Thanks for reading this post! If you're brand new around here, please note that getting over heartbreak is no longer the central theme of my work. More recently, I write books, (here and here) host a podcast and you can look around the site to check out the retreats I host for women, as well as the private work and group classes I host.
I sat in my therapist’s office one evening, about a week or 2 after the fateful day that my marriage fell apart. My soon-to-be ex husband had been telling everyone who would listen, including his family, which had been my family for the past 13 years, lies about me. I was furious. Horrified. I wanted to choke him and kick him in the balls simultaneously. To say I saw red was an understatement.
I spewed in her office how much I hated him, how unfair it was that I could not defend myself to those people that I still loved. My name was being dragged through the mud and there was nothing I could do about it. I told her all the plans I had for clearing my name which included emailing everyone I knew, calling a meeting with all these people and calling them one by one to explain my side of the story. All of this sounded completely reasonable and right.
She said: Sure, you can do all of these things. But….
Would you rather be right, or would you rather be free?
I sat in stunned silence. Damn those “healthy” ways of being.
For the first time I realized I had a choice. For the first time I realized I had the power when it came to my feelings and emotions. I realized that by acting on my impulsive wants, I would just create more drama and chaos in my life. And I was tired. I was done.
So, I let it go. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, especially then, in the middle of all that turmoil. Something else shifted that too. I realized I needed to forgive him.
Now, granted, it didn’t happen that day, but the seed had been planted. For a while there was part of me that wanted revenge. I wanted him to suffer. To pay for what he had done to me.
And the other part of me wanted freedom. Freedom from the pain I was putting myself through. Freedom from the uncertainty of our future. Freedom from who I was when I was with him. Freedom from the shackles I had created from holding on to any notion that things would ever be different.
It was a shitty circumstance. My marriage was over. I had to start over. I was alone for the first time. Ever. There was nothing I could do about that.
Hating him didn’t change it. Explaining my side wouldn’t turn back time so I could change events. Resenting him and the situation did nothing but keep me miserable. Hell, for all I knew, he didn’t give a shit it I was happy or miserable….so if I had to choose…..
It took many months for me to forgive him. I didn’t need him to ask me for forgiveness, I just did it. I sat in the car one day at a stop light near where he worked and I thought to myself, “I’m done hating you. You’re forgiven.”
It was easier than I thought. Yes, there were still times when I slipped back and would feel bitterness rise up in me when I would think of him and what happened, but I would simply remind myself that that was something that I no longer wished to hold on to.
I really do think in my heart he did the best he could with what he had at that time. I think everyone does. I learned so much from that relationship, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I don’t regret one single day. For if I did, I would be regretting the person I am today.
After all of that, here’s what forgiveness means to me:
Forgiveness means choosing to no longer hold onto resentment.
It means choosing to let go of bitterness and hate.
It means loving yourself enough to accept that you are okay with what has happened.
It means letting go of the notion that things will ever be different.
It means taking control of your power.
It means being gentle and compassionate with yourself.
It means being free.
No one wins when you don’t forgive. Especially you.
So, what has holding onto not forgiving cost you in your life? Or, what has forgiveness brought you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments…