Forgiveness is such a loaded word.
It requires an acceptance of someone’s actions. Actions that may be horrific, born from unknown motivations.
Forgiveness was on my mind soon after I received the text that ended my marriage. According to the platitudes I had always heard, I needed to forgive him. It was the right thing to do.
It was an unfathomable thing to do. I viewed forgiveness as a selfless act, and I had a self that was way too hurt to pardon its executioner. I couldn’t begin to even understand what he did, much less WHY he did. And, now, I was supposed to exonerate him for those same things? It just seemed like one more way that he would be getting away with his choices and actions. I refused to endorse his behavior with my stamp of approval.
Time passed. He remained unforgiven. I thought I could attend to my anger without addressing that little matter of absolution. I was wrong. I held on to an ember of hate, fueled by my refusal to accept his choices.
I grew to see forgiveness in a different light. It was actually a selfish act for me. After all, I do not expect to ever have any contact with him again. He will never know if I am his pardoner or if I hunt for vengeance. I forgave him for me. It helped to extinguish the fire of anger. It brought peace to my days and kept him out of my dreams at night.
In order to find forgiveness, I had to shift my view of him. I had to see him as sick, confused, desperate. I do not know how true any or all of those labels are, but they are true to me, as they helped me to feel compassion for him. They let me accept that my greatest love sought to destroy me, regardless of intent. I cling to those labels when I feel the anger spark. I cover the ember with thoughts of mental illness and a frantic push to survive. I chose to see him as weak and frightened, acting in his own twisted version of self defense, rather than as some evil puppetmaster, cruelly controlling my life.
I do not endorse his choices. Regardless of his mental state, he lied and manipulated for years, he committed bigamy and fraud, and he ran and hid like a frightened coward. I still believe that he belongs in prison for his actions. I still would feel no sadness if I heard of his demise. I have simply found a way let go in my mind so that I could find peace.
I have forgiven him, but I will never forget the pain. I’ve buried the hatchet, but I’ve marked its location.