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Forgiveness After Trauma [Episode 281]

Forgiveness After Trauma

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“In this book, I want to share parts of my journey paired with reflections based on my background as a biblical scholar to make available forgiveness paths different from the harmful ones so often proffered in the name of God.” 

Susannah Griffith’s book, Forgiveness After Trauma, does exactly that, and it is now my absolute favorite book on forgiveness. In today’s episode, Susannah and I sit down and talk about how we can look at forgiveness in a more healing way than we are accustomed to.

Related Resources:

Susannah is an independent scholar, writer, chaplain, and advocate. Her first book, Leaving Silence, was a finalist for a Christianity Today Book of the Year award. Susannah resides in Northern Indiana with her husband Michael and three young daughters.

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NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 281 of the Flying Free Podcast. So about a month ago, I got a message from Sheila Wray Gregoire, who is host of the Bare Marriage Podcast. And she was telling me about this amazing book that she read and that she thought that I would be very interested in reading it and interviewing the author.

So I looked into it, I got the book, and oh my word — I am so glad that Sheila told me about this book because it is one of the books that I will be recommending all the time now for anyone who’s struggling with understanding forgiveness in light of experiencing long-term marital abuse. So today I’m really excited to introduce you to this book and to the author, Susannah Griffith.  Welcome, Susannah.

SUSANNAH: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

NATALIE: I’m just going to tell them a little bit about you. This is from her bio. She is an independent scholar. She’s a writer, a chaplain, and an advocate. This is her second book that we’re going to be talking about, but her first book is called Leaving Silence, and it was a finalist for a Christianity Today Book of the Year award. She lives in Northern Indiana with her husband, Michael, and their three daughters.

And I just want to say thank you for writing this book. This book that we’re going to be talking about today is called Forgiveness After Trauma: A Path to Find Healing and Empowerment. And I think this is a beautiful gift of love to all of us women who have lived in abusive relationships and have wondered — and we love Jesus — but we’ve wondered how we can reconcile those two things, forgiveness and what we went through. So thank you.

Can I just read Wade Mullen’s review at the beginning of this, his endorsement? Because I love Wade Mullen, and I think this endorsement is just so good. He wrote, “Forgiveness After Trauma provides desperately needed insight and clarity on one of the most significant issues survivors face as they take steps towards safety and recovery. Confusion, harmful messages, and stigmas surrounding the topic of forgiveness have often been obstacles and pitfalls on the path to freedom.

Susannah Griffith helps us understand what it really means to forgive after trauma. She de-stigmatizes anger,” (which we’re going to talk about) “extends permission and invitation to lament, answers many important questions about accountability and reconciliation, and gives hope for the future. She has taken a depth of personal experience, loving care, and profound expertise to write a book that will empower many who find themselves stuck and unsure how to move forward on their healing journey.” Gosh, what a great endorsement, huh?

SUSANNAH: Be still my heart.

NATALIE: I know. Were you happy when you got that?

SUSANNAH: Yeah, I know. It’s such an honor for someone like Wade to take the time to even read my book, let alone write something lovely like that.

NATALIE: Yes, well, your book deserves it. So you wrote this in the introduction. I want to read this and then we’re going to talk about it: “In this book, I want to share parts of my journey  paired with reflections based on my background as a biblical scholar to make available forgiveness paths different from the harmful ones so often proffered in the name of God.”

Can you tell us more about what drove you to write this book?

SUSANNAH: What drove me to write this book is that it took me five years to leave a relationship that I was very clear needed to end. And there were a lot of factors in that. There were financial factors and the fact that I had kids with him and job factors.

But one of the biggest factors was the fact that I was surrounded by church communities who thought that it was a bad and unforgiving thing for me to divorce an abusive spouse. And this was a problem that I saw in multiple different denominations — liberal, conservative, evangelical, progressive, whatever monikers you want to put on that.

It was hard for me to find real support to leave an abusive marriage. It took years, and I want other people to have an easier time than I did and to know that if they are in the position of filing for divorce papers or separating or wherever they are in that process, that is not something that they’re doing in spite of their faith. That may be something that they’re doing that’s part of God’s deepest desires for their lives.

NATALIE: Oh my gosh, you are speaking my language, girl. I love this. That is amazing. You kind of weave your story into this. And I thought when I was reading it, “Wow, she is really making herself vulnerable here.” What was it like to write about your trauma experience publicly?

SUSANNAH: I think that you’re right. It’s very vulnerable and it leaves a lot of room to be misunderstood and for people to say, “You’re doing this for attention, you’re doing this to ruin a reputable man, you shouldn’t talk about this publicly, you haven’t healed, clearly,” and also that telling the story publicly has prompted others to say my husband behaved the way he did because I was cheating on him, which I wasn’t.

NATALIE: How did they get that out of it?

SUSANNAH: Right, because clearly, men wouldn’t behave in these ways if women weren’t giving them reasons to justify.

NATALIE: Can I just say something here about my impression of who you are as a person after reading this book? I’ve already told people this. I’ve said, “I want to be Susannah when I grow up.” Because you can tell your love for God and your commitment to the truth, it’s profoundly evident in your book. You are the epitome, in my mind, of someone who represents Jesus Christ in this world. Very authentic and genuine and wanting to be true to scripture and also wanting to reconcile what happened to you.

I’m not trying to put you on a pedestal. I’m just saying that your attitude that just seeps through this book is more like Christ, and then you compare that to some of the responses that you’re getting which are more pharisaical, and the difference is so striking. It’s so bizarre.

A lot of times victims that I’m talking to, they’ll be like, “I don’t understand why these people can’t see me. They can’t see my heart. They’ve got this really twisted view of me that is completely opposite of who I am inside of myself and what resonates with my core values and who I want to be.”

I was just talking to women about this last night. I could describe it like they’re in a bubble and they’re looking through a screen that is very dark and twisty and they’re looking at you, and you’re out of their bubble and they just can’t see you accurately because they’re behind this screen. They’re blind, basically. So they’re going to interpret their view of you through their own dysfunction and their own woundedness and their own darkness. And that’s the only explanation I can think of.

SUSANNAH: I think that’s wise. And I know when I read internet comments online, which, I know you shouldn’t read the comments, but when it’s about you, it’s super hard not to. And I see things about me being an adulteress or whatever. It hurts. It’s painful. I feel, on one hand, I want to go out there and defend my virtue or whatever it is. It’s like, do I even dignify this with a response?

And I can feel very caught in between the two, but I think you’re right. This is pointing to a bigger problem about what happens to women in Christian spaces when we speak our truth about what has happened to us. Why is that so offensive to certain, mainly men, who are powerful?

NATALIE: Yes. Well, one of the reasons why I really wanted to interview you too is because I want people to see your heart. I want people to look at your face and hear you talk and to hear the things that you write about, and I know it’s going to be really, really healing to the right people who need it.

SUSANNAH: And those are the people I’m there for.

NATALIE: Exactly. So a lot of people would say that your divorce was your choice not to forgive your children’s dad. So how do you answer that?

SUSANNAH: Yeah, I think honestly, even among people who would say that I did the right thing to divorce him, most of those people would also say that, “This was you not forgiving. This was you making the choice not to forgive.” And I think really, it comes down to how we’re going to define forgiveness. And I think for me, at the core of it, forgiveness means placing someone in God’s hands, which we know are tender and merciful as well as just, and recognizing that it’s not up to me to take out my vengeance or anger or whatever I might be holding in my heart on them — that they belong to God.

And when I went through my divorce, where I found myself was, instead of feeling a lot of those really difficult feelings of resentment and anger towards my husband at that time, I found myself  being able to see him as held by God in a new way, of being loved by God and chosen by God and protected by God in a new way.

And having that kind of space and distance and no longer having to be intimately bound to him meant that I could see him for who he really was under all of the things that he had done, which was “Child of God.” I could not get there when I was married to him. I think it’s so confusing to people when I talk about my ex because I always say, every time, “I love him, I do. Really, deeply, profoundly do.”

NATALIE: You can tell throughout the book. Your love for him and your compassion for him is just oozing out of this book.

SUSANNAH: Good. And because I loved him, I knew that he deserved to be in a situation where he could be seen and known for who he really was. I was no longer able to see him and know him in that way in our marriage. I don’t want to say I’m sorry for that because I think that that was in many ways a consequence for things that had happened. It was just a reality, but it’s something that I did grieve at the time that this profound love I knew that God had for him and forgiveness that God had for him didn’t necessarily mean that our marriage could go on.

NATALIE: Right. And just because you’re divorcing someone or leaving behind that abusive relationship doesn’t mean that you’re not forgiving them. It just means that you’re not only choosing to love them but also choosing to love the person that you are, the person that you’re actually responsible for.

SUSANNAH: Yeah, and I think that the divorce allowed me not only to forgive him but also to forgive myself for not being a person who could just go back to like, “Nothing happened, everything’s normal, we’re just going to be a happy family.”

And forgive myself for the ways that trauma affected me and forgive myself for the difficult experiences that my husband had sort of in contact with state systems, mental health, police, and know that I did the best that I could — that I was protecting myself, that I was protecting my kids, that I was even a lot of the time trying to protect him. And the situation was all just really difficult and painful, but that was absolutely the best that 27-year-old me, 28-year-old me was able to do.

NATALIE: I think it’s amazing that you were able to see all of this at such a young age. If you’re just listening to this podcast, she is young, people. I mean, most of the women that I work with that are getting out, they’re not getting out until… I didn’t get out until my late forties. Most of us spent decades in relationships before we finally got out. So I think it’s amazing that you got out soon.

I want to talk about your chapter on anger because that’s a big issue for people. I definitely was angry toward the end. And my anger actually — and people will say this too — it actually did provide the energy that I needed to get out. I just finally got so mad that I just couldn’t stay anymore, and I needed that oomph. But I was vilified and shamed for having anger over two decades, and it was even used as evidence to say that I was actually the abusive person in the relationship and my husband was my victim.

So I just want to read this quote from your book that says, “Books on forgiveness can often dwell on the dangers of anger. Anger, we’re told, can make us bitter, twist our character, and turn us into abusers ourselves.” Notice she’s used the word “we’re told.” “When anger is consistently carried to an extreme and remains unprocessed, each of these issues is possible.

However, many forgiveness books fail by neglecting how anger is necessary in moving toward forgiveness. Without anger, we bypass full knowledge of what actually needs forgiving. We can miss the opportunity to name and thus address what has harmed us. And for many of us, without anger, we might even stay in a damaging relationship or situation indefinitely. This is not what forgiveness is, but is rather its antithesis.

Forgiveness entails fully living in and recognizing our anger, attending to the needs to which it points, and then being able to set the remaining anger into the hands of God. Nothing more, nothing less.” Can you tell us how you got to that? That’s like a powerful thing that you just said about anger there.

SUSANNAH: I want to tell two short stories about myself being angry. One of them is about disempowered anger and one of them is about empowered anger. When I was twenty-seven and I was in my second trimester of pregnancy with my second baby, there was a lot of awful stuff going on in my marriage and I was angry about it, and I knew that it was wrong and I wanted to leave. And I felt like, whether or not this was factually true, that I did not have the resources to leave. And every time I brought up divorce, my husband said that he was going to kill himself and even held knives to his throat — things like that.

One night at about 3:00 am, I couldn’t sleep. I was just thinking angry thoughts round in circles the whole time. I flushed my wedding rings down the toilet to hurt him and to show him that our marriage was really over. That was very disempowered anger. It was intentionally hurtful. I am ashamed that I did it. And it only caused destruction, right? I can understand how I got there and I can have empathy for myself in that space, but I also really wish I hadn’t done it.

Fast forward a few years from that, I was in a very different situation. I was working as a tenure track professor teaching at a seminary and I was getting ready to buy a house and I knew I had the means to do it and I was pregnant again. I was pregnant with my third baby at this time, but I had so much confidence in who I was, and even if he left, I would be fine. And the patterns of abuse played out again. He threatened suicide and sort of made my staying in the relationship a requirement for him to stay alive. And I was angry. I was really, really, really angry about this.

But how I handled that, which was very different from a few years earlier, was I said, “I am sorry,” because we women always have to apologize, right?! “This has crossed the line for the last time and I’m done.” And that was it. And a couple weeks later, I bought a house in just my own name and went on and had my baby by myself at the hospital. Well, I had a friend with me, but my husband wasn’t with me. And I worked on filing for divorce.

One of those angers, the disempowered one, it was harmful. Even though the way that I got there was totally legitimate, the empowered anger got me to a safer place, a better place, a protected place. And I have zero regrets about the way that I handled that situation. I think that instead of telling people not to be angry… Because that’s not biblical. Paul says, “Be angry.” That’s a command. Instead of telling people not to be angry, we need to empower people in their anger to respond in ways that create justice and safety instead of ways that hurt and harm.

NATALIE: Yes, because in the first example you had desperate needs, but you were also hanging on to outcomes, wanting it to go a certain way or feeling trapped, like you were being trapped and being manipulated. In the second example, you had needs and you decided, “I’m going to meet this need. I’m going to use my anger to meet my need and let go of the outcome. Which could be that, okay, he could decide to make his own choice to end his life. But I can’t be responsible for that.”

You said on page 79, “My anger couldn’t just evaporate until the needs to which they pointed were satisfied. Meeting those needs rather than calming the anger had to become the focus.” And I just thought that was very profound.

I wanted to talk a little bit about lament because you have a whole chapter on lament that was absolutely gorgeous. You said this: “Lament as described in scripture is about naming our losses in the most honest language available to us. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. In fact, it requires the deepest kind of memory there is. Lament for me is recalling the horrors of what really happened and what was stripped from us and inviting God into that graveyard of loss.”

Oh my gosh, that is so beautiful and so tragic. And then you actually write out all of these laments, which I love. If you wouldn’t mind, could I just read three or four of them just to give people a flavor of this? She writes a ton of them, and I want to have some of the women in my group do this as an exercise because I just think this is so profound.

These are just some examples: “I lament the loss of innocence that came with the unfolding violence. I am not the person I was, nor will I ever be again. I lament the loss of trust in the one to whom I spent countless hours telling everything once upon a time. I lament the loss of a dream of a family we would have together. I lament the loss of physical health, which emerged in different ways through the process, especially insomnia during the peak of Neil’s abuse and the autoimmune diseases that I will have for the rest of my life.”

Those are just some examples of her laments. Can you just talk about lamenting for a minute? That’s a scary thing because if we really look at those losses, I think sometimes we’re afraid that we will get lost in the despair of it and will never come out again.

SUSANNAH: Yeah. I think that lament means being totally honest about what those losses are and not shying away from the ugliness and grief and pain of all of that. But I think what makes lament emotionally safe for me is that when we lament, we trust that God is listening, that there is a God, first of all, and that God cares enough that it matters that we talk to Him. And God can accept us as our real messy, raw, crying with snot coming out of our nose self, and that’s the God I love and believe in, and why would I not share my heart with that God?

NATALIE: Yes. I just want to add too that in my new book — it’s called All the Scary Little Gods — I talk about just being an empathetic witness to myself, like being a witness to my own pain. And when you write these things out for yourself, even, those parts of you that feel like, “No one’s listening to me,” you’re writing those things out and those parts are looking at you writing those out and going, “Oh. Someone’s hearing us.” Those laments are parts of you that are saying, “I lost this thing. Does anyone care that I lost this thing?”

SUSANNAH: You know what you’re saying? The language reminds me a lot of Internal Family Systems — and I’m sure you’re very well versed in that — but like we have parts of ourselves that need to hear other parts of ourselves say things, and I’ve never thought about it that way, so thank you.

NATALIE: Yeah, I love that.  Plus, it’s beautiful that now we get to be witnesses to your lamenting as well. I think it’s good to have other people witness our lamenting. So we’ve got God, we have ourselves, and then we have other people that we can be in community with. May not be your church anymore, but there are other people out there.

SUSANNAH: Right, exactly. And wow, am I grateful. I think that having an empathetic witness,  it changes the nature of trauma itself. There have been research studies that have shown one of the things that’s a protective factor in traumatic experiences is having witnesses who believe you and support you and love you. Thinking about even ourselves being a type of witness to that and being part of healing our own trauma, wow. You’ve just totally blown my mind. So that’s what I’m going to think about for the rest of the day.

NATALIE: Yeah. Well, I’m going to send you a copy of my book be ause I talk about that exact… That’s the theme of my whole book is that empathetic witness and how to be that and how to  make that be part of your healing process.

SUSANNAH: Okay. Now I need to read your book. Thank you.

NATALIE: Okay, so then you’ve got this chapter on accountability and then a chapter on reconciliation. And so the one I want to talk about is reconciliation. I have this section of your book underlined and then folded over twice because it’s so important. And this is what you write: “In stories where what we consider reconciliation is beyond our capacity, we don’t need to feel as if we have failed. I don’t believe that God, who is gracious even to our enemies, desires us to be so hard on ourselves.” Right? Good grief.

“Reconciliation means more than hurt feelings being smoothed over and everyone being happy. Reconciliation means closing the gulfs that separate us human from human, God from human. Putting bandages on wounds too soon doesn’t repair these gulfs, but simply denies that they are there. Christ takes down the dividing wall between us — Ephesians 2:14. Christ ultimately makes us one. Christ’s work isn’t limited to what we can reasonably accomplish in our lives, nor is it limited to the human institution of marriage.”

Oh my gosh, I have that underlined a million times because that’s so important. We are not taught that in our churches. I feel like our churches put pressure on us to make it all happen and almost put us in the position of little goddesses, that we are somehow supposed to have the power to do that.

SUSANNAH: A special kind of idolatry, really.

NATALIE: It is. And really not trusting that God has a longer game involved. His ideas might be a little more creative than that. I want to read this too: “I wish I had understood more about this biblical material back when I was in agony over what to do about my marriage. I felt as though my church background and my personal wishes were completely at odds and I didn’t know what to do about it.”

When you read my book, it’s the same story. It’s the same story, different circumstances, but it’s the same story. And I only say that too because the people that are listening to this right now, it’s the same story for them also. So many of them are being re-traumatized at their churches.

“On the one hand, the matter felt simple. Divorce Neil and get my freedom. On the other hand, the matter felt very complex. Ending the marriage would be a failure of reconciliation. Breaking the vows I made at the altar would convey that I cared more about myself than Neil and my children or the will of God.

Honestly, what I wanted most deeply was, in fact, godly. To bring everybody, especially Neil, to a place where everyone and everything were safe and all right. But what this looked like for Neil and me seemed different. I thought Neil was best off when I could help him, and he could live full-time with our girls, while I felt safest alone. I struggled because I was torn between what I wanted for myself and what I wanted for Neil, and I felt emotional and even physical pain when I tried to bring those two things together.” Can you talk about that a little bit?

SUSANNAH: Wow, that’s so raw. And even now I’m further removed from then when I wrote the book and just remembering how intense that is, that feeling of tension and like, there’s no compatibility with what I want and what I feel like the Bible says or what church people want — that was so hard. And in retrospect, I can’t believe I made it through that time.

And now I can say with a lot more confidence than when I was going through the divorce that the path to true reconciliation was through that divorce, that rightness of relationship didn’t need our marriage — in fact, our marriage was kind of an impediment to that — and that reconciliation looks so many different ways.

And I know everybody’s situation is different. Some people cannot have contact with their exes because it’s not safe for them, and I’m not encouraging anyone to do what’s not safe for them.  For me, in my life and my situation, I can name so many moments of reconciliation as my ex-husband and I have co-parented together, as we’ve sort of journeyed in parallel with each other, where we got divorced and I started dating and he supported that. He said that was the best thing that could happen for the girls and me. Where he’s sort of experimented with dating a little bit, and I’ve supported that. When one of us has gone through a hard financial time, not having a car, we’ve given each other rides.

I have no data on how common this kind of situation is. But my point is that whatever the situation is, whether you can have no contact with your ex or you’re very closely connected still through co-parenting, reconciliation doesn’t equal marriage, necessarily. It looks a thousand different ways through the power of God, not our own efforts.

NATALIE: Yeah. You said this too about reconciliation: “In God’s reconciling of all things, my body’s knowledge that it had a safe place to live mattered. In God’s reconciling of all things, my mind could be at peace with the unchangeable events of the past. In God’s reconciling of all things, I, who had lost my sense of home over and over again to violence, would be able to rest in a safe place.”

So sometimes reconciliation involves… It’s for you and it involves God’s reconciliation, which is going to look very different from maybe what your abuser’s idea of reconciliation looks like or your abusive church’s idea.

I want to read a quote that you put in your book about Joseph’s forgiveness because you talk about the story of Joseph in the Bible, which is one of my favorite, favorite stories. And I often identified with him, how he just kept trying so hard to be faithful to God, and yet he kept being betrayed by people over and over and over again, even by his very own family, which I have personally experienced.

You talk about how when he finally meets up with his family in the end and they need something from him, he forgives them by doing the material things. He gives them the food they need, he gives them the help that they need so they can survive. But you make the point that I’ve never thought about before. You make the point that he offers this forgiveness when he’s not in the middle of all the roiling abuse that’s going on.

You said,  “Yet Joseph in no way absorbs the offenses of his brothers”— like an abuse victim would be absorbing the offenses on a daily basis. “He is no longer living in slavery. He is no longer in prison or being exploited by his superiors. If he were still being exploited, then his response to his brothers might be quite different. Now that he is not suffering the consequences of his abuser’s actions, at least not in the same way as he was in the pit or in overt slavery, he is free to respond to his brothers authentically and openly.”

So I wanted to bring that out because so many people and churches will do this to survivors. They’re like, “No, you have to stay with your abuser. You have to stay in an environment where you are constantly being abused and you have to forgive and offer all these good things,” when the Bible doesn’t even teach that. The Bible doesn’t even expect that or offer any illustrations of that. So anyway, can you speak to that, that the Bible’s not saying, “Victims need to be offering forgiveness while they’re still in their abusive environment”?

SUSANNAH: Yeah, I think that idea of space is so important that we see this again and again with Jacob and Esau, with the story of Joseph. Heck, even Jesus, when He’s on the cross, He says, “Father, forgive them.” He doesn’t say, “I’m forgiving them in that moment.” And of course, Jesus and the Father are one and all that, but I think the humanity of Jesus is important here.  Forgiveness is something that God holds, and it’s not something that happens in the Bible in the midst of trauma.

And when churches do this, say, “Not only do you have to stay with your abuser, but you also have to forgive them while you’re doing that,” not only is that spiritually abusive, but it’s also something that I deeply believe is physically, neurologically, impossible. We need safety to be able to reach the kind of functioning that allows us to reflect on the situation and understand what happened, and then perhaps offer forgiveness.

NATALIE: Yes. Okay, my last question is this. This is a question that you gave to me that you are willing to answer and I thought this was a good one. You said, “A book is the thoughts of a moment frozen in time.” That is so true. I have a book that I wrote several years ago, and I often look back and go, “Ooh, I think I would write things a little bit differently if I had a chance.” So is there anything that you would change about this book or add now that some time has passed since you’ve written it?

SUSANNAH: I felt at the time that I wrote the book that certain things were going to be just blatant scars and that those scars were going to stay forever feeling a certain kind of way and looking a certain kind of way. And I can now say that the scars don’t feel the same anymore, and that some of my lament, especially like as you were reading all those laments, that was really raw, and I can hear those now, I can be like, “Yeah, that is exactly how I felt at that time, and now my lament has changed.” Maybe it’s changed to praise — like the Psalms, they start out with lament, and then they turn to praise.

But things can and do change with time. And just to give you an example, I talked in the book about how when I tried to make a police report about my husband, DCS came and threatened to take my kids from me. For a long time that was such a trigger for me, just even the mention of DCS, that I could not physically function. My brain would just shut down if anybody mentioned DCS. Now my husband, Michael, and I are foster parents. We don’t have kids right now — we’ve been on a medical leave for a little while — but when I have a kid in a given week, when I have a foster kid, my phone is blowing up with DCS probably five times a day. And it doesn’t bother me anymore.

Things do heal. Things do feel better. And I think relationships help that and time helps that and just being in different life situations helps that. And so I think that if I could rewrite the book, it would feel even more hopeful than I think that it is.

NATALIE: Well, I personally think the section where you write out the laments is maybe one of the most powerful parts of your book. So I’m glad you have it in there, and I think that people who read it are going to feel very seen. You’ve given voice to their own laments in many ways. I would never change that. If you ever update your book, you’ve got to leave those in there.

Okay, I just want to say before we go, there are core books that just speak to very core issues that I feel like we as Christian women are dealing with who are coming out of abuse or waking up to abuse, and forgiveness is one of those core things. You know. You wrote about it because it was a core issue for you, even in figuring out, “Do I have the right to leave?” It was a core issue for you to get out, to figure this out.

And because of that, this is the book, I think, that I will always turn to when I need to talk to someone about forgiveness. I’ve already recommended it to so many people. And anyone who’s listening to this, if you struggle with this at all, I’ve read several books about forgiveness. They don’t even hold a candle to this one.

And I think part of it is because you have viscerally experienced this yourself, and so you’ve wrestled with all of the nuances in this topic. Whereas I feel like other books, maybe they gloss over it or they present it in more of a scholarly, biblical fashion, but they don’t really address the underlying questions that these little parts of us are asking and that we’re concerned about. And there are just so many layers of it, and I really think that you’ve covered it in this book.

So I also want to say that before we started recording, Susannah agreed to be our July Podcast Club guest. I just started this a couple of months ago. It costs about $400 to produce one episode of the Flying Free Podcast. And so members of my programs, their membership fee helps to cover that cost, but I wanted to invite other people who didn’t necessarily need to be a member or maybe they’re an alumni but they still want to help support the podcast to be able to chip in $5 a month and help support that.

But as a thank you for that, I wanted to be able to have a monthly guest come on and just have a meetup with us on Zoom. And it’s like a meeting format. You can show your video and we can ask our guests questions about the topic that they are an expert in. And so Susannah has agreed to be our July guest. So we’re going to have a meetup for everyone in the Podcast Club. It’s July 13th at 11:00 am CT. And if you’re in the podcast club, you’ll get an email about it with a link to the Zoom meeting, and she’s going to be there to answer questions and have a discussion about forgiveness and trauma.

So if you’re a member of Flying Free or Flying Higher, just send an email to and we will get you set up with that. And then if you are not a member and you want to be part of it, we will put the link in the show notes to go and start your little donation of $5 a month, and then you can be a member as long as you want to.

And we will also be putting the replays of these little guest gatherings on a separate podcast. It’s a private podcast just for Podcast Club members, and you’ll be able to listen to the replay. So even if you can’t come live, you can get more of Susannah and more of this discussion about forgiveness on our private podcast.

And if you’re a Podcast Club member and you have a question for Susannah that you’d like to ask but you can’t be there live, you can just hit the reply button on the email that we send out and tell us what your question is, and we will make sure that we ask Susannah that question and then you can listen later on the private podcast. So thank you, Susannah, for being with us today and for agreeing to do a little guest meet-up with us as well. Your book is a treasure.

SUSANNAH: Thank you so much.

"Excellent, EXCELLENT, podcast! A must listen if you are trying to grown, learn and heal from spiritual and emotional abuse. Thank you Natalie for all your work and podcasts!"
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An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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