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Should I forgive my abusers?

When people hear my story, they often ask me if I have forgiven my parents who abused and neglected me. I often wonder why they ask. Are they looking to see how…holy…or better I am than my parents? Are they testing me? Are they looking at me through a Christian lens? Do they think my dead parents need forgiveness? Or are they thinking of me, of my heart and mental health?

In the years since I left my parents’ home, they continued pretending that nothing happened, keeping me guarded, fearful and on edge in their presence. They never asked my forgiveness, nor explained their behavior. They passed away and decades have passed, and as I matured, lived life, and worked through my trauma, my anger and bitterness dissipated. I found I could not be happy and joyous and bitter at the same time. That I could either enjoy the new life I was creating or be angry, but I could not be both. Believe me, I tried. But as I reached mid-life, and grew from my single-sided thinking of my youth, I began to see nuance in their behavior that was not forgiveness, but bordered on understanding. Not the same thing, but the distance from the events and the wisdom I gained from years of life let me see it from their side. Their broken lives and dreams. Their fear of war, displacement, the unhappy homes they left and their intergenerational trauma did not excuse their behavior but maybe explained it. It was never about me-me being bad-or wrong, rather it was about them being too broken themselves to behave otherwise. That understanding is not forgiveness, but it was very freeing for me, and has helped me live with my history. Do I forgive them? No, but neither do I have to.

Look for my book, Redeemed, A Memoir of A stolen Childhood.

You can order here: Redeemed: A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood: Lane, Penny: 9781647427009: Books  

More about me at

Come hear me speak:

July 13th 3pm PENNY LANE at Books Inc. Opera Plaza | Books Inc. - The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller

July 17th 6pm, Sausalito Books By The Bay

August 4th 1pm She Writes Press Summer Panel Event (Corte Madera Store) | Book Passage

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