By Sue Birdseye
My ex-husband has neither repented nor asked for my forgiveness. I forgave him not because I’m anything special but because I knew that it was the most important step I could take in my own healing.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we take away the consequences of our offender’s actions, nor does it mean we forget. I believe that forgiveness allows me to say that although someone’s actions hurt me very much, that person and those actions will not dictate how I feel, live, or think, either now or in the future. Really, so much of the healing process is about our willingness to capture our thoughts and stop the descent into bitterness, revenge, and anger. No healing can take place when we hold on to those caustic emotions. And the only way to release them effectively is to forgive.
Forgiveness for me looked like this: First, I made a conscious decision to forgive my ex-husband; then I asked God to help me forgive. Next, I determined not to entertain angry, bitter, or vengeful thoughts. And then I acted out that forgiveness in my interactions with my ex-husband. Four not-so-easy steps. Each step had its own set of challenges. I decided to forgive because I was convinced that it was the only way I could survive this difficult period in my life with joy and peace in my heart.
I knew that I had to get past the desire to punish and get on with the healing. The initial decision to forgive was probably the easiest step in some ways because it’s easy to reach a conclusion and still not truly act on it. Acting on it proved to be the most difficult. I prayed for God’s help, but His way of assisting me was a bit different than I thought it would be.
I imagined that God would just shower me with a supernatural ability to look at my ex-husband with love and kindness. Instead, as I have shared, God showed me the state of my own heart. And as I realized that I had some pretty rotten stuff in my heart and mind, God changed my heart toward my ex-husband. I saw him differently. When I saw him as a man lost in his own selfishness, separated from any true peace or hope, and willing to give up all the good in his life for sensual pleasure, I had a measure of compassion—a very small measure, but some nonetheless.
Finally, I had to implement what God had shown me, what I felt convicted to do. I had to treat my ex-husband in a way that didn’t make him feel judged or condemned. I had always tried to treat him well, but I knew I had withheld kindness at times during our divorce process and after it was finalized. I had also harbored hopes that he would experience some seriously awful consequences for his actions. I had to no longer envision him getting a terrible illness or living in a box on a street corner. Instead, I had to choose to pray for his healing and reconciliation with God. I had to resolve to be kind in my thinking and my actions. Difficult? Very. But it did get easier over time.
I know that allowing myself to forgive my ex-husband even without him deserving or asking for it has allowed me to have a positive outlook on my life and my children’s lives, not tainted by unbridled anger or vengeful thoughts.
Excerpt taken from Chapter 5 of When Happily Ever After Shatters by Sue Birdseye. Copyright © 2013 by Sue Birdseye. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.