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Sunday, February 2, 2014

What is Forgiveness?


There was a fantastic article in my church magazine last month that explained a lot about forgiveness. It was exactly what I needed to read to spark me to climb this next step.

As a doctor, the writer, Benjamin F. Call, said choosing to forgive leads to better health, increased optimism, and better relationships with others. He also said he's learned forgiving others brings great spiritual blessings, including peace--and hope.

He explained what forgiveness is. To forgive is to bestow pardon for an offense, to let go of blame and to release that great burden brought on by the hurt. He said it is to move ahead with life. That is exactly what I need to do. I need to move on. I'm tired of being Debbie Downer. I don't want this divorce grief to define who I am and be the only conversation I can have.

Call also spoke of what forgiveness is not. It doesn't mean you condone the wrong, nor does it mean we should stay in a harmful or abusive relationship. I wish I knew that thirty years ago. I always thought I needed to forgive the abuse, but I didn't realize I wasn't required to endure it.

He also said forgiveness is not forgetting. We'll always keep the memory of it, especially since that memory caused us to have to forgive in the first place.

One of the writer's phrases caused alarm in me. He said failing to forgive magnifies the pain. Yikes! I didn't realize that. I suppose it's like a wound that never heals, but festers. All this PTSD I have might be negated through forgiveness. Call said the key to the ability to forgive is resisting the urge to place blame. Hm.

Another great quote in the article--"Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in." I have to learn the past is written indelibly in stone, but the future is not. I can't change what happened to me, but I can control my reaction to it. I can move on.

A piece of advice was to write down grievances, which is what I've been doing for the past five years. He suggested starting to write things by retelling them with a forgiving attitude. It will invite a good spirit and bring a sense of closure to hurt feelings.

I'm not sure I can turn all the vitriol around at this time. At least not all of it at once. My life has a big elephant in the room. All the sordid events happened and I've told about them exactly from my point of view. My experience was very devastating. I was used, abused, betrayed and deceived. It's a lot to get over. I've had five years to mull it around in my psyche and I really don't want to do that anymore. I feel like I've lost five years of my life. It's not who I am. I don't want the Tripple A Divorce to define me. I want to get on with my life.

Spencer W. Kimball said, "A common error is the idea that the offender must apologize and humble himself to the dust before forgiveness is required." I knew I would be starting from scratch, with no apology. Forgiveness, for me, has to start at its most basic element with no outward impetus. I have to forgive regardless of his neglect to repent.

I realize I will never receive an apology from my former husband. As someone diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (among other pathologies), he will never see himself to blame for anything that happened. If anything, he blames me. He is the victim in his own story. Oh well, I have my own story, too.

James E. Faust said, "Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves."

I have to remember this. I am older now and don't have quite the amount of energy I used to. Whatever energy I do have, I want to use in a good way and not in a negative way.

I also know that all my strength comes from my Heavenly Father, Who loves me. I can also rely on the saving Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I want to feel peace again.

I do still want to help others overcome their steps to climb in divorce. Otherwise, I would feel it all happened for naught. I have to believe I went through this for a reason, and I'd like to think it's to give perspective to others.

I hope I am still doing a service by having this blog out in cyberspace. I'm still on a learning curve in this crazy ride called "life."

And so, I try to master another step. Wish me luck. (. . . she says as she jumps up to get a foothold on this next tremendous step in the divorce process.)

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