Why are women pressured to forgive their abuser?

Women, especially Christian women, are often pressured to forgive their partners. I never understand the urgency around this. Sometimes I think church leaders want this to happen because they then think that everything will be “okay” and they can move on to other concerns but nothing is okay for the woman.

It seems obvious that abusive men want to feel forgiven because they want to be let off the hook. They are basically wanting to be told “What you did is okay. I can take it.” But again, nothing is okay for the woman.

I think sometimes family or friends worry that the woman will become “bitter” but I don’t think this is the case. In my experience women often seek justice and fairness and sometimes lament the pain and hurt they have endured but this is not bitterness, it is just speaking the truth.

Sometimes women pressure themselves to forgive; they feel it is the “right” thing to do. But it is not always the right thing to do. Most of the time, women need to focus on safety and planning for the future. Abuse forces a woman to focus on her partner but for her well-being, the woman needs to focus on herself and her children. Feeling pressured to forgive puts a woman’s focus back on the abuser and that is not helpful.

(This blog is part of a series on forgiveness. If you appreciate it, you might like to read the rest of the series by searching “forgiveness”.)


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  1. Thank you. Let the woman decide what’s best for her – she is the one affected by this.

    PLEASE quit advising victims to take more care of their appearance, cook good meals, etc., as if SHE is the reason her husband abused her and she can prevent him from it in some way. Put the blame where it belongs – on him.

    If forgiving works for one woman, great. If it doesn’t work for someone else, that should be equally accepted. Pressuring her to do something she doesn’t believe in or doesn’t accept isn’t helping her.

  2. I don’t think we “have” to forgive, nor is it the only way we’ll ever feel better. I loathe the re-definition of forgiveness by the psychiatric docs and the “chicken soup for the soul” crew that yammers about “it doesn’t mean you absolve your abuser, it’s to heal you so you don’t wind up ‘bitter'” at nauseum.

    To me, forgiveness DOES mean absolution, and I am not going to give that to my abusers. I’m sick and tired of being told I’m a bad person and a bad Christian for this. Why don’t you point those fingers at the abusers and tell THEM how bad THEY are for a change???

    Some families are eager for the victim to “forgive” because they think forgiveness means you “lay it in the past and leave it there” and you can never raise the subject again, even to a therapist (why do you need therapy if you forgave? Stop living in the past!). “You have to forgive to be a good Christian. Holding onto this just hurts you.” (They are SO worried about your mental and emotional welfare now that the abuse is no longer a secret!!)

    This gives the abuser a pass, prevents the rest of the family from the discomfort of having to hear the gory details and protects them from embarrassment in front of society. They go about their merry way, while the victim continues to suffer in silence. No thank you.

    Responsibility for cheating in a marriage is placed on the wife. She’s told she has to forgive, and this means she can never raise the subject again. Hogwash! She doesn’t have the right to use it as a weapon if she takes back her spouse, but she most certainly has the right to discuss how the cheating has hurt her and affected her confidence in her spouse! PASTORS often chide the wronged spouse and tell them to take more care with their appearance, the housekeeping, the cooking so the spouse won’t be “tempted” again – as if she caused the cheating! It’s appalling. Trust has been damaged in the marriage, and it’s the abuser who should be making amends and rekindling this trust.

    If forgiveness helps heal some people, great. I don’t believe a Christian “has” to do this. They can lay that at God’s feet, too.

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