Forgiving The Unforgivable

by Mark Ivar Myhre on March 10, 2011

“Mark how do you forgive someone who has sexually and mentally abused your daughter at the age of three and was your husband whom you were supposed to trust? I have forgiven a lot in my life but find it so hard to forgive this one.”

Whew!  The questions aren’t getting any easier!  And for that, I’m grateful.  Because I get to learn more, myself, as I answer them.

The first thing I would say, is, well, you certainly don’t have to forgive this man.  And why would you even want to?

That’s not a rhetorical question.  Why in the world would you want to forgive someone who’s done such a thing?  Because you’re a good Christian woman, and that’s what good Christians do?  Or you’re a spiritual person of whatever faith, and that’s what spiritual people do?  Or is it because you understand the value and significance of forgiveness, in the overall picture of your life?

Or is it maybe because you’re sick and tired of living with the ugliness of what happened?  Tired of blaming yourself for what happened?

Or is it because the impact of what happened touches you so deeply, and you just don’t want to deal with all that intensity?

Motivation matters.

And the first thing I would say, is be clear on why you want to forgive him.  To me, some things are not forgivable.  Who among us wants to forgive Hitler, or Stalin, or the innumerable other madmen of the world who’ve caused so much unnecessary suffering?  Or what about  ‘The Rape Of Nanking?’   It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Your motivation matters.  Because it’s going to greatly influence the success of your forgiveness efforts.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with being sick and tired of dealing with the ugliness; not to mention the fact that it’s so easy to beat yourself up over this.  And now you’re ready to stop beating yourself up.  But all too often, here’s what happens:

“I want to find some way - any way – to put this behind me.  And if forgiveness will help me, then I’ll forgive.  I just don’t want to deal with the intensity inside of me.  I’ve got too much hate and rage and God-knows-what-else inside of me.  I don’t want to open up that door.  I just want to get over this.”



There’s too much horror inside that intensity.  And so people often resort to judgments so they don’t have to feel it.  Judgments freeze.  It’s like a frozen pond in the wintertime.  You can skate right across the intensity of feeling that lies beneath the ice.  Unfortunately, when you skate across, nothing ever gets resolved.  Forgiveness won’t work.

Plus, judgments hurt.  They always end up hurting you in the long run, because the intensity underneath the judgments is alive.  The intensity is part of you.

And keep in mind here, we’re talking about one of the most heinous acts imaginable.  It’s normal to be outraged.  But what so often happens, judgments quickly come up to suppress the intensity, and then we’re ‘left to our own devices.’  And by ‘devices’ I’m talking about such things as righteous anger…  where we feel 1% anger, and 99% righteousness.  Then we’re stuck.  Nothing changes.  Forgiveness can’t happen.

Anyway, when you’re dealing with a situation such as this, you’re going to have to go beyond the judgments to truly forgive and heal.  And that’s not easy, because of the fear we all have towards our own intensity.  Which is like being afraid of ourselves…

The only reason I can even work with these types of situations is because I’ve heard so many cases of abuse, from so many different people who were victimized.  It no longer rips my guts out the way it used to.  I had to deal with my own intense feelings about this topic just so I could work with it.



The best way I’ve found to deal with my own intensity is one piece at a time. So let’s try to break this situation apart and see what’s here.

First, we have an innocent young girl who was abused.  Three years old.  Way too young to even understand what’s happening to her.  Massive shame is dumped onto her by the abuser.  She’ll carry that shame for the rest of her life, unless she learns how to heal it.

Well, as I’ve said before, my own daughter came to me before she was born.  One night as I was lying in bed, alone.  This was months before we even knew if we were having a boy or a girl.  My daughter came to me and tried to explain how DNA works, how bodies are selected, how parents are selected, and a few other things.

The bottom line:  she chose her parents.

Now, let’s extrapolate on that.  I’m not special.  If this happened to me, then it must mean it happens to everyone.  Everyone chooses their parents.  That’s what I believe.  It’s the only thing that even makes sense to me.  It’s the only way I can resolve the injustice in this world.  Believing this helps me understand, and helps me deal with the intensity.

“I came here, knowing full well I would be crippled with shame at an early age, for the express purpose of overcoming it, for the glory of exalting the human spirit, and as an expression of love for my Creator.”

Or something like that.  It’s the only way I can resolve in my mind what happened.  And what continues to happen every single day to so many, many people.  Before we’re born, we think we’re so strong…  Then we come here, and we get so lost.

“I can do this!  I can be the one who ends the cycle of shame in my family heritage.”

Then I get down here on earth, and forget all about my lofty goals.  All of a sudden I’m in the ocean without a lifeboat, just trying to stay alive.  My goal has become survival.  But in that surviving, maybe I can also achieve my main goal – to end the cycle of shame.

This doesn’t excuse the abuse, but it might partially explain it.

Is it possible this little three year old girl has found herself in this situation?

I would say yes, absolutely.  I’ve seen it happen with others who were abused, who went on to heal their shame and end the cycle.  I’ve personally worked with women who were horribly abused as small children, but were able to heal it as grown-ups.  It’s always an intense experience.

You want to know what blocks the healing?  It’s almost always a fear of intensity.  Which is so sad, because it’s so unnecessary.  It’s like being afraid of a roller coaster ride.  Hey, you’re not going to fall off.  It’ll be intense.  It’ll be a thrill.  It’ll be real.  And then it’s done.  You’ll look back and say, “Wow, that was no big deal.  What in the world was I afraid of?”

Such is the nature of intensity.

And you’re dealing with an intense situation here.  Not just the child, but the mother goes through perhaps just as much.  Did the mother know before she was born, that she would have a daughter who would be abused by her own husband – the very man who helped bring the child into this world?

No one can say for sure.  We can only try to make sense of the situation as best we can, and try to heal.  My best guess is the mother did know.  Again, for some luminous intent; some lofty goal; some reason that’s hard to fathom down here while we’re bobbing up and down on the waves, trying to keep our heads above water.  Trying not to drown.

Why would I believe such things?

Because it gives me something to forgive.

Look, if you married a guy who then abused the daughter the two of you brought into this world, do you think you’re only going to blame him?  Not likely.  Blame usually ends in self-blame.  Hate usually ends in self-hate.



As I’ve said many times, it’s much more important to forgive yourself first. Even in a case like this.  Am I saying it’s your fault?  Of course not!  I’m saying you need to deal with your own intensity.

Any woman who marries a man who then molests the child they have together; that woman has a lot to forgive herself for.  NOT because it’s her fault.  This is not about fault.  This is about healing.  It’s about healing the pain and the damage done.  It’s about ending the fault.

When you forgive yourself first, then you’ll have the strength and the clarity to forgive the offender. Maybe not for what they did, but for why they did it. If you don’t forgive yourself first, then you’ll always be skating right over the intensity, and the forgiveness won’t work.

The problem is we think it’ll be worse if we dig into the intensity, and that’s not true.

all the best,

Mark

Mark Ivar Myhre
The Emotional Healing Coach
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

karen davenport March 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I think I read this before. I think there may be some truth to it….but how will we ever really know. how will we ever really know ANYTHING?

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Mark Ivar Myhre March 11, 2011 at 1:10 am

Hi Karen,

well, I suppose we’ll all know for sure after we leave these bodies and pass over to the other side. And in the meantime, it’s all educated guesses.

Or, it’s what ever you want to believe. I choose to believe we decided on our parents because the alternative is too crazy-making (for me, at least.) It would drive me crazy to think this is a random universe.

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Patricia March 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Hi Mark,
I had a little difficulty understanding your response to the mother having a problem forgiving her husband To my understanding, being able to forgive comes from the loving spirit of a person. I think that a person should ask for forgiveness first before forgiveness comes. And when in asking it should be with a true heart of remorse and shame for the act committed. If we forgive others then our spirit remains in tact. If we don’t, then it’s like a sore. It festers until nothing but a bad foul odor and discharge comes forth. Our spirit of love carries the weight of the wrong act. He will see his wrong in time but in a way that don’t produce more pain or hurt for the little girl. I think her mother has to live in the present moment and see what her daughter is now and protect her from any other harm from anyone, including the father or family. When she see’s that doing all she can now and placing the pain and blame in the right perspective then she will begin to heal.

Just saying…..
Pat

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Mark Ivar Myhre March 11, 2011 at 1:29 am

Hi Pat,

and thanks for the feedback.

So you’re saying the abuser should ask for forgiveness before he’s forgiven? In my own case, that never happened. No one ever asked me to forgive them. For me, I had to first forgive myself, then I had to forgive the other person. But that’s just what worked for me.

I spent a few hours talking to three different convicted child molesters, and each one of them was quite different. Only one of them had the slightest bit of remorse. And that may have only been because he got caught. Another one would do it again in a heartbeat if he got the chance. The third swore it never happened – that he did nothing wrong despite being convicted and going to prison. He was a cold, calculating sociopath, in my opinion.

There are some really bad people in the world. Maybe they didn’t start out that way…

I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve been abused, and in almost every case, they say their abuser is in complete denial about what happened. I hear that over and over.

From my experience, you can only partially forgive until you’ve healed the shame. You forgive a little, then you heal the shame a little (by returning it to the offender.) Then you forgive a little more, then you return a little more shame. Going back and forth…

And by the way, that’s all self-forgiveness. Forgiving the perpetrator always comes later. That’s what worked for me.

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Mehvish Ali March 12, 2011 at 12:48 am

Hi Mark,
I agree with you as it also happened with me. I did not go through the trauma of Sexual abuse however there were many incidence in my life when the people I loved the most betrayed me. I carried these sour wounds for eight years, which made me suffer in every part of my life. I had a loving husband but I was not happy, loving parents, siblings, but nothing made me feel good.

One day I was reading Wayne Dyer, and he was quoting the incidence with his father who died long ago and how much he hated him as he abandoned him as a child. When he found his grave, he let go all of his hatred for that person and he started to send love to that person.

I was amazed. To experiment with the claim of Wayne Dyer, I made a list of people who hurt me. Then by name I let go the feeling of hatred for them and promised that I will send them unconditional love. From that day I healed myself and started to get back to life.

Forgiveness, love or happiness everything starts with yourself. If you cannot forgive others, that is because you are not familiar with the concept of Self Forgiveness. Same goes for love and happiness. And it is a bliss to let go all the harsh feelings in your life. I am now living the best years of my life with a forgiving and grateful heart.

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Heather March 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hi there,
I resonated with this topic as I too was sexually abused as a child not only by the father figure but by two brothers and male (very distant) family members as well. In a strange twist I felt that it was my karma to complete this task, like unfinished business that I owed to these people. Yes I felt ugly growing up and not worthy throughout my marriage and I guarded my daughter to no avail as she too was abused in her late teen years.I thought that I had paid the debt to be finished with it. It is looking like her cycle is finalising ( she is now mid 20′s) and we are able to comfort each other. We each have our own journey to experience, to forgive our ownself, cause we are who matter, I am finished beating myself up just to please (fit in) with others judgements of how life for me “should be” , if they are unable to handle my decisions than that is for them to sort out themselves. I can no more walk in their shoes than they can walk in mine. Yes the hurt and pain have gone cause I have chosen to not allow it to have a hold on me. Although I did travel down the Guilt Road many times (can be very comforting) before I could get to where I am today now. Allow the hurt, guilt and pain to surface, (the memory will always be there) it is your choice to either hold onto the pain or to let it go. Give it a try what do you have to lose!

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Mark Ivar Myhre March 11, 2011 at 1:31 am

thanks for sharing, Heather.

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Sara March 11, 2011 at 6:24 am

Hi Mark,

You are a brave soul to address these issues and help others in the process. Your statement that all the abusers you knew were in denial abt it really struck a chord. I’ve experienced and witnessed that over and over. I believe they project all of their “stuff” onto their target (often their families), and then they are “cleared” enough to interact with others as if they are a “nice guy” and people really think that they are great.

There are so many layers to the whole issue of abuse, including mind and energetic controls. I read something very interesting on another site, which helps explain why it’s so much harder for women, usually, to leave a man. That is: the energetic imprint from sperm takes a full 2 years to be released from a woman’s body. So, dear Ladies, I urge you to be careful about who you are intimate with–for many reasons.

Keep up the great work, Mark!

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Kim March 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Our fathers are our first loves. When we are little girls we look at them like they are God. When they abuse you like that it ruins your future relationships with God, all men and yourself. Even if you do forgive them and realize they were sick, you never feel like a normal person.

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Mark Ivar Myhre March 16, 2011 at 12:08 am

I agree that forgiveness alone does not heal the shame.

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Jacky January 17, 2012 at 6:04 am

Mark,

Thank you so much for sharing. I am going though a similar situation at the moment, where my 5 year old daughter was sexually molested by her father and my husband. I did not know what to do. I found out and as soon as he realized i knew, he tried to commit suicide. I spoke to my daughter and she said it was the first time this had happened. I then spoke to my husband once again, and there came out allot of things that he told me about his past that i was never aware of. He also was badly sexually abused as a child. He never had an opportunity to see someone, as no one believed him. I felt sick when i heard about this, and also felt sick that this was happening now to our own daughter. My husband has been suicidal now since the incident happened. I found him help, so he is in the process of dealing with his own child hood horrors. At the moment he is not allowed to touch my daughter, as i still have to get over what had happened and i don’t want her to get hurt again. His counselor have told me that what had happened to him was extreme, and the reason why he that thought even crossed his mind is because of his own abuse as a child, and the fact that he never was able to deal with it, made the situation worse. I have spoken to my daughter about what had happened, she is so innocent, she does not even know anything about abuse in that way. She does barely even remember what happened, but i am talking to her and i am keeping an close eye on her for any changes in her personality and actions. I asked her if she loves her daddy, and she said very much! I asked her if she still want to stay with daddy, and she also replied yes. I am confused at the moment of what i should do? My daughter is 4 years and 3 months old, she did something that made me realize exactly about what you are saying here. Forgiving! When she saw her father again, he did not look at her at all, he felt sick an nauseous, and cried allot! Well what happened next surprised me. She went straight up to him and she said, say thank to Jesus, and i love u, but never again! I truly hated him, but if my 4 year old daughter can say i love u, but never again! I need to sit and think about forgiving self and then others…

Glad to report that her personality has not changed one bit, and that there has not been any strange behavior from her side.

I

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