Clinical Psychologist John M. Berecz describes a model of forgiveness called singular disjunctive forgiveness. Singular disjunctive forgiveness is when a victim can exit a situation or a relationship without making amends with the perpetrator. In fact, no communication or contact is required from the victim. The victim is able to, for their own safety and well-being, remove themselves from a harmful situation.
From what I have observed, offering this type of forgiveness can be particularly helpful for individuals within a conservative Christian environment. Some individuals look to the Bible to determine what to do and how to handle different situations. In the case of forgiveness, an individual who strongly values scripture may feel influenced to stay in an abusive situation because of their concept of forgiveness.
Providing new language or a new concept of forgiveness can be empowering to congregants. Phrases like “singular disjunctive forgiveness” may be experienced differently than “walking away”. For example, an individual may be afraid to “walk away” from an abusive situation because they may feel strongly convicted that they need to “do the right thing” and offer forgiveness, or in some way be reconciled. Providing terms that reflect a congregant's own use of language and religious beliefs can help a congregant to feel empowered and assured that “walking away” is religiously justifiable and virtuous. Thus, singular disjunctive forgiveness can empower victims of abuse by providing language that allows them to feel they are acting in accordance to their beliefs while also creating space for safety, care, and healing to occur.
Here are some practical steps that can be taken in the provision of care for congregants:
- Determine if forgiveness is the goal of your congregant. I try to avoid transferring my goals onto others in the practice of care.
- If forgiveness is a goal of your congregant, help them to define what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not.
- Use their words to introduce a new concept of forgiveness. Create space for them to discuss the significance and/or relevance of singular disjunctive forgiveness.
- Help them to consider if singular disjunctive forgiveness could be helpful to them. Ask them questions that can help them to evaluate their beliefs, values, norms, and identity. Together, these can help a congregant determine what course of action may best reflect their beliefs, values, norms, and identity.
 Berecz, John M. "All that Glitters is not Gold: Bad Forgiveness in Counseling and Preaching." Pastoral Psychology 49 (2001): 253-275.