How can they talk and laugh with him?
He cheated on me!
How can he not be judged?
He was unfaithful to me!
How can he carry on as if nothing happened?
He destroyed my life!
Why do people not look at me? Why do they avoid me?
I am the one who hurts.
I am the victim here.
Shouldn’t everyone feel sorry for me?
Is there someone who has hurt you, for whom you feel lingering resentment, hatred, even thoughts of revenge? Have you been hurt by someone in your past and you cannot let it go? Do you blame someone else for your problems?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you are not alone. Far from it… there are many of us who have held on to painful cores of hurt and anger. Unfortunately, these tight cores within us end up hurting us even more. They eat us alive, slowly, bit by bit… for they colour all that we see and experience. The more anger and resentment we feel inside, the more anger and resentment we attract and experience in our lives. And the angrier we become… the more we become victims of others and the world… or at least, that’s the way we begin to see ourselves.
Before you begin to read my story, it is important that you know that I am sharing my experiences so that you can understand how important forgiveness has been, and still is, to my healing and ability to move forward in my life. The story that I am sharing with you involves my experience of a failed marriage and my journey of healing, and while I am a woman, and it is written from a woman’s point of view, the experience of hurt, anger, and victimization is not limited to one gender.
When I left my husband, I was hurt and angry. I blamed him for the lethal blows his infidelity had caused our marriage. I remember crying out inside at all the people we knew — friends, acquaintances, coworkers. How could they talk to him, and even laugh with him, after what he had done to me? How could they not judge him for the wrong that he had done? I was the one who had been hurt; I was the victim, and yet, it seemed that I was the one people avoided. I wanted to scream out that he should be blamed; he should be made to hurt as I did.
I carried my hurt and anger around inside me every day. It was a weight that became a part of me… a weight that I lugged everywhere I went. When I think back to the feelings of those days, I remember the blackness that enveloped me and followed me everywhere I went.
It was important to me that people knew that I wasn’t to blame… that I was the victim. And oh, how I carried my victim load well! It weighed me down so heavily, yet I told myself I was strong, and I forced myself to carry it through every day… going to work, caring for my children, doing all the right things. It seemed that the man who had caused all this hurt in my life was somehow unscathed by what he had done. There were no repercussions for doing something so awful, so wrong. His kids still loved him and wanted to be with him. He moved someone else in MY home… he was going on with his life. The one who had always tried to do right in the eyes of the world, the one who had been home caring for our small children while he was out fooling around with someone else was the one who had been wronged, and the one who had wronged seemed to have it all going his way.
During that time, I accepted the invitation of our minister, Helen, to go out for dinner together. It was one of the most important meals of my life. We talked… or rather, I talked and she listened. She listened to all my cares and woes, and then she said something that took me by surprise. She told me that I needed to forgive my ex-husband. My reaction was predictable… forgive him! After all he had done to me? After the hurt that he had caused?
Helen invited me to come to church on Sunday when she would talk about forgiveness in her sermon. I didn’t think I was ready to forgive, but I went, and I listened. The memory of what happened is still clear today… years later. As I listened to Helen’s words, to her message of forgiveness, I felt a chink break loose in my chest, and I started to cry… and I couldn’t stop. I sat there, weeping, through the rest of the service. At the end of the service, Helen came, put her hand on my shoulder, and said simply, “I knew that was going to affect you.”
Affect me, it did… I began the process of forgiving my ex-husband. I began to let go of all the feelings of being wronged. I stopped thinking of who was right and who was wrong, and I forgave him. I said the words out loud to myself, “I forgive you.” I said the words inside my heart, “I forgive you.” I said the same words again and again until they became a part of me and I believed them.
That was the single, most important thing that I did for myself to begin my journey of healing. As long as I held onto my hurt and my anger, it poisoned me. As long as you hold onto your hurt and anger, it will poison you, too.
For a long, long time, I had thought, “Why should I forgive him? He doesn’t deserve forgiveness.” It doesn’t matter if he deserves forgiveness or not. Why should you forgive anyone who has caused you hurt and anger? You need to forgive for you. Forgiving will set you free. Forgiving will release that load of hurt, that “poor me” weight that you hold on your shoulders and carry with you through every day.
When I started to cry on that Sunday, I began to release the deep well of hurt that I carried within me. Letting that go over a period of time allowed me to begin to heal. In time I was able to wish my ex-husband well. I could even wish him happiness… and mean it.
Forgiveness is the most important step that you can take toward your own healing. Without forgiveness, the anger and hurt inside you will poison every experience you have. Have you asked yourself, “Why me? Why does all the bad stuff happen to me?” It happens because you draw it to you. When you hold anger and hurt inside you, you are angry and hurt. You send all that hurt and anger out into the world, and that is what you receive in return. When you begin to let go of that anger and hurt, you clear the way for positive experiences. As you wipe the blackness away, you begin to see the light that is available for you. The light, the good of this world has always been there for you. You just couldn’t see it because of the darkness you carried within you. Forgiving allows you to let go of that darkness and pain so that you can begin to see light and goodness. As you see this, you will begin to experience the good that life has to offer.
Forgiveness is about you and allowing yourself to fly free.
It is important for you to forgive others, but it is important that you forgive yourself as well. It is okay not to be perfect. It is okay to make mistakes. Forgiving ourselves is an important step to healing, too. As long as you keep beating yourself up inside for mistakes you have made or hurts that you have caused, you don’t allow yourself to heal and to learn.
We are here on this earth to learn and to grow as human beings. Making mistakes and yes, even causing hurt to others, is part of that process of learning and growing. It is part of our journey. It took me years to admit to myself that I held responsibility in the breakdown of our marriage, and when I could admit that to myself, I was only able to move beyond it when I was able to forgive myself.
I have been the classic perfectionist all my life. I had to be perfect at everything I tried. I had to be the perfect teacher, the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect everything. When I wasn’t… as is only human… I was so hard on myself. Then I would work harder to be perfect. Sound familiar?
Another “best thing” I did for myself was to accept that I wasn’t perfect, nor would I ever be. What was important was that I tried my best, that I knew that my intentions were the best, and that if I made mistakes on the way, that I had to forgive myself, and go on with new, deeper understanding. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and I am learning to look for and anticipate the lessons that life brings me.
Yes, I make mistakes, Yes, I stumble and fall. But… I can forgive myself now, and I can go on, better and stronger than before. Learning to forgive others and then learning to forgive myself has given me wings to fly. I don’t want to hold on to hurt and anger. All that does is hold me down. I realize from this vantage point in my life that it was through the most painful points in my life that I learned the most. Pain stretched me and caused me to grow, even when I wanted to wallow in it. Now, I know that there are lessons in painful experiences, and I embrace them for the learning that I will do. I look for the lesson… sometimes it takes me time to see it. In fact, most often it takes time to see the lesson, to find the learning, but always it is there.
When we hold onto anger and pain, life will keep bringing us the same lessons over and over until we finally get the lesson. The key to getting the lesson is to begin to forgive. You may not feel very forgiving at first, but keep saying it. You don’t have to say it to the person; just say it to yourself. Say it until you accept it and believe it. In time, you will. In time, you will let all that pain go… in bits and pieces… as you learn to forgive.
My prayer is that you will be able to fly free, to become all that you can be. In order to fly, you must rid yourself of the load of pain and anger that you carry inside. Let it go. Forgive those who have wronged you, and you will begin to feel lighter in your heart. You will begin to see the light and the happiness that is all around you… and there for you to experience. You will begin to fly free!
Say “I forgive you,”
and the shackles of hate fall away.
Think “I forgive you,”
and the heavy yoke of anger releases.
Feel “I forgive you,”
and open your wings to fly free.