While in the turmoil of divorce, forgiveness is the last thing on your mind. There are many stages of divorce recovery before you can even begin to think about forgiveness. In a Divorce Magazine article, Allison Pescosolido identifies seven stages including:
2. Shock and Denial
7. Self Discovery
Forgiveness is the eighth and final stage. When the dust settles and you’re working on moving forward, forgiveness is the final act of wholly and completely recovering and healing from divorce.
For many of us, it’s all too easy to hold on to bitterness, especially when it feels justified. Sadly, your bad feelings don’t hurt your Ex, but science says they have a real and lasting negative impact on you. You don’t deserve that. What you DO deserve is the peace of mind that comes with acceptance and, when you’re ready, forgiveness.
Yet, we often resist forgiveness because of a misunderstanding about what it means. Don’t let one of these myths hold you back from letting it go and moving on.
Myth 1: Forgiving Condones Bad Behavior
It can seem counterintuitive to forgive your Ex for past, or ongoing, bad behavior. It may feel a little like you’re condoning it or trivializing its impact on you and others in the fall-out zone, like your kids. You’re not. Forgiving your Ex doesn’t let him or her off the hook or condone their actions. It doesn’t release them from legal or financial accountabilities. It doesn’t excuse them from the consequences of their actions. And, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to set and hold strong boundaries about what you will allow and what you won’t. Letting go of your hurt, helplessness and anger in no way implies that what happened was OK with you.
Myth 2: Forgiving Someone Means Making Peace with Them
Without a doubt, forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship if that’s what you’re choosing for yourself. For me, it was in my best interest to forgive my Ex (and myself) for the sake of our kids. However, forgiveness doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with, or even talk to, the other person. Forgiveness is your own personal internal decision to let go and can be done without the knowledge or participation of the other person. In fact, you can forgive someone and choose not to have them in your life at the same time. In a very real way, forgiving someone frees you from having to think about them anymore.
Myth 3: Forgiving Means You’re Soft or Weak
Quite the opposite. Forgiving someone is one the most difficult things you’ll ever do because it goes against the grain. In fact, it’s actually easier to stay bitter because you generally get more support that way. Our culture doesn’t value forgiveness as much as it loves a helpless victim. Forgiveness is a direct route to taking your power back—it’s not for the weak or faint of heart. Many people in this world have forgiven unimaginable cruelty and heinous acts of violence. These individuals give us the model for what that looks like. They also give us permission to forgive. It helped me to read stories of what I call “heroic” forgiveness as inspiration on my own forgiveness journey. Here are a few wonderful resources I found that supported me in my own process:
Myth 4: Forgiving is About the Other Person
In fact, forgiveness has very little to do with the other person. It’s ALL about how you feel inside yourself. The act of forgiveness frees you from the toxic stew of ongoing anger and resentment. While you recognize the pain you suffered, that pain does not define you.
You may never feel positive feelings toward your Ex, but you may be able to come to a place of acceptance and neutrality. That means that thinking over the past no longer triggers your wrath. In fact, forgiveness opens you up to acknowledging the good that came out of your situation.
A Path to Forgiveness
Forgiving someone is a decision you make over and over again as feelings come up. It’s a process, not a one-off event. You’ll know if you’ve forgiven your Ex when you feel neutral and peaceful thinking about them. And, when you no longer have a need to repeat the story of what they did or didn’t do.
There’s no one right way to go about the forgiveness process. Books and websites offer many wonderful forgiveness methods. Find one that feels good to you and set yourself free.
Deb Purdy, is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of
Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce.
Visit www.DebPurdy.com for more information.
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