Forgiveness isn't the first issue to consider, but it's the first issue that most people in the faith community want to pose. That's because they wish to skip all of the steps in accountability and get right to the comfortable finish line.
Most survivors want to see accountability before they can even consider the question of forgiveness. And rightly so! It's not the survivors who have a "forgiveness problem." It's the churches! Their man-made doctrines are very convoluted, causing an accountability problem and a huge boundary problem. Or you may want to call it an irresponsibility problem. All of these lead to their scapegoating the messengers.
Several years ago, I wrote an article about what I consider to be the REAL forgiveness problem. Perhaps it will help you think and talk about forgiveness and collusion differently than ever before. I hope so.
I do not like a lot of what has being taught on forgiveness. It just confuses me. As I understand it, "restoration" of an offender isn't necessarily a part of the forgiveness. Yet far too many want to include this. When it comes to families, for instance, they pressure the adult child of incest into celebrating Christmas with a family offender who has not come close to fully admitting the truth about the past. Or they insist that a woman who is a victim of domestic violence needs to return to her abuser and forgive him. Or that a victim of clergy sexual abuse should "forgive the perpetrator and give him another chance in the pulpit or in leadership in the church because, after all, we've forgiven him!"
As I see it, forgiveness is NOT the same as letting go, and it is NOT "for ourselves." Neither is it essential in order for one to find peace or eternal life. Letting go IS essential for peace. Letting go IS essential for good mental and spiritual health, and that's a very difficult process for sure. It does not depend on whether anyone has held the perpetrator responsible. And letting go is not going to exclude the possibility of being an activist. The difference is that the true activist will be focusing little on her/his own personal story and focusing mostly on the larger issues, sometimes just accepting the limitations of his/her doing anything with a single perpetrator.
There is an order to forgiveness, and the doctrine of forgiveness is not nearly as cut and dry as most Christians like to think. You can find much more on this in “Just for the Brave” Written back in 1994, it's a precursor to this website.
Dee Ann Miller is the
author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993)
The Truth about Malarkey (2000)
Dee Ann Miller is the author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993) and The Truth about Malarkey (2000)