of the picture in their life and try to put it behind me and move on.

    He never said he was sorry for anything because he does not think he did anything wrong.

    People like that are not necessary in one’s lives. I just hope there is some kind of cosmic justice that will make them pay …

  • Supong Longchar

    Basically that is the point people don’t want to admit their biasness despite the in deletable evidences call what we may.
    Then i would be favored if in a way you arrive to position your objective objective secondly what is the basis upon which you base your law and the ethical bases of the law. And yes with are in the same page with regard to the post-victimization remedies.

  • Is English your first language? Your phrasing is really hard to follow.

    I think you are saying, that people tend to have particular biases. That is true, we all do, filtered through our culture, our faiths and our experiences. Which is why a system in place that is as unbiased and objectible as possible is the best way to dealing with law and justice.

    As for post-victimization remedies. “love your neighbor as yourself” reference by Confucius, Hammurabi, Socrates, Rabbie Hillel, Christ, Dr. King. Taught in the ancient Egyptian tenet of Maat, the Sanskrit and Tamil teachings of ancient India, and elsewhere. Such an important and vital concept, that I choose to believe that the Divine made it known to us all.

    On that, to love one another, I think we agree.

  • Supong Longchar

    Well i believe I’m intelligible and my statements are cogent, coherent and concise as it can be in conveying the points for views to be clear and implicit with no obfuscation.
    That is the point even you are vouching that Law and Justice need to be a domain that is unmediated by prejudice or biases. So only wanted to know your view as to how in your construct you reach their.

  • Supong Longchar

    And not forgetting if your source of ethics is pluralism how do attain homogeneity,unanimity when contradiction inherits your premise.

  • Is it just me, or does Supong read like … well, exactly like what he’s written was first processed via Google Translate? Not that that’s bad or anything. But I just never have any idea what he is talking about.

  • Honey. That first sentence is a tee total mess.

  • (runs through English as a southern-bred language filter…and a thesarus)….
    My source of ethics is the golden rule. Being homogenious is not my desire, nor unaminity for society. How boring that would be.

  • So google translates uses the the worst word choices when translating text from a different language? Good to know.

  • Matt

    No, it’s just that grammar is a very complex and fluid thing that requires a lot of context that the computer simply doesn’t have. It also has a lot of trouble with idioms.

  • Guy Norred

    There used to be some website that would take a sentence and then run it through several auto-translates and then back to English in a kind of combination telephone/solitaire game fashion. That was fun.

  • Supong Longchar

    Hah 🙂

  • HH

    Thank you. My family did the same thing – and it wasn’t to help me at all. They view “forgiving” as “you stop living in the past” and “leave it behind you.” Forgiveness to them means forfeiting the right to discuss what happened ever again, and thus spares the abuser from guilt, the rest of them from the discomfort and embarrassment of hearing the gory details, and leaves the victim to suffer in silence. I call them “wavers” because any mention of what happened starts the hands wiggling in the air and hearing “no, no, that’s in the past. We’re not going to talk about the past.” They don’t understand that a survivor may need to talk about it in order to heal. This extends to getting therapy, because “why do you need that? It’s over. unless you didn’t really forgive….”

  • HH

    I disagree that a person “has” to forgive in order to heal, too. No, I don’t. My definition of forgiveness doesn’t fit in with that, and never will. I’m tired of being told I’m a bad person because I won’t forgive.

  • Sarah Marie

    I hate remembering good memories
    . Then remembering that those good memories are bull shit because the people you shared them with are peice of shot scams. Feeling down tonight… , why couldn’t I have had a good loving family.. This did help tho You don’t belong to [your family] anymore. You belong to you, you belong to the God who saved you, and you belong to those of us out here who, like you, finally decided to claim for ourselves an identity grown and nurtured in the ground of truth, not lies.

  • A

    No abuse in mine but not one good memory of when my younger brother and I live in the same house. He was the type to laugh in my face on the day my friend died, turned to my parents for comfort only for them to favour him.