Few people consider the magnitude of their marital vows while standing at the altar waiting to cross the threshold of a new life. With love permeating in the air, those words: for richer or poorer; in sickness and in health; and for better or worse all seem very poetic.
Yet, any couple that’s been married a lengthy amount of time will tell you that poorer will come. Sickness will come. And sadly, worse will come. I know–all too well–the pain that barks when worse knocks at your door. My marriage of just one year was, unfortunately (and fortunately, but that’s another post), unable to overcome that hurdle. Suddenly, I was forced to face another reality of matrimony—forgiveness.
Magazine covers and self-help books say forgiveness is the catalyst to personal healing. It is. But, what does that mean? And what does it look like? When I experienced abandonment and broken trust in my former marriage a lot of people had answers for those questions.
“Not forgiving is like locking yourself in a prison,” they would say. Right—because people who are the victims of hurt want to lock themselves in emotional prisons. It was a confusing time. Beneath my emotional wounds, I truly wanted to forgive. It just seemed impossible. But, as I began walking the journey I learned there aren’t cookie cutter answers and the road to forgiveness will look different for everyone. I also learned that while forgiveness is powerful, there are some things it simply won’t do.
If you’re at a place of needing and wanting to forgive someone, or yourself, this list should encourage you. Even if you think you aren’t able to forgive you may find you’re already on the right track.
- Heal you: The need to forgive is acknowledging that an offense has been committed against you. This is only one part of the healing process. Truly forgiving someone won’t eliminate the pain. Healing, more often that not, will come through completing the cycle of grief.
- Make you forget: There’s an expression, “forgive but don’t forget.” This suggests forgiving someone automatically erases the memories of what happened. It doesn’t. In fact, those memories likely will be there for a long time. Forgiving allows you to accept and embrace what happened as a part of your life. It also allows you to respond to those memories in a healthy way.
- Change the past: This is what makes forgiving scary. It’s accepting that what happened can’t be revisited. It can’t be rectified. A lot of people bitterly rehash past offenses believing justice will be served. What happens if justice isn’t served in a way you seem fit? Will you hold on to that pain forever? While forgiving someone can’t change your past, it can certainly direct the course of your future.
- Make you forgive: There were numerous times I told myself I had forgiven my, then, husband. I didn’t. Anger was still very present in my heart. I still had questions I felt deserved answers. And they did! Unfortunately, we’re not always guaranteed answers for the wrong people do to us. Even if we get answers, they won’t ever be enough.
People often ask how do you know when you’ve truly forgiven someone. I believe you know when you’re able to let go. I knew I had truly forgiven when I no longer cared about the outcome. I didn’t care whether or not a bus hit my ex-husband or someone broke his heart the way he broke mine. I learned to let go of the need for justice and move on with my life, trusting that because of what I learned my future would be much brighter than my past.
FOR DISCUSSION: Have you been in a situation where it was difficult for you to forgive? Tell us about it (and how you got through it). Sharing your story may help someone!
Posted on: Oct 23, 2013
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