For 18 years, I was relentlessly abused by my Biological Family. Through the emotional illnesses they suffered, the alcoholism, and the sexual abuse I endured, (with the amazing help of my adoptive mom) there became a point when I was finally able to see the abuse for what it was and fight for myself.

I remember a time when my biological father shoved me up against a wall and threatened to beat me. Later, he begged and begged for my Forgiveness. I would not grant him his wish. I knew that he considered forgiveness to mean that I couldn’t be hurt about it anymore nor would I be “allowed” to bring the situation up again.

My biological parents never deeply looked at the things they were doing. They didn’t care about how their words and actions affected their children. They didn’t fight for us, they fought for themselves. They were selfish and manipulative.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences

At the end of this battle, I turned 18, and I walked away from my entire biological family. I knew I could forgive them in time, but they would have to deal with the consequence, that I would choose to never be part of their lives.

A common misconception about forgiveness is that it’s somehow like a “get out of jail free card” for the person that hurt you. We tend to think that forgiving someone means that they don’t have to deal with, or look at the hurt and the pain they inflicted on someone else.

This just isn’t true. The first standard of forgiveness is that forgiveness does not mean the person that hurt you doesn’t have to deal with their consequences.

Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation

As a society, we skew the idea of what forgiveness is, and what it entails. We generally don’t understand the principles and boundaries of what true forgiveness has in place.

Instead, we often determine the standards of forgiveness by what we want them to mean in our current situation. For example, in my case, my parents hurt me to a great extent, and they wanted me to forgive them, but they expected my forgiveness to mean that we are 100 percent okay. However, like the old saying, I could forgive them but I could never forget what they did.

When we don’t understand what boundaries and standards forgiveness truly entails, our relationships begin to suffer. In the end, we often lose close relationships because the grappling act of forgiveness is so misunderstood.

It’s been two years now without them in my life, and not a day goes by that I am not happy with my decision to leave. At ease with my life, I felt like I had forgiven them. Although I couldn’t understand it then, all the pain and suffering I endured was actually a blessing. For it led to my wonderful adoptive family.

One large misconception about forgiveness is that people often expect reconciliation after forgiveness has been granted. When someone has hurt us, it’s unreasonable to expect them to forget and move on.

Emotional wounds come with bruises and scars. You become wrecked, left with painful memories and emotions that stemmed from the hand of that person. Therefore, asking the victim to forget the pain and move on from it would be ridiculous. The truth is, you can forgive, but you can never forget. The truth behind that quote reveals human nature. We are changed and molded by our experiences. When we undergo a painful experience at the hand of someone else, our brain and our heart tell us not to undergo that pain again by trusting that person. Therefore, reconciliation is not something that is gained through forgiveness, rather, it is earned through time and trust.

Forgiveness is for the victim, not the oppressor

It’s hard to admit that I thought I had forgiven my biological relatives, only to be changed when a recent diagnosis brought back pain, memories, and bitterness toward them.

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from the childhood abuse. This diagnosis was almost predictable. But the disorder that I did not expect was the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I was diagnosed with a short time later. For those that do not know, BPD is a condition characterized by mood swings, self-destructive behavior, and unstable relationships. As I began to understand my diagnosis and recognize who I was in that, my life began to turn upside-down.

I began seeking out unhealthy relationships, I bailed on my adoptive family, I lost everything that I had worked years to build, I began cutting, and eventually, I made a suicide attempt.

From research my adoptive mom had done, a high percentage of those with BPD had experienced a traumatic childhood. So, here I was. Struggling with a disorder that I felt like I wouldn’t even have if it weren’t for the abuse my biological inflicted. I was wrecked with the same issues they had, and I wasn’t coping with them. When I looked in the mirror, I began to see them. To some extent, I blame them. I am bitter about the diagnosis and feel that I shouldn’t have it. I struggle to understand how I can forgive them for screwing me up.

How could I forgive something like that?

Satsuki Shibuya once said, “forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook for their actions, but freeing ourselves of negative energies that bind us.”

What I never realized was that forgiveness wasn’t about the ones that hurt you. It’s about you. It’s about letting go of the hurt. It’s about relieving yourself from carrying the burden that pain has caused. It’s about freedom. It’s about releasing all the bitterness, and negative emotion that’s been cooped up inside for too long. It’s about getting rid of the negative energy that was never supposed to camp out inside your heart and mind. It’s about finally being able to let go, and breath. Forgiveness fights for the good of the victim, not the oppressor. Forgiveness was never intended to cause anxiety and suffering. Instead, it offers grace and redemption. So, choose you by choosing forgiveness.