I Forgive You Doesn’t Mean I Have To Stay With You

by Yvonne Chase on September 9, 2014

Twisted And Disturbed
Yesterday I made the mistake of watching the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiance unconscious in a New Jersey elevator.  That video had me twisted and disturbed for the remainder of the day. I’m still flummoxed! After watching, I engaged in numerous conversations on Twitter.  My first tweet read, “So…I just saw the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiance out cold. Is she still engaged to him? I hope not!” I had no idea she married him after that awful incident.  My first thought was, how could she or any woman marry that kind of guy? One of my followers tweeted an article titled Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships? Some of the reasons are:

Fear: Your friend may be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship. If your friend has been threatened by their partner, family or friends, they may not feel safe leaving.

Social Pressure: If the abuser is popular; it can be hard for a person to tell their friends for fear that no one will believe them or that everyone will take the abuser’s side.

Puppy Love Phenomena: Adults often don’t believe that teens really experience love. So if something goes wrong in the relationship, your friend may feel like they have no adults to turn to or that no one will take them seriously.

Lack of Money: Your friend may have become financially dependent on their abusive partner. Without money, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship.

Thank God For Mercy
Then another one of my followers tweeted, “Maybe she understands forgiveness better than we do.  I don’t say he doesn’t deserve his punishment, but thank God for mercy!” My reply was forgiveness has nothing to do with staying.  I forgive you doesn’t mean I have to stay with you.  And that’s what this post is about; forgiveness.

Caught In The Forgiveness Trap
I believe many women are in abusive relationships because they are caught in the Forgiveness Trap.  My girlfriend was one of those women.  Every time she mustered up the courage to leave, her now ex-fiance would say something like, “If you really forgave me you would stay.”  She’d fall for it until he abused her all over again.  Abusive people are very manipulative.

Forgive And Exit Stage Left
It’s usually the people closest to us who try to jam us into the Forgiveness Trap. They say things like, “We’re family! I’m your husband.  You’re my wife.  You wouldn’t leave if you really forgave me.”  I’ve been mulling over forgiveness lately and wanted to write about it because I recently had to forgive and exit stage left. Nothing physical and nothing romantic just a bunch of lies, betrayal and manipulation.  I’d seen this behavior in the past and decided enough is enough.  I was reminded of the quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” What made me leave was simply this; I don’t treat myself badly therefore I’m not going to let you treat me badly.  That was it.  I’m out.  No resentment.  No vengeful thoughts.  Just clarity on how I want to move forward.

forgive
Reexamine That Relationship
The Bible tells us to forgive.  It’s not an option it’s a command.  Nowhere does it tell us we have to stay and endure abuse of any kind.  Nowhere does it tell us we have to keep trusting those who broke our trust or spend time with those who mistreat us.  We don’t have to tolerate, accept or keep an open door to disrespect, bad behavior and poor treatment.  If you’re in a situation where you’re constantly forgiving, it might be time to reexamine that relationship.  What is happening in your relationship that puts you in a position to be continually hurt, attacked and abused?

She Got Out Alive
I can only imagine how difficult it is to leave a physically abusive relationship like the one Janay has found herself in with Ray Rice.   My girlfriend finally left when she realized forgiving him didn’t mean she had to stick around for more.  She realized she could forgive him and get on with life.  It took her a minute but thankfully she got out alive.  Today she is enjoying her marriage to a man who only puts his hands on her to hold her and give her warm hugs.  Listen, if you’re in an abusive relationship and you’re staying because you’ve been manipulated into the Forgiveness Trap, set yourself free today.  Declare, “I forgive you but it doesn’t’ mean I have to stay with you.”

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32

Something to think about…

What say you? What is your understanding of forgiveness? Have you ever been caught in the Forgiveness Trap? 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

AwesomelyOZ September 10, 2014

You took the words right out of my mouth; that video was disturbing and infuriating to watch. I agree that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to stay. I’ve been there and you have to know understand that you’re leaving for yourself, you’re walking away for your sanity and that it’s going to be hard but worthwhile. Relationships are hard, they shouldn’t be harmful. My mind was BLOWN when I found out she married him after that incident. It’s INSANE! I was so astonished but figured it was either money or fear or both. Hope with that video out her family will help her get out.. assuming she’s ready and willing. Happy Hump Day Yvonne!! -Iva
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Yvonne Chase September 12, 2014

@Iva,

I wish I would’ve never watched that video. The visual of her head slamming against that rail makes me cringe every single time.

You made a great point; she can only get out if she’s ready and willing. The public can protest and be utterly infuriated by what we saw but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if she’s okay with staying.

Sad, sad, sad!
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Tori Lee September 12, 2014

I can always count on your blog for a fresh spin on pop culture. Never heard of the Forgiveness Trap but it sure makes sense. Think I was jammed up in it a couple of times. You said it right, “Just because I forgive you doesn’t mean I have to stay with you.” Kudos on that!

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Yvonne Chase September 12, 2014

@Tori,

We’ve all been jammed up in that trap. Janay seems to be jammed up in it and a few other traps. I hope more people understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to stay.
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Sarah Day September 13, 2014

This is a really interesting perspective. It’s so hard for most of us to understand, and I’ve seen little compassion for the victim in all this since she chose to stay.
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Mrs.AOK September 13, 2014

I agree forgiving doesn’t mean staying in an oppressive relationship. It’s never easy to forgive people, especially when they have done you SO VERY WRONGLY. I, at this point cannot forgive Ray Rice for his actions, it was unacceptable, and he doesn’t or didn’t seem the least bit remorseful. However, it’s not my situation to forgive, it’s Janay’s, and perhaps she *truly* has forgiven him but I doubt that. She seems like the text book victim in an abusive relationship, taking ownership of the situation as if she was wrong, protecting her abuser, and apologizing for him.
They have a child, I wish she would think about her. Protect her. Set an example for her. Baby girl doesn’t need to see a hostile relationship.
XO
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Yvonne Chase September 16, 2014

@Mrs AOK,

I agree with you. He didn’t seem the least bit remorseful. His actions after hitting here were very telling. I feel for her. He’s really done a number on her mentally if she feels any responsibility for his actions. Sad…
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Ezar August 5, 2015

Well written. Forgiving your abuser does not, in any way whatsoever, oblige you to have, or continue having, a relationship with him. Period. Forgiving a snake for biting me doesn’t mean I have to again pick up that snake.
Forgiving someone doesn’t require forgetting their actions, and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re validating them. It means you’re collecting up all the hatred and other malicious feelings you have toward a person over their actions, deciding that you won’t let that weigh you down anymore, and casting it off. What that person chooses to do with your forgiveness is their own issue, and shouldn’t matter. Forgiveness doesn’t mean repairing or rebuilding bridges you’ve burned, either. In the case of abuse, those bridges should be burned. If you want to go with this metaphor, forgiveness means you’re not going to keep running back to where the bridge used to be and lighting another fire, just to be sure. A rather radical and forward thinking former pastor I once knew made a good point about burning bridges in one of the last sermons I ever heard him deliver. If the people on the other side of the bridges you burned really care about you, they’ll get a boat. Forgiveness works like that. You get to forget about the bridge. Don’t worry about it. Your abuser probably isn’t going to get a boat and row because that’s too much work to get to someone they obviously didn’t cherish, and that’s not your problem. Burn the bridge and let yourself walk away.
I love this post, Yvonne. Thank you for writing!

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