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The Choice to Forgive

Patty shares her own experiences with internal struggles, hoping to help others figure out their path toward happiness.

finding-me-in-forgiveness

A gusty wind stirred the dead leaves at my feet. Their muted autumn colors lifted briefly and then dropped to the ground with a sigh. In that sigh, the word forgive seemed to rise from the forest floor and I perked up, hoping that in their hushed murmuring, the dead foliage would also whisper the answer to the question that I searched for.

How do I forgive? The question taunted me; I had no idea where to start or how.

I Had Lost Myself

How do I forgive? And if I figured out how to forgive, how would I ever forget? But the wind died away and the leaves lay silent at my feet. Like the leaves, life was draining from me. With no sense of direction and no answer to my heartfelt question, I had lost myself.

Forgive and Forget?

The expression, forgive and forget, rattled through my brain. Since my earliest Sunday School memories, I was taught that it was the right thing to do in any situation but it never really impacted my life, at least, not until now.

Forgive and forget came up again in a counseling session with Becky, the therapist I had started seeing when I felt a shift in my marriage and sensed that our relationship was in serious trouble. When my husband refused to attend counseling with me, I struck out on my own, determined to work on me if we couldn’t work together on us.

A Shattered Heart

With Becky as my guide, I dug in. Like sifting through the contents of an attic, I pulled out memories from my past from other relationships and from my childhood. She listened as I retraced my steps through life to adulthood, discovering the image of myself that I never understood. And through those challenging sessions, I found me.

But me was still in infancy when I discovered the whole ugly truth about my marriage and the affair that had gone on for so long behind my back. If a heart could shatter; mine did.

Grief

I grieved. Through the stages of bargaining, depression and anger, I traveled. I bargained to become a better wife. This was my fault, wasn’t it? I hadn’t made him feel loved. I was ashamed of the devious way I finally learned the truth. A hidden tape recorder? I had stooped to the lowest of lows.

Some days, I struggled just to get out of bed. “It’s as if I am in a deep hole and there is a heavy lid on it,” I described to Becky. “When I have enough strength, I slide the cover over and peek out into the sunshine. But I pull the cover back fast, because the sun is so bright that it burns my eyes.”

Anger

I stayed in that hole for a long time. And when I finally came out, I smoldered with anger.

And it must have shown because my husband asked me once, “You hate me, don’t you?”

I couldn’t answer him.

I told myself that if I caught him cheating again, next time, I would leave him for sure. And then I had to ask the question; why was I waiting for the next time?

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My Anger Protected Me

As hard as I struggled, I couldn’t quite get to acceptance in my grieving process. Something held me captive. It had been almost two years since I listened to the tape recording between him and his lover. Those were two years of self- doubt, depression, anger and self- loss. As hard as I thought I tried, I could not let go of the anger.

One day he said to me, “You have to forget about this; you have to move on.”

I stared at him as if he had two heads. My anger kept me safe. As long as I kept it alive, he couldn’t hurt me again.

And in all that, me slipped away again. I had no future, I had nothing but this anger and self- protection for the rest of my life.

The Crossroad

So, this was my crossroad. As the leaves stirred at my feet again, whispering the words, “forgive him,” I listened. It was time to decide between my own happiness and trust in a relationship that would never be trustworthy. This suffering had taken me hostage and until I let it go, I would never find the me I used to be. The me that used to laugh and joke and tease was lost. The me who looked to the future with anticipation was still in that hole and needed some help to find her way out. Misery had become my best friend and I hated her.

“You don’t forgive for someone else...you forgive for you.”

Who Benefits From Forgiveness?

“You don’t forgive for someone else,” Becky’s words echoed in my mind. “You forgive for you.”

Although I didn’t fully understand it, I trusted her words.

And with one final shove, the heavy lid on my heart lifted and freedom washed over me. It was like a weight fell off and once again I could stand tall.

Finding Peace

The choice to forgive had nothing to do with the one who had hurt me so much but it had everything to do with finding the kind of peace that allowed me to move forward with my life. The painful memories will always be there and each time I remember them, I am taught a new lesson about myself. They are the chalice of reward for the harsh lesson I learned. And it is the lesson that helped me to find me.

Laughter

finding-me-in-forgiveness

Today, laughter fills my life. Crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes and the deep impression of a permanent smile in my cheeks speak volumes of my present state of mind. Strangers compliment my smile and that makes me feel good! No matter how bad the day is, I find something in it that creates a silver lining. That’s the me I used to be, and it feels great to be back.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Patty Poet

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