Today I host another Guest Confession. This post is from a friend of mine, Jana, who gives you three reasons to forgive, even when you don't want to. I love having guest confessions on the blog, as it gives you and me another voice on such an important topic. Look for a bit more of that in the next few weeks. I'll still be posting regularly (usually on Mondays). But I'll be adding posts more frequently and introducing some other great marriage voices.
Now to turn the blog over to Jana. Be sure to give her a warm welcome and support in the comments.
Think back to your wedding day.
I’ll give you a minute.
It was probably one of the loveliest, most optimistic days of your life, with you and your new spouse filled with love and promise of your fairy tale happily ever after. You two are now a team, joined together, knowing you’ll stick to those vows you made in front of your friends, family, and God (unless you had a non-religious ceremony, in which case, just ignore that part). Nothing could ever come between you.
Until it does.
It comes out of nowhere and blindsides you. And it changes everything you knew, thought and felt towards your spouse and your marriage. Your happily ever after is now a big fat nightmare.
And you’re angry. And you feel betrayed and frustrated and hurt and sad and all the emotions. You don’t know what to do. You start asking questions that seem impossible to answer. First the questions turn inward–was it your fault? Did you fail as a spouse? Could you have prevented it? Then they get more global–do you stick it out? Do you get divorced? What about the kids, the house, the dog? Can you even afford a divorce?
It’s an endless stream of seemingly unanswerable questions because how do you answer them when everything you know and believed is gone? You never thought that you’d be in this position and now you are and you have to make a decision about how to proceed in a marriage you never thought would have to endure something like this.
It’s not an enviable position. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
But there’s two things I can tell you for sure. One, it does get better. Two, it gets better as long as you do one thing.
It’s not a simple thing or even something that seems possible. But it is.
What’s the thing?
I know. It sounds insane because how can you possibly forgive someone who’s hurt you so badly? Who’s destroyed the very fiber of your marriage and basically spit on your vows? Who has shaken everything you know to the core? Who’s compromised your self-esteem, your self-worth?
I’m not going to lie. It’s tough. The good news is that you don’t have to do it right away. Let yourself be as angry as you want. Eventually the anger will subside and give way to the rest of the 5 stages of grief, and as that happens, you’ll come to realize that yes, it is possible to start working on forgiving them for how they’ve hurt you.
It’s possible because when you forgive, you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for you.
That was the hardest, yet most important, lesson I learned. I was resistant to it at first. I didn’t want to forgive my husband. He didn’t deserve it. How can I forgive someone who hurt me that much? However, the more I thought, and the more I listened to the points my therapist made, the more it made sense to ignore all my instincts and forgive him.
So, with great reluctance, I forgave him. And when I did, the following happened:
- Clarity. The heavens didn’t open up and angels didn’t sing but once I allowed myself to forgive him, I could think more clearly about how I wanted to proceed in our marriage. It let me see the progress he was making in his own therapy and the hard work he was doing to be a better husband. It stopped clouding my judgment. I started making rational decisions. And that brought about…
- Calmness. It is exhausting to be angry all the time. All your senses are heightened, you eat (or don’t eat) all the time, you can’t focus, and it hurts–physically, emotionally, psychologically. Your guard is up. All. The. Time. You can’t relax. But opening yourself up to forgiveness quiets your mind. All that energy devoted to being angry moves to other parts of your life. Which leads to…
- Healing. Hanging on to that kind of hurt and anger keeps the wound open and fresh. It can’t scab over and you certainly can’t move on. You stay stuck. But when you said “I forgive you”, the wound starts to close. It stops hurting so much. You started to feel better. You started to function like a normal person. You start moving on from what happened and think about the future.
Let’s be clear. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning the action. Forgiveness does not mean you have to forget. Forgiveness is simply a gateway to peace and healing.
You deserve that.
Jana Lynch is a blogger at Jana Says, where she talks about everything from parenting to pop culture to mental health issues, and runs the blogger mentoring program Bloggers Helping Bloggers. You can stop by and say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Have you ever forgiven someone even when you didn't want to? Share how that forgiveness changed you in the comments….