Forgiveness: The Right to Protest (part 2)

July 3, 1945, curled tightly within the embryonic sac as if trying to protect myself even before I am born, my mother’s bitterness passed through the placenta to me. Her caustic drip of vengeful thoughts toward the man who knocked her up and then abandoned her for another, etched their way into the texture of my being. With an inexplicable knowing, I absorbed the angst she felt around her unwed status. It would be years before I would understand the reason for her uncontrolled, soul-searing sarcasm toward me and my birth. Unfortunately, reasons—even understandable ones—can never erase the scars such hatred leaves. The defacement is indelible; the deformity remains. “Shameful, embarrassing, defective,” became the standard by which everyone, myself included, measured me. After all didn’t the Bible say, “The bastard shall not enter the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:2)   Dawn Novotny, Ragdoll Redeemed

Part two of Forgiveness: The Right to Protest. The act of forgiveness is a healing gift to one’s self, having nothing to do with the offender. It does not require that the other person accept responsibility for their part in the offence. Forgiveness does not require that we have a meeting of the minds as does the process of reconciliation. I want to be clear that forgiveness is not condoning behavior that has been harmful. And it does not mean forgetting.

“Reconciliation is different; it requires the participation of both parties. If forgiveness is unilateral, reconciliation is bilateral. Reconciliation requires the offender to accept the wrong doing, acknowledge it, and take responsibility for the offense.” (J Rodriguez) But that is another topic because here we are focusing on unilateral forgivness. That means you alone are choosing to forgive a wrong doing.

Another aspect of the forgiveness process is challenging some of your assumptions, decisions and beliefs about what happened. For example, in my book, Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe, I describe several childhood abuses. During my healing process I was able to see that I had made the assumption that ALL men were bad and untrustworthy. It was quite empowering for me when I took responsibility for my beliefs –NOT the actions of the perpetrators. Sometimes we may not feel ready for the pain and discomfort of uncovering the incident but it remains a unilateral process. It takes time to sort through layers of feelings, memories and the complexities of injuries and relationships.

Dr. Terry D. Hargrave, Professor of Marital and Family Therapy and author of several books on forgiveness, states that there are some crucial factors to consider in working through pain that someone has experienced at the hands of another. They include “the severity of the injury, the degree of commitment to the relationship, the capacity for forgiveness, and the personalities of each individual.” He discusses the complexities of the human relationship and how to come to forgiveness. I will say more about how to come to forgiveness as the series continues.

I want to reiterate that this series is not about the bilateral process of reconciliation, it is about the unilateral process of forgiveness. This series will focus on helping you learn about the process of forgiveness. These posts are about the ways in which your heart may be tethered to an invisible cross because of old injuries. This is about the degree of freedom in which you want your mind, body and heart to feel as you move through your world free of the bondage of un-forgiveness.

What are your thoughts regarding the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?

By making the distinctions between the two, does thinking about forgiving or forgiveness seem easier?


Jeanette Rodriguez Ph.D.

Professor Theology and Religious Studies

Seattle University

Cultural Memory: Resistance, Faith and Identity. by Jeanette Rodriguez & Ted Fortier


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  1. Hi Dawn:
    I want to thank you for this series. So far, it has been enlightening and a powerful tool to live by. I am looking forward to the rest of this series to see if I have truly forgiven those that have hurt me. Merry Christmas!

  2. Profound. Thank you for sharing. You have no clue how this series is helping me break the chains of an experience that has had a hold on me whereas I couldn’t move forward 100%. Thank you my friend.
    A very Merry Christmas!!

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Forgiveness: The Right to Protest (part 1)
Gratitude for a Forgiving Heart (part 1)