formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To Forgive... Divine?

Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Until fairly recently, I’m not sure I believed that. But I believe it now.

I’ve told you guys that I’ve been attending ‘Divorce Care’ meetings every week, right? It’s a support group for people who have gone or are going through divorce. Some of the group members are still hoping to save their marriages; some know they’re gone and are now trying to figure out how to grieve, let go, and bounce back. Five years out from my split, I didn’t feel I needed any sort of support, but when my neighbor suggested I might get something out of it, I thought I might give it a try. Then I looked over the workbook he had for the class and realized it was a faith-based program. I reminded him that I’m a heathen but he said it really wasn’t too God/religion-oriented, so I agreed to go.

Turns out? My neighbor lied just a wee bit. But it's cool, as the group leader is just wonderful and she has fully accepted my non-Christian presence. She’s incredibly respectful of my views and, of course, I always try to be respectful, too. The people in the group, who are also wonderful, vary from devout to not-so-sure-what-to-think, so I don’t feel too out of place. And while God and religion enter our discussions, the focus is really on just getting through the tangle of feelings that results when a marriage ends.

Each class begins with a video about the topic for the week – topics like loss, financial issues, helping your kids through divorce, new relationships, single sexuality (and let me tell you, when I found out God only wants us to have sex within the confines of marriage, I was ever so glad to be a heathen!), etc. The videos are very faith-oriented, which is understandable, as the program was produced by a church organization. Mostly it’s OK but I get a little peeved at times, as the people in them tend to make blanket statements like, “Without Christ in your life, you simply cannot heal.” Pfffffttttt. Utter arrogance.

What I’ve found out by participating in this group is that I have healed. And I’ve done it beautifully. And though I did it without the ‘benefit’ of Christ or religion or faith in anyone or anything except myself and the notion that things would get better (which is what always has, still does, and forever will get me through), I have done or do nearly everything the people who developed the program think I should be doing (with the exception of, you know, praying to God, and that whole ‘no pre-marital sex’ thing… 'cause that totally isn’t gonna happen, people). It’s all made me feel pretty good, pretty healthy, and pretty happy.

Last week’s discussion was on forgiveness. And I have to admit that five, four, even three years ago, that was one area where I was struggling. But when I wrote my post for Kathy’s Writer’s Workshop the other day, on the moment I knew my marriage was over, and someone asked me how you heal from that sort of betrayal, it hit me like a brick that the answer is...


The idea of forgiving my ex, however, was incomprehensible to me for a long time. See, I had a few notions about the whole process that turns out? Were wrong.

I thought the person who had perpetrated the wrongdoing had to ask for forgiveness.


I thought the wrongdoer had to apologize first (I certainly wanted the wrongdoer to apologize first!).


I thought by forgiving, I was condoning the wrongdoer’s behavior.


I thought by forgiving, I was opening myself up to being hurt again.


What I realized over time was that forgiveness is actually an incredibly selfish act (or as the lovely Pauline pointed out in my comments section, a 'self-conscious' act, as 'selfish' has negative connotations). And it was one I needed to get familiar with if I was ever going to move past the hurt and anger and on with my life. I realized that forgiveness isn’t really even about the wrongdoer. After all, my anger and inability to forgive wasn’t hurting him. He was living his life, doing what he wanted. He honestly didn’t care whether I forgave him or not (and indeed, I didn’t even tell him when I did it). It was all about me and the negativity I was feeling, and I just had to do it… in my own head and my own heart. I found out that forgiveness is about release… it allowed me to let go of the anger, the pain, and the hurt and move into a better place.

When I forgave him, everything changed. I found strength I didn’t know I had. I felt hope again. Don’t get me wrong… I still had a lot of work to do on myself in order to heal completely (and forgiving myself for all my failings was - and remains - part of that never-ending work), but I could finally take the anger out of the healing process… and that made everything so much easier.

What I didn’t realize was that forgiveness is an on-going process, especially when you’re still tied to the wrongdoer (for all friggin’ eternity). You see, I forgave him for the betrayal – for ending our marriage in an incredibly painful and callous way – but I’ve found myself having to forgive him on a regular basis for lots of other things; for being a completely absentee father; for not paying his child support for nearly a year because he’s been out of work (and yeah, I know that’s not completely his fault, but we’re talking close to $10,000, people, and that’s put a world of hurt on me that I’m having trouble seeing my way out of at the moment, a month before the wallet-suck we call ‘Christmas’); for putting our child in situations where I’ve had to explain the nearly-unexplainable (like why he might have gotten re-married without even telling her); for all manner of things.

The best part, though? Ryan has benefited and, indeed, she seems to just 'get it'. While I have never (nor will I ever) bad-mouthed my ex in any way (well, to Ryan, anyway), I am honest with her. I told her recently that her dad is who he is. He has his good qualities and his bad qualities, the same as everyone. He loves her as much as he’s capable of loving anyone, but he might never be able to connect with her (or anyone else) the way she might like. That he has a hole in his soul which no one but him can repair and until he realizes that, he won’t change. And she has two choices… she can forgive him his shortcomings and accept who he is (the same as she does with me)… or she can cut him out of her life. She gave it some thought (she’s the thoughtful sort, that child of mine) and she decided she’d forgive him and she’d love him because he’s her dad. But she also easily admits she doesn’t know him and she’ll never expect or look to him for the support she gets from me. I hate that it has to be that way but if it does, I think she has a pretty healthy outlook.

So, we’re good. We’re healing nicely, thank you very much. And it’s all because of a little thing called ‘forgiveness’. I don't know if it's divine but I know it's a good thing. And I know Gandhi was right. She’s a tough cookie, my little cookie. And so am I. And we’re gonna be just fine.


mom seeks life said...

Great Post, Diane,pretty powerful stuff. As for Ryan's relationship with her dad, there are probably a lot of girls who don't have a great relationship with their dads even in the family home. I know my relationship with my daughter is strong and open but i can honestly see my husband struggling to connect with her as she gets older while he is still happy to run round the park for hours with the younger two being 'fun dad'. I can see she sees it and I see it too, especially as I was really close to my dad growing up. But at least our girls have us... (poor things!)

Rachel Cotterill said...

Everything you tell us about Ryan just makes me more impressed by her. Impressed by your forgiveness, too. I'd like to believe I might have that strength but I've never really been tested.

Pauline said...

...a little thing called forgiveness... it's a surprise, isn't it, to discover that forgiving someone else actually releases you? And once you begin forgiving yourself, things change for the better. I would call it an incredibly self-conscious thing to do, that releasing of oneself by releasing another (for me, the word selfish holds some negative connotations). This post, like your others, is full of wisdom decorated with humor :)

mo.stoneskin said...

Wise words. Forgiveness is without a doubt a remarkable healer.

Shanna said...

You heathen! Seriously, though? I think you've done an amazing job with Ryan through all the divorce stuff (and so many other things) - I can't imagine how hard it must be on so many levels.
As for the wallet-suck we call Christmas? I'm glad I'm not alone in this notion.

Can I ask you something? Going to anyway...did you do the Santa thing with Ryan? I mean did he bring gifts and stuff when she was younger?

f1trey said...

good on ya..slippin in the ghandi quote for the faith based dvorce class! cool!

blognut said...

For as long as I've known you, I never once doubted that Ryan was a tough cookie, or that you were a tough cookie, or that you would both be just fine.

It shows, my friend.

And this forgiveness thing? Oy. I know.


Jean said...

You're already fine. You just keep getting even better.

She said...

I love what you've written here! You say it all so eloquently.

I've written about forgiveness a time or two on my blog, and even as a person of great faith (but NOT really religious, if that makes sense), I've struggled to understand it as well.

You are definitely a tough cookie and a brilliant one.

Love to you and Ryan!

Protege said...

Always a pleasure to stop by here.,) You should write a "Life Instruction Book".
I too had to go through a forgiveness period and I agree with everything you say. Hating someone doesn't hurt the object of our hatred, but ultimately ourselves.;)
Lovely post.;)

Jenera said...

Having gone through my parents' divorce, I'd say you've done a wonderful job with Ryan. It's not easy these days when so many are ready and willing to bash people.

As far as forgiveness, it's hard for me. I can forgive some but not others. And I know it's a weakness yet it doesn't make it easier.

hebba said...

WOnderful, wonderful, wonderful post! It really is hard to get there, to finally forgive and move on. I can only imagine how much harder with a child involved!

dianne said...

I think that you and Ryan are doing really well and that you are a great Mom and a good example to your daughter.
We all have to forgive, by forgiving it's not condoning what has been done to us,or the hurt we have felt, it's simply moving on releasing the negative emotions so that we can heal.
It's the people who cannot forgive, who hold onto all of this negativity and hold grudges who will never grow or be complete, as this is always holding them back. ♥

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Ryan. xo ♥

John Cowart said...

Hi Diane,

Just followed you link over from your comment on Sherri's blog (yours was the comment before mine).

Your quote from Dr. Kubler Ross in your heading impresses me. Because I was crying, she once kissed me after one of her lectures.

I think I'm beginning to understand what you say about forgiveness having to be done over and over again. In my blog post yesterday, I happened to mention how my first grade teacher once whacked my fingers with her ruler. I had not thought of that in years and what amazed me when I did mention it was the surge of emotion I still feel over the injustice. I still harbor resentment toward her--and she whacked me 65 years ago!

Though I've been a Christian for a good many years, I still don't know the ropes of this forgiveness thing.It seems to come easy to my wife, but then she's had plenty of practice-- Me.

Michelle said...

Awareness, forgiveness and acceptance....the keys are they not, to life.



Greenfingers said...

Very open and peronal post Diane.
Forgiveness is certainly a weird concept and one which seems to come and go, with me at least, at very strange times!

I often get very confused with that whole 'forgive and forget' concept to!

And your sooo right about that 'Christ' thing!

Brian Daniel said...

A Positive Divorce Recovery Book for Your Website Members

Great post, Diane. I too, like you, don't fit in with the Divorce Care and other faith based divorce recovery--no pre-marital sex (in fact I'm a Catholic and find they want no sex ever again to be the rule!) but I was hoping you might also have some interest in my book too as another source of help. I can offer you DOUBLE the book discounts I have below as a trial for you and your members.

Here's the pitch for my book - it has a whole chapter about the romance and other stuff we may indeed find with others after divorce!!

I am a local author in Canton/Akron, Ohio and have just published, last October 2008, a book on divorce recovery called "Yes, There Is an Upside of Divorce, It Can Be Your Second Chance at Life!" You can search "upside of divorce" on Amazon and read the great reviews I have there.

One of my top 5-Star ratings is from Tracy, who is the owner of a national web support group called Woman’s Divorce (com) and has used parts of my chapters for her members going through divorce.

I have sold over ninety copies locally and received the same great feedback, including some to the Church of New Hope in Stow, Ohio for their divorce support group.
I have also sold three copies to our Stark County Libraries for circulation here in Canton.

I am hoping you may want to buy some copies too to provide some other good help and support to your divorced members of your website. And perhaps they may want to buy their own copy as well.

My book has a more positive approach to divorce recovery and also goes further about how to make a happier and more enjoyable life after divorce.

For just $12 or so, my book could be another reference book or a gift of help from you to your members suffering through their divorce or separation.

Book Discounts are available on my own website, Self-Help-Products-and-Services (com) where you can save $2 to $5 off Amazon’s costs per book.

I'm hoping you might try a couple books and see what your members say about it. I’m sure most, if not all of them, will find some good help in my book.

My ISBN is 978-1-4196-9304-5. I also have a workbook version that could be used for support groups and have other information and a photo of my book if you are interested.

If there are other people you think I should contact or those who may want to contact me, please let me know.

Thanks for your consideration here.
Brian Daniel

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