I may need to do a search through all the posts on this blog to find it, but sometime back in 2011 I wrote a piece about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness, how and why and the importance of it all. Four years later I can finally report back.
Four years ago I was still rather bitter about getting divorced. Hurt and angry, but I had decided that maybe forgiveness was the approach for me. So, I took a deep breath, said many prayers and chose to forgive my ex husband for his behavior while we were married.
This was not an easy choice.
There is something that happens in a break up that makes everything seem worse. Everyone you know chooses a side. You may think that I mean his side or my side, but I don’t. They decide how each single parent should co-parent when the other party hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain during the marriage.
The most popular among my peers was the one that removed my ex-husband from not just the marriage, but from our life. As though POOF I had two kids and POOF I magically get a check every month to help cover their living expenses.
I was so angry at the time that I do have 100% parental custody. I could fly to China tomorrow without my ex-husbands permission and he would just have to deal with it. I won’t…but I have the ability. Anger makes us do so many things.
Then I thought about simply arranging supervised visitation. Only I was so poor. We were barely scraping by so there was no way to cover the cost of providing supervised visitation. I was quite irrational at this point so I maintained our distance. We saw my ex-husband about once every few months and not for very long, a couple of hours at most.
Then something I found sadder than the possibility of having to see my ex-husband on a more regular basis. It was our sons. They didn’t know him.
As a child of a single family home I know what that is like. My father was not a good person, at least as far as his behavior back in 1985, but we were raised by my mother and maternal grandparents. I had a relatively happy childhood. We had our drama, but what family doesn’t? Perhaps we had more drama than average, but I think we are all more interesting to talk to because of it…anyway. That’s a different story. I didn’t know my father. I knew what other people thought of him. I knew where he was from and what I thought of the people from that place. But I didn’t know him and that is a great cloud over the happy times. All of those times I saw my friends with their dads were sad times for me because I had never known what that was like.
As I became an adult I tried looking for my father to no avail. He didn’t want to be found in the digital age and therefore had no digital footprint. That didn’t mean the sadness was gone. “Who was he?” “How was he?” “Did I have other sisters or brothers?” “Did I have a step mom I didn’t know about?” Always having those questions is sad. I didn’t want that for my kids. Who was I to make that choice for them?
That is what I found to be this sad thing. I was an adult who had lived in a set of circumstances that made me mad. So mad that I thought it a good idea to remove the person that held the other half of their DNA in his genes.
But was I so angry that I couldn’t find it within myself to forgive a man for his behavior? How could I call myself a good person if at the first test of faith I proved to have none? It is no secret that I am a Christian, perhaps a different breed than the ones you read about, but I try to have a simple faith, based on love. In our church we are taught to love and forgive.
I was faced with two options.
One my kids didn’t really remember who this guy was that we sometimes saw really was, so we could just gently fade away and he could become a memory.
Two embrace the pain, and allow them to fully know their father and make the decision for themselves.
To do the first would have been the easiest choice for someone as angry as I had been. He didn’t know where we lived, who we hung out with, where I worked, all I would have had to do was change my phone number and we would have been done. Simple. Clean. Heartbreaking for him and for me. I would be setting my kids up for the same thought process I always had. Always wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be loved by the people who are supposed to love you the most.
So I embraced the pain. The hardest and easiest choice on so many levels. The cold aloof anger has been replaced by hesitant resolve. Hesitant because everything we went through leaves a mark on the psyche, but resolve because it has turned out to be the right thing to do. My kids are 4 and 8 now. They know their father. They’ve seen where he sleeps and we know how he lives, where he lives, and why he lives.
Over the last four years we have fought and cried and been angry for past ills all over again, but there has been so much forgiveness and contrition. So much of what we have worked through together has made us better people for our next partners. We know more of how each of us failed the other that we will continue to work hard to not make the same mistake. We know that finding that next perfect person for our new selves will be hard, we each have a longer list of must haves…okay at least I do..but I am optimistic about the prospects.
Forgiving him has taught me more about my faith than any pastor could ever tell me. Forgiveness is not something that you do once and it is done, it is something you do every time you wake up and face the day. It’s choosing who you are and not wavering from that path every single morning. Choosing your words and actions before your emotions, and never letting the bad times get the best of you.
It’s also choosing to put the best choice instead of the popular choice.
Special note…A physically abusive spouse should be handled differently. An alcoholic husband or wife who did not exhibit abusive traits is very different from an abusive spouse. Alcoholics tend to only want to inflict pain on themselves though they learn to manipulate what they want out of people to get what they want. That’s how so many nurturing people become enablers. It’s like they can smell your ability to empathize on your sleeve don’t fall for that either.