There is a misconception that not forgiving will lead to hatred, obsession, poor emotional health, or perpetual rage on the client’s part. The implication is that forgiveness is the fullest release from the pain of having been so violated. This simply is not true.
An incest survivor is urged to absolve the perpetrator of his crime, let go of the anger she feels toward him, release him from suffering any consequences of his actions, and to move on with her life. There is a popular notion that if a survivor does not forgive her abuser then she will be stuck, unable to fully recover from her wounds and steeped in perpetual anger. Does this make sense? Is this healthy for the client? Are other crime victims similarly pressured?
If a client does not forgive her abuser, she retains a self-protective warning system. That system guards her from further harm from her abuser or other dangerous people. She will have developed the idea that some acts are unforgivable, especially those that involve powerful people mistreating the helpless. She remains forever aware that betrayal and violation are possible even from those she loves. This may cause her to always leave a piece of herself tucked away so that if she is ever hurt again she can survive again. In short, she will maintain a survivor’s stance rather than a victim’s stance. A victim believes that “No matter what pain someone causes me, I will eventually offer my compassion and forgiveness,” thus leaving herself open to any unkind act. A survivor says “Never again will anyone have the power to annihilate me.”
Nicki Roth, Integrating the Shattered Self: Psychotherapy with Adult Incest Survivors