Forgiveness is only possible through the power of the Savior Jesus Christ. If you have been a victim of abuse, you may feel that forgiveness is a seemingly impossible task. The unhealthy thoughts and feelings that come from the pain of the abuse can be intense. You may feel that you can never be free of them. You may also feel pressure to just “forgive and forget” about the abuse and feel guilty that you are having a difficult time forgiving.
There are varying degrees of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual injuries that result from abuse, and no one can determine your level of pain except for you. Every injury takes time to heal, and deeper injuries require more time, just as a broken arm takes longer to heal than a paper cut. The deeper the injury—whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—the longer it might take to heal.
Forgiveness Can Take Time
As you work through the healing process, you can, with the Lord’s help, begin to forgive those who have harmed you. You might not be able to forgive immediately. This ability to forgive comes from the power of our Savior Jesus Christ, who, through the Atonement, took upon Himself and felt the very pain you feel now (see Alma 7:11–12). You can be made free of the influence this pain may have over you. The Lord loves you no matter how deep the pain is or how long it takes to heal.
President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Forgiveness is not always instantaneous. … Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 68).
What Forgiveness Brings
Forgiveness helps us to live with peace and joy once more.
President Faust quoted Dr. Sidney Simon: “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves” (in “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” 68).
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the offense ever occurred or pretending it never happened. It does not mean that you allow the abuse to continue. It does not mean that it is possible for all relationships to be healed. And it does not mean the offender will not be held accountable for his or her actions. It means the Savior can help you let go.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught what forgiveness of deep offenses looks like. He said, “It is … important for some of you living in real anguish to note what [the Savior] did not say. He did not say, ‘You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another.’ Nor did He say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’ But notwithstanding even the most terrible offenses that might come to us, we can rise above our pain only when we put our feet onto the path of true healing. That path is the forgiving one walked by Jesus of Nazareth, who calls out to each of us, ‘Come, Follow Me’” (“The Ministry of Reconciliation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018).
You may think you need to forgive yourself because of the abuse. Please remember that you are not to blame for the actions of others (see “What if I think the abuse is my fault?”).
You may also be struggling to forgive yourself for negative choices you may have made to cope with the pain of the abuse. It is important to learn how to have compassion for yourself. The Lord has said that He “suit[s] his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:15). He knows what you need and how He can help you.
Community and Church Resources
(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)
- “Faith to Forgive Grievous Harms: Accepting the Atonement as Restitution,” James R. Rasband (Brigham Young University devotional, Oct. 23, 2012)
- “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” David A. Bednar, Ensign or Liahona, May 2012
- “The Ministry of Reconciliation,” Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018
- “Forgiveness,” Steve Gilliland, Ensign, Aug. 2004
- “Forgiving Others: Misconceptions and Tips,” Elizabeth Lloyd Lund, Ensign, Apr. 2018
- “Friends Again at Last: Justice and Mercy in the Warming Glow of Charity,” Lance B. Wickman, Ensign, June 2000
- “Perfection Pending,” Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1995
- “Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness”, Mayo Clinic