Nobody likes talking about forgiveness. If the subject comes up, it means that someone has been wronged or an injustice done. I don’t know the circumstances of your divorce, but chances are you have been wronged by your mate somewhere along the way. And the odds are high, especially if you have children together, that you will continue to be wronged for a long time. Oh boy, oh boy. This sounds fun!
Divorced people can be an angry bunch. Have you noticed that? Therapy sessions can quickly deteriorate into furious rants and diatribes with venom spewing in all directions. Ranting can be helpful, and there is value in just getting it all out. But at some point, it’s time to move on.
I am going to give you a dose of tough love here, my sister. Your friends love you and are trying to be supportive, so they are not going to tell you this. But I will. The ranting, angry phase is therapeutic and even fun for a bit, but you must move on. I’m telling you this because I want you to get your life back, and then live it. I am telling you this because I have been there. Lifelong anger is not your friend, nor is it your destiny.
Living again starts with forgiveness
“But you don’t know how he treated me,” you might say. “You don’t know the lies he spread about me, and the way my reputation has been ruined.” Or, “He took me for everything we had. He got the car, the house – everything. You don’t know what it is like.”
There’s a common misconception about forgiveness out there. I often hear: “I can’t forgive him. What he did was not okay. If I forgive him, then that’s saying that everything he did to me doesn’t matter.” Forgiveness does not mean that what was done to you is okay. It is not okay when your husband “forgets” his wedding ring when he goes out with friends. It is not okay that he ran up a huge credit card debt in your name. It is not okay that he is turning the kids against you and refuses to pay child support.
Here is the strong truth about forgiveness: forgiveness does not mean that what has happened to you is okay. Because it is not okay. But other than the fact you have been wronged, forgiveness has nothing to do with what happened to you or who did it.
Forgiveness is not about them. Are you ready for this?
Forgiveness is about you.
Forgiveness is about finding freedom in letting go.
Spewing hatred to anyone and everyone who will listen doesn’t really hurt your mate; it hurts you. He doesn’t care, and it makes you look like a fool. He’s already moved on and is living life without you. It hurts, but it’s true. Why are you still spending your precious energy and days living your life with him as your focus? You are not the focus of his life. Why is he the focus of yours? Does he deserve that? Of course not. Then stop giving him the honor of your time, thoughts, and energy! It is time for you to take back your life. It’s time to move past the pain and start living again. It’s time to forgive.
But how do I do that? Especially if my heart’s not in it? It starts with a simple act of obedience. Being willing to think about forgiving is a start.
Forgiving Out Loud
Next, I challenge you to forgive out loud. In privacy, of course, but practice forgiveness by saying it out loud. “Phil, I forgive you for breaking your promises to me. I forgive you, Phil, for checking out when I was pregnant.” Be specific about the actions you need to forgive, and put your spouse’s name on them. Out loud. There is power in the spoken word.
Secondly, you need to forgive yourself. Oh no, you don’t have to go there, do you? Of course we do. This is about total healing, girlfriend. We’re going to get into all those nooks and crannies and scrub away.
Sometimes though, we truly do have a hard time forgiving ourselves. Most likely you’re not completely innocent when it comes to your divorce. In my selfishness, I contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. What did you do that requires forgiveness? Maybe you need to forgive yourself for marrying a man you know you shouldn’t have. Was your marriage an act of rebellion against your parents or social pressure? Or was your husband not the only one who was lying in your relationship? Have your motives been questionable, if not downright deceitful? Were you a nag or a shrew, tearing down your husband in public just to humiliate him? Did you entertain thoughts of an affair or perhaps even act on those thoughts? Whatever your trespass, God has forgiven you. And if God has forgiven you, what right do you have to withhold forgiveness from yourself?
The thing about forgiveness is it’s not just a one-time thing. The first time you forgive your mate is a really, really, big deal. But it probably won’t be the last time you’ll be given the chance to forgive. Do you like how I phrased that? Given a chance to forgive? It’s all part of the growing process, getting to practice those tough tasks.
Forgive, then Forgive Again
One-time forgiveness is not enough. If you have children together, you will most likely have more disagreements. Some are as minor as who pays for soccer league, and some will be major, possibly requiring intervention from the court. Or maybe your kids are grown and the issue is who gets the retirement investments, or you are bickering over who gets the lake house for the Fourth of July. Forgive, sister. Walk in freedom. Forgive.
And sometimes, it will not be the things in the now, but the issues in the past. Perhaps your ex-husband has passed away due to old age, or possibly an accident based on his bad choices. Or maybe, he’s living somewhere off the coast of Sumatra with no electricity, and you haven’t talked to him in several decades. Sometimes we have to forgive the memories. For those are the sinister ones. These memories are the ones that threaten your well- being, your peace. When they rise up late at night to mock you in your loneliness, forgive. When they taunt you as you watch other happy “complete” families at your child’s graduation, forgive. When the memories of the past threaten to overtake your present, choose life, and forgive.
I hear people say all the time: “Well, I can forgive, but I can’t forget.” There are several meanings to the word “forget”. Here, it is not talking about pretending like something didn’t happen. If your husband was physically abusive, you need to forgive him, but you must also protect yourself and stay away from him. Your safety demands that you can’t forget what happened.
By choosing to forgive, you will be choosing life. Begin to practice forgiveness, one step at a time. Breathe life back into your weary soul. Choose life. Forgive and then forget.
This article has been excerpted and adapted from The Christian Chick’s Guide to Surviving Divorce, which provides wisdom and encouragement to women of faith who are going through divorce. Suzanne Reeves, a “Perky Texan” who now lives in Chicago, IL, is an author, speaker, actress, and director who has experienced divorce first-hand. Find out more about Suzanne here.