Many people told me that I had to come to a place of forgiveness during and after the divorce or else I would become a bitter old woman. Of course I knew enough as a Christian to know that I had to forgive all persons involved in my divorce to include myself. I knew that there were more people and circumstances than just an ex-husband that I needed to forgive. I knew I needed to forgive his lawyers and to realize that they were only doing their jobs in their client’s best interest. I needed to forgive the judge as he was a burned out old man who was weary of arbitration and other people’s lives. I needed to forgive those who I felt didn’t come forward and support me like they probably should have.There were some others involved that I needed to forgive, and then of course I needed to forgive myself for being so blinded to faults and not dealing with situations as they happened. Oh, I had seen forgiveness of the unforgivable modeled by my parents years earlier and I knew that it would not be something I did overnight. But how was I to begin the process of forgiveness?
First thing I recognized about forgiveness is that it is not a one-time occurrence but rather a process of many points in time of forgiving another. I read many books on the subject of divorce and life after divorce. I studied text books on the subject. I talked to my pastor and to other Christian friends to gain their views on the subject of forgiveness. Even though all of this helped to identify and define the act of forgiveness none of them helped me as much as the Bible.
At the end of one of the most famous passages in the scriptures known as, “The Lord’s Prayer,” is a small scripture that lite up my world when I read it. In the New Testament gospels in the book of Matthew chapter 6 and verses 14-15 I read:
”For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (New International Version or NIV).
Say what? If I forgive others God will forgive me, but if I don’t forgive others then God won’t forgive me…..hmmmm! Really? I had to argue with God for a while on this subject. I mean how in the world can I be expected to excuse someone else and their inexcusable actions toward me especially since I was hurting so deeply and still reeling from the shock of it all? But God’s word is my authority and all the justifications that I came up with were shot down as fast as I could think of them. Finally after the emotional wrestling with this weighty issue, I began the process of forgiving. Here is the process that worked for me.
Step one…write down on a piece of paper everything you need to forgive in the situation and include every big and little issue that needs forgiveness. It took many pages but I finally got all of my grievances out of my mind and on to the paper. It also took several days to compile my list. Remember that I have already stated that forgiveness takes time and is a process.
Step two……say the words in a sentence…out loud…when you are alone. You don’t have to mean them at first, but just begin to speak them out loud. Open your mouth and say, “I forgive __________ for hurting me.” I knew the minute that I heard my words spoken that I had finished half the battle. I had faced up to the truth and I was proactively taking care of facing my pain and dealing with it. Now keep reading out loud as many time as it takes the list you have compiled until you begin to actually believe you are forgiving that person who destroyed your life…okay you get the picture!
Step three……re-read the book of Matthew and pay particular attention to what Jesus taught about forgiveness. In fact, it was very helpful for me to do a word search on the scriptures for the word “forgiveness” or “forgive.” I realized that Jesus taught a lot about forgiveness and so did the Apostles.
Step four…..begin to think of the person whom you are forgiving as God see’s that person. For me I began to feel sorry for them. While I understood the ins and outs of the divorce I had never really taken the time to see the individuals as God would see them, as lost and alone and afraid or as a jerk or as someone in need of some good old-fashioned discipline. I began to understand that God would deal with them and I would not have to. Judgement will come to us all and sometimes the judgement is on this earth and sometimes not until after death but in the end judgement is up to God and not me. By my forgiving these persons I was not condoning their actions or agreeing with the outcome. I was not letting them off the hook either, rather I was placing them into God’s hands and allowing an all-knowing, all-seeing, perfect judge to judge them and to take care of the matter for me. As I often began to say to close friends, “I have forgiven them but I am not inviting them to tea.”
Step five…..let them go. Let them go into the hands of God, into His care, into His vengeance, into His judgement, into His forgiveness if they seek it. I cannot reverse what happened to me. I can’t fix it and make it go away especially since he has formed a new relationship with someone else. But I can let him go, let them go, let it go. By letting them go I am not saying that I trust them or want a relationship with them. Trust must be earned and not given away freely. I can, however, move on as I have always lived my life as a Christian woman, forgiven of my sins because I have forgiven others just as Christ forgave me.
There will always be issues that arise because I live in an imperfect world but I know that I can forgive again when needed because I have forgiven the unforgivable and have learned to lean upon Christ and His comfort. Take your time and get it right…..forgiveness is the greatest gift we can have or that we can give to another.
Until next time……Katherine