Forgiveness as Liberation

Focus Scripture – Matthew 6:14

There is healing in forgiveness, according to Genevieve Jacques in her book entitled Beyond Impunity. I wholeheartedly endorse Jacques’ view, especially as it pertains to domestic violence. She reports that because it permits victims to free themselves from a state of deep resentment, the act of forgiveness is also an act of liberation, releasing the poison of resentment’s sting and allowing the victim to move forward gradually. Make no mistake about it. Forgiveness is not equivalent to forgetting the wrong committed against the victim. Even though the victim may be able to pardon the perpetrator, s/he will not be able to forget the violent acts that gave rise to the hurt. In spite of it all, healing cannot begin until the work of forgiveness has been initiated.

Believe it or not, in some political circles, the term forgiveness currently is not a part of the ongoing, everyday dialogue about domestic abuse. In fact, many involved in the domestic violence movement believe that to entertain forgiveness would be to draw attention away from the unacceptability of the abusive acts. Brenda Smith, author of “Battering, Forgiveness, and Redemption,” disagrees with this group and contends that forgiveness is necessary because letting go of rancor and embracing redemption facilitate healing in persons injured through domestic violence. I would add to Smith’s argument the proposition that accountability has to be included in any program that is to be liberating in the long run.

At least one author has focused on this element of accountability. In A Human Being Died That Night, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela observes that forgiveness releases the victim from a state of bitterness and resentment. At the same time, it requires much effort from all parties involved if the burden is to be lifted and the wound healed. Particularly in cases of domestic violence, the deliberate process of forgiveness can be effective when it requires the perpetrator to engage in the act of genuine apology that acknowledges full responsibility for the violent behaviors. The perpetrator’s apology has the potential to clear the air and mend the connections between the parties involved. While no adequate words exist to erase or reverse the atrocities that have been committed, in the face of forgiveness, shackles are broken, and the survivor is liberated to breathe, to heal, and to thrive.

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