A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The F word (forgiveness)

Forgiveness – the F word!  Muddled concepts of forgiveness cause immense problems for victims of abuse. One of our anonymous readers has pointed us to this immensely helpful interview with David Augsburger (author of Caring Enough to Confront and Freedom of Forgiveness), entitled The F Word: Forgiveness and Its Limitations.

She says It’s a very insightful and intelligent piece on some of the confusing issues surrounding forgiveness.” And she’s give us some quotable quotes from the interview:

…forgiveness does not mean returning to business as usual but crafting a new relationship with a level of intimacy appropriate to our level of trust…

In this cycle [of abuse], forgiveness is the heart of the pathology. The same kind of cycle is common in any relationship which is affected by addiction. So forgiveness can be aiding, abetting and enabling. Forgiveness is the central function of the enabler. So, it’s understandable that people would reject this kind of forgiveness – it is part of the problem.

It’s important to distinguish between a true apology and either an appeasement or what I call an account. An appeasement is when I suck up to you and put myself down…I grovel at your feet until you say “you’ve groveled enough now, you can stand up again, it’s OK.” In this process of appeasement I suck you into forgiving me because my talking so badly about myself makes you feel badly about the relationship or badly for me…An account is an explanation of why I did what I did. It is a story that is designed to minimize my responsibility by explaining all the reasons for my behavior…

I think that when the person responsible for the injury is completely detached, emotionally dead, or physically dead, to talk about forgiveness is a kind of nonsense. There is no emotional transaction possible, no authentic recognition or repentance, so the only transformation possible is a kind of internal release – not a transformation in the relationship. I think what we really do in circumstances like this is to grieve. I call it for-grieving…

I’m adding The F Word: Forgiveness and its Limitations to our Resources page.


  1. This is so spot on and I am grateful to this writer for these comments. For YEARS, forgiveness was a tool to force me to enable my abusive ex-husband. And if I could not tuck away the hurt and pretend it never happened, I was “bitter”. It has taken me years to understand what forgiveness REALLY is. Somehow, forgiveness (in many churches) has morphed into this strange responsibility put on the VICTIM. The onus is, allofasudden, on the victim’s shoulders. In my case, the churches and counselors I approached would tell me (repeatedly) that I must forgive and “never bring it up again”. So, I would forgive the hurt and put myself back into the same abusive situation, convincing myself that this was a noble act and that God was pleased with me. After a lengthy study on forgiveness in Scripture, I realized that we cannot forgive a person who has not honestly asked for forgiveness . . . . . that we are not required to push ourselves back into harm’s way. On the contrary! Jesus speaks many times of brushing the sand off our sandals . . . . . not throwing our pearls to the swine to be trampled on! We MOVE ON. If there is a choice to be free from slavery . . . . be free. If you cannot be free, make the best of the situation for God’s glory.

    I love what the writer said about this sort of “release” that must happen in our hearts. I would add that there is really nothing else we could do, in good conscience. I could give him an eye for an eye. I could rightfully and justly do to him what he did to me. People would understand it. Some would applaud it. But, I am a Christian. That would be vengeful and we are not vengeful. We have the ability to rise above all that. I am actually releasing HIM from what he truly deserves by not “getting back at him”. I release myself; I release him. I am not really forgiving him because he hasn’t asked for it in a true spirit of repentance. I am . . . . . simply moving on and working out of a place of healing and not out of a place of bitterness. Megan

    • Just Me

      Megan, That was very beautifully said…..

      • Song

        I agree. Very well said, Megan.

  2. Song

    Thank you, Barbara, for this post. The book sounds like a good one.

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