I knew that something was terribly wrong. Every time he looked at me, I could see beyond the tears in his eyes that his mind had left him standing there alone trying to piece together the words to tell me the wrong that would shatter my heart. After ten years of marriage, three children, more ups and downs than the tallest, fastest roller coaster at Cedar Point and countless stares of people who wondered how in the world we lasted this long- I knew him, and I knew something was wrong. VERY wrong.
When he invited me to our pastors’ home to tell me what “it” was, I was concerned because I knew that either he had cheated or he was dying. Nothing beyond that- in my mind- required the longest ride of my life on the coldest night of my life, and the moment that he told me that he had a baby with another woman somehow caused me to hate myself for being right- for knowing. The moment years later that he text me “No” he did not want to work on our marriage- after I thought that we were moving beyond his continued cheating, especially after I broken-heartedly decided to raise our daughter from another woman- somehow caused me to hate myself because I did not know. I hated him. I hated me. I disliked God A LOT, and yet I knew there was a LOT of work to be done in my heart although I was not quite sure that I was up for the challenge.
Someone very wise once said, “You may not be responsible for the HURT, but you are responsible for the HEALING.” The day that I realized picking up the pieces of a shattered marriage would only injure me more, I decided to take full responsibility for my healing. I was wounded, but I wasn’t blinded. I had seen for myself firsthand the ugliness of unforgiveness. It sounded like nails scratching on the chalkboard, tasted like week-old black coffee from the corner store and looked like an elderly woman permanently bent over with no hope of ever straightening out her back to walk upright. It was complaining, blaming, bitterness and regret. It was brokenness, anger, apathy and paranoia. Unforgiveness was ugly, and I knew it wouldn’t look good on me. I read books and articles, went to therapy, started to journal every day and more importantly let my heart break and gave the broken pieces to a God who on most days I blamed for letting this happen to me! The assistant pastor in the church…the professional…the giver…the lover…the friend. ME. WOUNDED. BROKEN. I found myself in the biggest battle of my life, and although I was not sure that I would emerge victorious, I knew that if I wanted ANY chance at surviving I HAD TO FORGIVE.
Let’s be real. Infidelity in my marriage was my “it”, but in reality we all have an “it”. We have all experienced something in life that we had to forgive a person for- even if it was forgiving ourselves. It may have happened years ago; it may have happened last month. You may have talked to someone about it, or you may have attempted to silence the hurt with the screams and tears that only your pillows hold. It may have been a family member who did “it”; it may have been a co-worker. None of that matters. Here is the deal: I can’t judge your “it”. I can’t put it on a nice, neat scale, measure “it” and give you an anecdote to heal the hurt. I can’t and I won’t pretend like I understand your silent screams, hidden heartbreak or deadening disappointment…BUT I will say that until your forgive, you will not heal. TRUTH.
Forgiveness is for YOU not for the offender. It is a gift that you give yourself because you want PEACE- peace with your past and peace within yourself. Forgiving doesn’t condone what the person did, but unforgiveness doesn’t punish them either. It punishes YOU. There are some things easier to forgive than others. Of course I am going to forgive the lady who slid into my parking space after I waited for a whole three minutes much faster than I am going to forgive the family member who owes me money or the man I gave my all to only to find that I wasn’t the only one he was promising a lifetime of love. The great news is that in any situation- no matter how painful, no matter how recent or how distant- FORGIVENESS IS A CHOICE, and until we choose it as the higher route to freedom, healing and the freedom that it brings will never happen. Yes. I said it. You will not heal until you choose the path of forgiveness. In other words, if you don’t forgive, you keep yourself entangled and imprisoned to a past full of pain instead of progressing toward a future full of Divine potential. In essence, you are holding yourself captive- not the offender. YOU ARE. (Grab you a cup of hot tea because this concept is hard for A LOT of people to swallow). We mistakenly think that because we don’t think or talk about “it” or because “it” happened so long ago and, after all, we barely see the perpetrator anymore we have forgiven. Denial does not equal forgiveness. It could be that we have buried the pain so deep in our subconscious that we don’t recognize the bitterness, anger, paranoia, anxiety or distrust when they show their ugly heads in our relationships. We don’t make the connection between the sickness in our body and the pain in our heart. We carry baggage from relationship to relationship- job to job- city to city- day to day in the hopes that the wall we’ve built will protect us from being hurt or shamed again. We are burdened down and broken, and the only thing that can set us free to experience life as we should is FORGIVENESS.
Do yourself a favor- make a choice to FORGIVE. Forgive “it”. Forgive “them”. Forgive you. After you read this article, take some quiet time to ASK then LISTEN. Ask God to reveal anyone or anything to you that needs to be forgiven. Listen for the answer. Write it down then write a letter releasing “it” and any emotion that comes to mind. Take your power back by taking FULL responsibility for your healing. Seek out information and/or people to help you on your journey to a more POWERFUL, PURPOSEFUL you. Be willing to put in the work. Realize that because of your decision you are stepping out of the role of a victim; now you are on the road to victory! Unwrap the gift of forgiveness. It’s the best gift you could ever give yourself.