You don't have to like what they did, but you do have to love you.
Forgiveness. It’s a powerful word because it evokes a myriad of thoughts and emotions — especially during the painful process of divorce.
You feel anger about the unfairness of it all. Revenge because they deserve to feel as much pain as you do. Justice because they need to learn that they can’t treat people the way they treated you. Fear because you’re unsure of what happens after you forgive them. Bitterness because if you forgive them, they’ll get away with it. Calm because you know forgiveness is the next step for you.
Peace because you’ve forgiven in the past and peace has been the result. Duty because forgiveness is what your religion or spiritual practice teaches. Confusion because you’re not exactly sure what forgiveness means.
Injustice because you don’t feel like you should have to give your ex anything more. Vulnerability because you’re afraid that by forgiving them you’ll give them carte blanche to continue hurting you since you’re not doing anything about it.
But then, you feel depression because you believe you must have deserved to be treated badly in the first place and forgiveness would only validate their behavior. Victimhood because forgiveness means you’d admit to being a victim of what they’ve said about and done to you.
Process because for most forgiveness doesn’t happen like turning off or on a light switch. Challenge because every fiber of your being is screaming out for revenge, yet you know forgiveness is the right answer for you.
Exhaustion because you’ve been fighting against the pain and anger for so long that once you finally forgive you finally feel your emotional exhaustion. Frustration because you’ve tried to forgive and not been successful. Weakness because forgiveness feels like you’re not standing up for yourself and God knows you need to be able to (finally) stand up to your ex.
These are just a few of the thoughts and emotions that arise at the word "forgiveness". And for some, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of angst that the word beings up. You may even have other ways of describing what forgiveness brings up for you.
Because forgiveness is such an emotionally charged concept, we tend to avoid it.
There’s something comforting in the discomfort of knowing you’ve been betrayed by your ex as you’re dumped into a new way of living because of divorce. Maybe it’s the thought of vengeance or just hating the unfairness of it all. And maybe it’s just being able to blame them for your current situation.
By continuing to hold resentment, you’re avoiding the truth of your new life. You’re 100 percent responsible for how you address the challenges you’re currently facing.
Yeah, I know that’s not a popular notion, but it’s one I had to come to terms with too when I got divorced. The problem is knowing that it doesn’t do a damn thing to change how upset you are, because it’s too big and overwhelming.
So let’s break it down into the 5 reasons you MUST forgive your ex. And the best part about these 5 things is that they all have to do with you:
1. You don’t deserve misery for the rest of your life
The anger, resentment and desire for vengeance are making you miserable. Yes, they really are because it’s impossible to recognize any other emotion — especially the good ones — when you’re being fueled by anger. These emotions are draining and depressing. Continuing to choose to experience them will only make you wretched and bitter.
2. You deserve freedom from the past
The past doesn’t need to define you, your present AND your future. By continuing to relive the hurts and broken promises you’re living, but you’re not really alive. You’re missing out on what is happening now.
3. You’ll be able to refocus your energy and attention
Being pissed takes effort! It takes mental, emotional and spiritual energy. Just think of what you’d be capable of if instead of sinking all that work into your ex and a dead relationship you put it toward making your life (and your kids’ lives) better!
4. You’ll stop feeling like a victim.
Staying angry gives your ex continued power over you. You remain a victim of their behavior. But, when you stop feeling like a victim, you start feeling safe.
5. You deserve empathy, compassion and love.
The longer you stay angry at your ex the longer you deny yourself what you truly need to move on. Allowing yourself to forgive gives you the opportunity to care for yourself instead of focusing on revenge or justice. In other words, you’ll stop hurting yourself.
For most of us, forgiveness isn’t something we find all of a sudden. It takes some work on our part and, at first, that work can seem insurmountable.
But now you’re armed with five powerful reasons why forgiveness is good for YOU. So, putting in the effort to forgive and move past the hurt will be easier because you know the payoff for you is immense!
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and divorce survivor herself. She works with clients to help them cope with and survive their divorce. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation.
This article was originally published at DivorceForce. Reprinted with permission from the author.