Saturday, February 9, 2013

Exploring Forgiveness And Reconciliation: An Index of Posts


Several weeks ago, I sat down to write two or three blog posts on forgiveness and reconciliation as an aspect of how spiritual abusers use shame and condemnation to control followers. They were intended to finish up some loose strings and unfinished items as a part of this series of posts exploring how to best confront a spiritual abuser. Many churches use Matthew 18 as a way of berating people to subtly force them into complying with extra-Biblical requirements, a primary passage concerning forgiveness. I realized that I couldn't rightfully explore reconciliation without also including forgiveness. My effort to write just a few posts turned into something of an adventure exploring forgiveness as well as how abusers of all varieties exploit trust.

Disclaimers!

As I've stated many times in the series, I am learning as I go and don't claim to have all the answers. I've had the opportunity to study this material as part of my own spiritual development, and I only wish to pass on the good stuff. I also hope that others can learn from my mistakes as I aspire to stop making them. Please don't interpret these writings as how-to lists that must be followed blindly. I offer them to help inspire the reader to continue on in their own thoughtful journey as they work to make sense and to transcend their own experiences.

I approach the topic from a Christian perspective, but depending on the issue, anyone from any faith can glean some insight into the process. Let me add the disclaimer that considering that this blog discusses abuse, I gave that issue a greater weight of consideration. Abuse causes healthy individuals to lose perspective and causes them to accept conditions and demands that are not usually a part of offense and disagreement between people within healthier relationships. The theologian might take some issue with this bias and rightly should if I were tackling the critical topic in the general sense. Please note that I geared my approach to address forgiveness in the context of relationships that abuse trust and power in order to meet the primary mission of this website. In this context, I agree with men like Augsburger who see offering forgiveness to a spiritual abuser without their repentance as virtually meaningless, also an effort that poses a threat to victims and survivors of abuse.

By stepping back somewhat from “forgive to be forgiven,” I also wanted to avoid the interpretation of forgiveness as a type of work. People who come out of high demand religion generally believe that God's grace must be merited through performance, even though we can never do anything to merit God's grace. He gives it to us out of love when we repent. But abusive systems turn the imperative of forgiveness into what is understood as“Forgive immediately (regardless of whether the other party repents and whether you're ready or not), or else you don't merit anything from God. If you don't, you'll go to hell.” In the fullness of all the New Testament presents on forgiveness, we should understand that we are to offer to others the loving kindness that God offered to us, and when we fully experience that forgiveness in our relationship with God, we should be naturally inclined and joyfully willing to share that same kindness with others. But I didn't want to make that a focus which might be seen by some as a type of condemnation because of how so many groups misinterpret forgiveness.

I'm also concerned about readers who are yet undecided about how they esteem Christianity as they work through the aftermath of pseudoChristianity in a Bible-based group. Though I took a strong Christian approach, I did not put a great emphasis on forgiveness of others as strongly attached to God's forgiveness of us. Most people who come out of these settings (the primary audience of this website) have a keen knowledge of this concept and could easily interpret too much of this kind of discussion as condemnation. I purposely curtailed my discussion of this interdependent relationship for that reason, and also because there was so much other material to cover.

(Another topic I'd like to explore in even greater depth in the future also includes how one can make peace with God and their faith, particularly for those who have left evangelicalism, fundamentalism, or Christianity altogether.)


Housekeeping

And in the interests of the pragmatic details, please be patient with the formatting. Translating bulleted items and making these many subjects easy to browse is a challenge. I pulled out some obvious topics as headers to include links to relevant posts, and some of the posts are listed under more than one category or subtopic.

Well, there you have it. Enjoy!


Introduction and Basic Information

The Journey of Forgiveness: Three Primary Paths Through the Process
(Denial, Bitterness and Healing)

Justice in Forgiveness

Complicated Forgiveness, Special Situations and Common Questions

Communication and Self-Care in Forgiveness

The Obedience of Forgiveness as an Act of Love and Worship

Fostering Forgiveness by Creating a Milieu of Trust (This is the duty of the offender to the offended as a function of justice, the primary way that an offender demonstrates true contrition for wrongdoing.)

Distinguishing Forgiveness From Reconciliation (and recognizing the pitfalls)

Forgiveness Quotes

Forgiveness Resources