“Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.”
“Forgiveness will set you free.”
“With forgiveness comes peace.”
“You must forgive others in order to heal.”
These quotes, thoughts, and ideas are so compelling… Compelling and incredibly annoying, if you ask me. Me, somebody searching for the elusive “light switch” labeled forgiveness…
I want to continue to heal and to feel at peace, but what’s driven me to this road isn’t exactly that; rather it’s what I don’t want. What I don’t want is for him (the one who betrayed me, and hurt others); to take up anymore space in my heart or head. I want to let go of the fear that we will cross paths in a store, or on the street. I want to rid myself of the anxiety that comes with leaving my daughter with a sitter; so that I can work. I want to sleep through the night, walk my dog in the dark, and not feel threatened that the life I’ve built with my little girl, is in any jeopardy… (All of the aforementioned are things I seemingly took for granted before experiencing this trauma).
But here’s the thing about facing monstrosities and events like mine… It’s hard not to shrink yourself, or the size of your world. I use my $100,000 brain (college investment), to logic my worst case scenario’s away; but I viscerally know that the seemingly impossible, is in fact, a possibility.
I look at a picture, framed in the corner of my room, where I’m holding my precious, (barely two year old baby), and it’s impossible not to recognize how far I’ve come. I’ve done so much healing. I’m actually filled with gratitude that things fell apart… In many ways I’m less scared and more grounded in my faith. Isn’t this forgiveness by another name? Maybe…
Still as I approach the two year anniversary of that upheaval of my world, I’ve been yearning for more freedom from all of this… Throughout quiet contemplation and a growing awareness of life’s synchronicities, I’ve recently become certain that the only way I can get to this place; in my head, heart, and life, is to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for what has really, until now, felt unforgivable.
So I started doing some research. I read articles, listened to podcasts, took personal inventory, and began writing; to gain knowledge and clarity regarding forgiveness. I learned that forgiveness can be defined as getting rid of a debt, and that sure resonated! I thought about how much I felt like this man owes me. I started to feel kinda pissed off as I recalled how his actions had impacted my world; what a mess he had left me to clean up… I thought of all the days and ways he’d really screwed me over; the time I had done “on the outside,” while he was in. I noticed the way that the anger made me feel. I knew it served a purpose. It had likely gotten me through some of those excruciating events, but I was also aware that the resentment didn’t feel good in this moment. It felt heavy, and I felt nauseous. Another reminder of my desire to let go.
I’ve been on this path before; walking this road of forgiveness… for this man, for others, and for myself… The hard truth is that it’s a journey. Sometimes you are going to get lost or take a detour. The exit signs are big, bright, and so very tempting! They are littered with words like anger, fear, grief, resentment, revenge, unworthiness, and self pity. You may find yourself taking an exit (or twelve); perhaps you need a sandwich, or a bathroom break… Other times you will be so weary that stopping won’t even feel like an actual choice. It will be something you are forced to do so that you can refuel; regain your strength, and find better traction. There is no estimated time of arrival on your dashboard, because the road to forgiveness is messy, and you must travel by foot.
Along the way you’ll discover that some of what you are carrying isn’t even yours to forgive, it’s going to be your daughters, or someone else’s work; so you’ll be asked to delicately place it on the side of the road. Acknowledge the sadness; that wish in your heart that you could do this work of forgiving, for them too, but know that you cannot. You cannot walk for them, but you can blaze a trail.
I’ve learned a lot so far. I’ve learned that in order to get to forgiveness, we need to set the intention; consciously. That’s what I’m doing here, and I’m inviting you to do the same. I am willing to forgive the facts of what was done to me, and working to release the anger I’ve felt because of their impact. While I am not responsible for the wounds inflicted upon me, I am definitely in charge of how they heal.
Sure, what I’m hungry to forgive is different from what you are, because we all have distinct appetites; separate life experiences. Still, listen as you hear my words, and draw close to the similarities that exist. The truth is, that this longing within my heart to forgive, is NOT unique.
I am NOT okay with what he did. I don’t have to be. I don’t want to be a part of his life, and that’s okay too. However, I am willing to begin to see this perpetrator of my injuries, as the human that he is. I am able to begin to separate what he did to me, from what he did to my daughter, what he did to the victim of his crimes and her family; what he did to his family, my family, the community, and those impacted by the ripple… As I untangle all of this to feel some compassion for how broken he must have been (or is), to have been able to make the choices that he has. I am able to let go, and trust that the universe will sort it out with him… What a relief that it’s not my job! I am willing to forgive the debt that I feel he owes me.
If this brings you peace. If this brings you relief from your pain. Then you are ready to walk the road too. This is freedom. This is forgiveness.
Now it’s time to rest.
It’s time to recharge, because tomorrow you will have to choose to do it all over again. You will have to get up and walk your path of forgiveness, until it becomes a road. You’ll need to remember to get back on track when life’s circumstances derail you, because they will. Allow yourself to find comfort, knowing not only that you have what it takes to begin again, but that you are getting good at it.