Forgiving Repeat Offenders

Forgiving Repeat Offenders

Forgiving repeat offenders is a big issue for so many of us single parents. We want to move towards healthy relationships with the offenders. We also recognize our part in toxic relationships and things we have contributed. Despite what we do to pursue health, our ex or others continue to exhibit behaviors and traits that continue to offend and hurt us.

We recognize that forgiveness benefits us more than anybody else, but how will we forgive the actions and the offenses that continue to happen? Ongoing hurt brings up new pain and echoes old wounds.

Elizabeth Cole will join us to dig deeper into this issue.

Do you remember why you decided to continue forgiving even when there's continued hurt?

Elizabeth explains there is so much pain, hurt and a nasty feeling that comes with continuously feeling hurt, getting battered, holding on to the resentment, and everything that builds up.  It feels like dragging around a ball and chain.

Four ways to move towards forgiving repeat offenders

1. Don't start from where you are now

There’s a lot of self-help and personal information about starting where you are when dealing with forgiving repeat offenders. However, don't start from where you are now because so much resentment built up from past hurt. It can cloud your view or affect how you respond to the present hurt.

If you can heal that past hurt, move on from it, and put it behind you, you'll be able to see the current situation for what it is, and you'll be able to protect yourself.

The trauma you have taken on from years of physical, emotional, or mental abuse will continue to show up in your life, whether you like it or not.  You can repress it all you want, but if you don't stare it right in the face, deal with it, look at it, talk it through with someone who cares, vent about it, heal from it and understand that it has nothing to do with you but them, you're not going to be able to deal with situations that happen today.

2. Tell yourself a different story

According to Elizabeth, she could tell herself a different story by understanding her story, gaining understanding from her counseling, and knowing that everyone has a story gained from their upbringing, and generational pattern.

For example, Elizabeth complained about all the negative things about her ex. However, by telling herself a different story, she offers him grace by understanding that other factors are responsible for his behaviors. The hurts he spills on me are a result of what happened to him. Therefore, because she knows about his past, she's able to look through that lens of grace and empathy and not feel offended.

However, Kim shares, there's a fine line between people hurting others because of their past experiences and them intentionally choosing not to keep hurting a person because of their pain. "I don't deserve to be hurt continuously. I know this is who you are, but it's also not okay moving forward continuing to hurt me.

Why keep forgiving?

Kim believes that she endured many hurtful treatments from her ex-husband because she was conditioned to forgive repeatedly as a Christian and a preacher's kid. However, Robert shares that repeatedly forgiving in most cases isn't forgiving. Instead, it's overlooking and denying.

3. Boundaries: protect yourself

Elizabeth shares that you can only have enough self-care to protect yourself and set boundaries. You have to have grace for yourself and understand your story. You have to be able to look, which in turn helps you give grace and empathy to other people.

Forgiveness is not going back and letting people run all over you.  The boundaries you set for yourself have to come naturally as a result of growing and being able to care for yourself in the way you know is right, not because anybody else is doing it for you or you expect anybody to protect you.  Protect yourself and say, "I won't take this anymore."

Elizabeth admits that the courage to create boundaries comes through prayer and guidance. You can't be completely self-sufficient; you have to depend on prayer, call friends, and get advice from mentors.

Robert adds that you can't have boundaries unless you have awareness first.  If you don't get honest with your story, you can't get to the place of protecting yourself because you don't have a real appraisal of what's going on.

According to Elizabeth, paying attention to patterns in your spouse's life can help you build boundaries because you can almost predict what will happen. Therefore, you wouldn't be caught off guard when your spouse behaves a certain way. You can let them have their feelings and do what they want, but you'll not be touched by it because you have a shield and protection around you that you've put in place.

Building boundaries doesn't happen overnight, you have to practice.

4. Put the ball in their court

Elizabeth shares that not having the courage to call people out for how they have hurt you will make them repeat the same hurtful thing.

Some people have a pang of healthy guilt and want to be called out and have the opportunity to be forgiven. However, they need to know that they have done something to hurt you.

Roberts says that you need two healthy people to ask and receive forgiveness. However, doing this does not magically solve the problem, it also requires a level of vulnerability. Most people don't want to go to this vulnerable place because of their insecurities and defenses.  So much repair can happen by being heard, seen, and recognized.

There is a difference between healthy and unhealthy people who are willing to own what they have done and you being open to them about the things they do that hurt you.

Robert adds that forgiveness is what you are doing for yourself and not a gift you're giving to somebody. Seeking forgiveness allows the release of hurt because you've done your part.

Safe Talk Cheat Sheet

Elizabeth shares the cheat sheet her counselor gave her to help her journal and confront things in her life.  

Facts:  State what you heard or saw. Give measurable data or be factual as possible.

Thoughts:  Write down your experiences, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and stories you make up.

Feelings:  Write a one-word description of your feelings and emotions from your heart, not your head.

Needs:  Write how your need was affected. For example, my need for belonging, autonomy, safety, and respect was affected or threatened. Then you go into the history of it. That is discovering how the experience reminds you of the past.

Take Responsibility for Your Actions:  Write how you reacted and take full responsibility for your side of the experience.

Repair:  Name what you could have done differently.

Wish:  Write down your overall outcome for your relationship. What you want, what you are willing to do, and what you know now.

This list allows the people involved to take personal responsibility and open the door for dialogue that feels safe and healthy, not accusatory, blaming, and not being able to stand on your side of the street.

This list is a great exercise to articulate those things concerning your ex or someone you're currently in a relationship with, even if you feel you cannot approach your ex with it.  You will learn about yourself, especially if you dig into why you felt that way or feel reactive that way?


The ways we move towards forgiving repeat offenders are:

  • Don't start with where you are without looking back.
  • You have to tell yourself a different story.
  • Protect yourself.  Have boundaries.  Only you can keep yourself safe.
  • Put the ball in their court.  Tell someone that you want to forgive them.  Try to make amends.


Safe Talk Cheat Sheet

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