Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Myth of Instant Forgiveness

As most of you know, I made a very difficult decision several months ago to end my marriage. The why is important and I am not ready to discuss it in such an open forum yet, but I will say my situation is all too common, and that it was a huge mistake to not take this step years sooner. I will also say I feel I did all I could to save the relationship, and that I have now chosen to sever nearly all communication ties, because of the temper and tone of that relationship.

So now I am dealing with the emotional aspects of things. When people say that divorce is almost as hard to deal with as death, they are correct. You do go through phases emotionally, you do make huge adjustments physically and financially, most of which you didn't foresee or plan for. One of the things one has to deal with if forgiveness, of yourself, and of the person you have decided to end a life commitment with.

Forgiveness in these situations is important, as it is in any situation where betrayal or hurt has occurred. Most  religions agree on the importance of forgiveness and the benefits of it for the person doing the forgiving. They agree that harboring resentment instead of working towards forgiveness can be quite harmful to the person not willing to forgive. They also all say we should forgive and as soon as possible, but none have a firm timeline or an exact methodology that is proven to work every time. It really is a difficult thing to do and it takes time for a person to work through the reasons they feel hurt, and then to decide that they are not going to hold that hurt against the person who caused it.

Then there is the assumption often made by the offender, that the offended needs to forgive them right now, and that things can go on the way they were as if nothing bad had happened. Also a common assumption is that the offender no longer has to deal with the negative consequences of their action. They think that being forgiven fixes it all, and it needs to be done right now. They may try to convince the offended that God tells you to forgive and you need to be doing so right now. Those are simply myths.

One other myth is an understanding of what forgiveness actually is. Forgiveness is a person's decision not to hold an offense against them. It means that you respect that other person to not let that offense make a big difference and allowing that person to have a chance to redeem themselves. However it is not a license to be a repeat offender. To believe otherwise is wrong. The person who did the wrong needs to really work hard not to repeat the offense, recognizing that continuing the offensive behavior will eventually lead to negative ramifications. The forgiving person can, at any time, say that they are going to remove themselves from the situation, because that stuff keeps happening and they don't want it to anymore. Saying, "I am  not going to allow this anymore." is not being unforgiving, it is simply protecting oneself from current or future harm.

This last is what I have had to do, on several fronts, with my soon to be former spouse. If one wants to find forgiving someone much more difficult then keep yourself in a situation or relationship where you know those offenses are going to occur. It's true, because that is exactly what I did. I finally had to put even greater barriers between us, because the lack of them was so unhealthy, for both of us.  I don't know if he understands my decisions, despite earlier attempts to explain them, and quite frankly his understanding has become much less important at this time. I just had to decide for my benefit, and my mental health, that it was important to sever ties so that I could deal with the emotional, physical and financial aspects of the decision I made last October.

 There's a lot of baggage there, that I am having to unpack, and decide what to keep and what to toss. It is difficult, yet it is healing, and it has taken a lot of time, and personal reflection. In some ways I have forgiven him, but in others I haven't yet, and in all honesty I don't see it happening this week or even this year. There is still a lot of baggage left that I had forgotten about, and that keeps being discovered. Eventually I'll get there, and my heart will be completely healed. I know forgiving is the right thing to do, as it frees my heart and soul from the pains caused by others or even myself. I no longer have to hold on to negative memories and resentments, mulling them over and over. Forgiving will allow me to  completely move forward with my life, catching up to the other positive steps I have already taken.


Dani said...

I really like this entry. Not because of the pain that you're going through but that you had the courage to write it. Forgiveness is something I struggle with a lot, especially lately. It's a subject I've tried to avoid, but you really can't forever for the sake of sanity.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey of healing. I know we don't talk a whole lot, mostly on and off around The Spark, but I'm here if you need anything, even if it's a drink. :)

S, Galloway said...

Thanks Dani. We do need to share a drink and a moment soon.