Forgiving our abuser or anyone that’s really hurt us is hard.  For some it feels impossible.  Don’t worry, though, I’m not here to ask you to forgive anyone.  While it’s healthy for ourselves to forgive others, that doesn’t always mean we can remain in relationship with them if we do. There is a condition to being able to trust and remain in relationship with someone.. what is it?


If you’ve read any of my past material, you know that my abuser used spiritual abuse as his tactic to execute other forms of abuse.  So I’m going to speak a little from that perspective, however whether or not you’re a Christian, this will hopefully make sense. 

Think about the entire concept of forgiveness, especially in the Bible or other religious texts.  In the Christian Bible, Matthew 11:20 says Jesus renounced the towns in which he had performed miracles because they didn’t REPENT (change their ways).  Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  Jesus didn’t just forgive us and give us a license to sin and carry on about our merry way just because we ask him to – the whole point is to change your ways.  

In the case of an abusive relationship – the abuser needs to change.  Abusers will often apologize and say “I’ve changed! I promise it won’t happen anymore! I love you! I’ll never hurt you again!”  This can sound wonderful and  be like music to the victim’s ears, but the victim must stand back and watch for change.  They may even apologize – but an apology is not change.  Because nobody changes overnight.  Also, anyone can do anything for a short time.  It takes time to prove change and repentance.  If change doesn’t come, no one says you have to return to the person who has hurt you – even if you’re married.  You have a right to an abuse-free life!

So.. What does repentance look like? 

  • Earnestly seeking out what they did wrong and figuring out what to do right. 
  • Humble, silent, and evident change of ways without having to shout it to the world
  • Acceptance for whatever consequences may have come from their wrong-doing.
  • Admitting they were wrong and being able to explain exactly how they were wrong and why it was wrong.
  • It stands the test of time – the changed behavior genuinely sticks over time.  Observance could take a year or more to prove.

Now.. let’s look at what repentance is NOT.

  • Denial of events
  • Normalizing events so that the degree of offense is minimized
  • Denial of fault
  • Admit of fault with excuses behind it
  • Admitting fault and placing equal blame on someone else
  • Admit of fault, and then repeat of offense with no shame
  • Admit of fault, repeat of offense, express remorse, and find new ways to commit offense in a hidden way
  • Admitting fault but denying the reality or gravity of consequences
  • Denial of effects that one’s actions had on another person
  • Saying “I’m sorry, I’ve changed”
  • Doing what one has to do to make people believe that change has occurred, only long enough to gain trust back so that it can start all over again
  • Using the Bible and God’s name as a shield to attempt to repel and avoid consequences
  • Using “Humanity” as an excuse for one’s sins, expressing “humility” and claiming Christ’s grace to cover those sins, but having no real conviction or true understanding of what it was that was actually committed.
  • Blame shifting
  • Gas Lighting
  • Claiming change, but not accepting consequences that occurred prior to said-change and allowing said-change to be viewed without claiming it, but rather allowing the offended and others to see silent change
  • Demanding forgiveness
  • Obligating others to comply with your wishes because you think you’ve repented and changed
  • Using scripture to “trap” others to accept everything you say as true and therefore obligate them to believe you and forgive you so that you get what you want regardless of the other person’s wishes, beliefs, or feelings.

Many narcissists will use “apologies” or “I’ve changed” as tactics to get their victims back and maintain their power and control over them.  Don’t be fooled by the constant “I’m sorry” pleadings and the bargaining of “If you come back I promise things will be different” — No they won’t. 

Be wise, be strong, and be well!!