Regardless, as health care workers, we should take religious beliefs and practices into consideration when dealing with women and their health care needs [14
]. Religious beliefs may keep women in abusive relationships whether at home, work or in a faith community. Christian women in particular may find it difficult to leave an abusive relationship based on their misunderstanding of Biblical teachings. Certainly forgiveness can be understood in both secular and religious circles [15
]. However, Christian parish nurses are interested in working with Christian women who need help in healing from their abusive relationships [8
]. Since female parish nurses are well situated within their congregations they have entre into the experience of women that male pastors do not. This is especially foremost if abused women belong to denominations that do not ordain women and share religious power equally among men.
Forgiveness as an intervention to help the abused heal is available and its efficacy has been researched for over thirty years [4
]. Forgiveness education has demonstrated that it can improve not only mental health, but also physical health [7
]. However, misunderstanding the phenomenon of forgiveness may keep women trapped in unhealthy relationships [8
]. An example of this is with some feminists who object to the idea of forgiving on the grounds doing so further violates an abused woman’s right to be justifiably angry and may compromise obtaining justice [18
Forgiveness is not a free pass for the abuser to get away with harming the woman. It is not forgetting, excusing, condoning or pardoning the abusive behaviour [4
]. Ultimately, the abused relinquishes expectations of compensation by the perpetrator, think, feels and acts more positively towards the abuser [4
]. However, the woman does not give up their right to justice; wither legally or from God. Most importantly forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is a moral decision a woman makes from with-in. It is an intrapsychic experience that ultimately allows her to release the shame, anger and hopelessness she feels [19
]. Reconciliation requires the abuser to repent: to say they are sorry and change their behaviours, so the abuse does not occur again [20
]. The abused can forgive without the assistance or acknowledgment of wrongdoing on behalf of the abuser, since most abusers are not sorry for what they do, and may believe the woman deserved the abuse she received [4
Forgiveness is a process that consists of several stages resulting in the abused woman being transformed by the experience that results in her letting go of anger and ultimately being able to think more positively of the offender [4
]. It is important to remember that humans are complex beings with many facets to their personalities. Most have some desirable qualities and cannot be defined by one or two bad behaviours or personality traits. Research has consistently demonstrated that forgiveness is inversely related to anger and depression [4
]. Robert Enright has been one of the leading researchers of forgiveness education, but the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI) is secular based. If women are influenced by their religious convictions it could be beneficial to take another approach.