“There is no future without forgiveness.” Desmond Tutu
The single most important step you must take in order to move on after divorce is to forgive.
Over the course of your marriage, things must have been said and done by both yourself and your husband that were hurtful and toxic.
Hanging on to these hurts will perpetuate their destructive effect, unless and until they are released.
Hanging on to past hurts is like strapping an anchor to your neck and dragging it wherever you go.
Unforgiveness will bring you down and prevent you from rising up to your highest potential. It will deprive you of the peace that you need to create a happy life.
You won’t be able to start over with a clean slate if you’re still obsessed with the wrongs of the past.
When you forgive, you release yourself from the bondage of blame and resentment and break free from the spell past hurts have placed on you.
Forgiveness is freedom from judgment, ill feelings, and being “right” at the expense of being happy.
Sometimes we adopt a posture of righteous indignation because we mistakenly believe that not forgiving the other person makes him or her the bad guy while making us the victim, the nice guy. We feel morally superior.
But being unforgiving doesn’t make you good and the other person bad. It makes you unhappy! The other person can very well go on with his or her life untouched by your anger and hatred.
Remember, you deserve to be happy. So, tap on the power of forgiveness to set yourself free.
You need to forgive your husband for every wrong, real or perceived.
Yes, every single one of them. You need to forgive yourself for all the things you regret associated with your marriage and in every area of your life.
You need to forgive every person who, in your opinion, contributed to the breakdown of your marriage. That includes friends, relatives, in-laws, even “the other woman.”
This is hard stuff, I know, and don’t get mad at me for saying so. But as hard as this may be, it is essential to your happiness. Release the charge. Stop thinking about it, or at least think about it with neutral feelings.
We are often unwilling to forgive because we assume that forgiving turns us into doormats. That forgiving is condoning offensive behaviors. That, by forgiving, we are making them acceptable. We are enabling the perpetrator. We are inviting more of the same.
But that isn’t true.
Forgiving is not about condoning bad behaviors, especially forgiveness after a toxic marriage.
Some behaviors, abusive ones, in particular, are wrong and unacceptable, and should never be tolerated.
Those behaviors may have given you good reasons to end your marriage. But they do not justify ending your peace and depriving yourself of the happiness that is your birthright.
Forgiveness opens the door to a life of freedom and possibility.
Forgiveness makes room in your heart to allow love to flow in.
Maybe you’re not comfortable forgiving because you fear it makes you seem weak.
To the contrary, forgiving is empowering, because it dissolves the grip past hurts have over you. It allows you to face your vulnerabilities and gives you the opportunity to heal and dissolve them.
When you hang on to past hurts and resentments, you are giving your power away.
Holding on to resentment actually poisons you. It keeps you bound to the person you badly want out of your life.
Every time you think about the hurtful event, you are allowing it to continue hurting you over and over again, even after the conduct has stopped.
Some people hang on to hurts that happened long ago, by people who may no longer be alive. Who do you think is hurt by the unforgiveness? Not the dead guy, for sure!
You are not alone.
We have all been hurt, often by people we love. By people, we thought loved us. And we have to process feelings of betrayal as well.
Perhaps you have endured vicious behaviors that were totally uncalled for. You may think you have been inflicted the unforgivable. I understand.
I am not trying to minimize your pain, but open your mind to the possibility that other people have endured horrifying experiences, even worse than yours, and have found it in their hearts to forgive. Through forgiveness, these people have achieved freedom, and inspire us to allow the power of forgiveness to heal our deepest wounds.
Louise Hay had been sexually abused as a child. Yet, she turned her painful experiences into an occasion to heal herself and to help others heal through a lifetime of inspiring works. Likewise, Immaculee Ilibagiza, in her book “Left to Tell: Discovering God in the Midst of the Rwandan Holocaust,” shares her stirring story on achieving freedom through forgiveness, after her family members were murdered by friends and neighbors during the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.
Their examples underscore how forgiveness can serve you.
Forgiveness doesn’t stop with your husband. Also, forgive yourself. The past is over and done. You cannot change it, but you can choose again. Learn your lessons and be the better person from it.
Consider incorporating a forgiveness practice into your life.
It will support you as you examine your relationship, decide whether to leave or stay and start your life anew, with or without your husband. It will pay dividends in every area of your life and will enable you to enjoy better relationships and a serene existence.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, there is plenty of help available. The subject is so vast and complex that you could fill a whole library with books about forgiveness. There are lots of amazing teachers, all of them courageously sharing their personal stories and unique forgiveness techniques. Find one that resonates with you. Or feel free to create techniques of your own if you can’t find one that is right for you.
My favorite book on the subject is “Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything” by Iyanla Vanzant. This fabulous little book comes with a built-in, 21-day workbook and includes a CD with guided meditation exercises for every day of your forgiveness journey. By day 14, I felt considerably lighter and more peaceful.
I have also found inspiration in Louise Hay’s book “You Can Heal Your Life,” as well as Colin Tipping’s “Radical Forgiveness: Making Room for the Miraclewww.amazon.com/Radical-Forgiveness-Miracle-Tipping-Paperback/dp/B00OX8BXFG.”
You can also join forgiveness support groups at a local church or online.
The key is to allow the power of forgiveness to release you from the wounds of the past and pave the way for a brighter future.
If You’re Not Ready to Forgive Yet
Maybe your spouse or others have engaged in very damaging behaviors that you need to process. Perhaps your emotions are still too raw, and you are not yet ready to forgive. Be kind to yourself and honor your feelings.
Forgiveness requires you to be ready and receptive. You may want to wait until the heat is off, the dust settles and you are out of the emotional danger zone. That is perfectly okay.
Take baby steps down the road to forgiveness. Louise Hay taught that you can start by being willing to forgive. Take the first step now and get ready for a life in which your husband’s misdeeds are not even worthy of a passing thought.
Now you’re ready to begin anew. Rebuild your life on a clean slate with the power of forgiveness.
Note: Excerpt adapted from the book Solve the Divorce Dilemma: Do You Keep Your Husband or Do You Post Him on Craigslist? by Sonia Frontera.
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