Forgiveness and the idea of why you would forgive someone who has hurt you are often very confusing. After all why would you forgive someone from your past that has betrayed your trust, abandoned you, hit you or sexually abused you? Why would you consider forgiving your husband if he:
- drove drunk and put your kids who were in the car at risk
- gambled and used drugs despite promising not to do so
- had extramarital affairs
- watched pornography and then denied and lied about it
- criticized, belittled and called you names, especially if done in front of others or your children
- blamed you for his anger, unhappiness and irritability
- gave you the silent treatment
- punched, slapped or physically abused you
- complained incessantly and indicated things are never good enough
- avoided taking any responsibility for his part in your marital problems and conflicts
- got into fights at family and social gatherings
- reneged on agreements
- made plans and major decisions without consulting you
- stopped communicating and became emotionally unavailable
- violated your privacy
- came home hours late without notice
- threatened you emotionally, physically, financially or sexually
(Note: this also applies to men whose wives have hurt them and anyone whose partner has done hurtful things)
The list of hurts and transgressions is almost endless. If you’ve experienced any of these know with certainty that you have been disrespected, mistreated, violated or abused.
Painful emotions you feel after being mistreated or abused
- unsafe, scared, insecure and anxious
- lonely, unsupported, uncared for and misunderstood
- angry and resentful
- hurt, sad, depressed, embarrassed and ashamed
Your confidence is diminished and your self-esteem is eroded. You may experience physical ailments like headaches, lethargy, constipation, diarrhea, and back pain; you may develop insomnia and lose your appetite may as well. Conversely you might find yourself using sleep to escape or overeating to comfort yourself. The emotional eating might manifest into an eating disorder.
So, why on Earth would you forgive him?
- to get relief from anger, hurt, resentment and fear
- to cease feeling like a victim and to feel more powerful
- to have good health and decrease depression and anxiety
- to improve your sleep, appetite, and ability to concentrate and focus
- to enhance your work or school performance and care for your child
- to move forward, heal and have peace of mind
- to know it’s for your benefit, not his
Please understand with absolute clarity and certainty that if you forgive him you are in no way or means condoning, accepting or excusing his behavior. No, not at all. He may not even necessarily deserve to be forgiven. You are not doing it for him; you are doing it for yourself.
Please also understand that to forgive him also does not mean that you continue to stay in a harmful situation or hurtful or abusive relationship or that you continue to give money to him to pay off gambling debts or to buy drugs. It does not mean that you are emotionally, physically or sexually intimate with him. Making these types of choices is not contrary to forgiveness. It means that you are setting clear limits and boundaries and that you are defining what is acceptable to you.
You can forgive people/your husband for anything while using your intelligence and discrimination to know that you need to get out of the relationship and/or set clear boundaries in it.
You may say OK, I get it, but how do I do it, how do I forgive?
How to Forgive Him (or Her)
- consider that the other person may be very different now (if this is from your past) and that they may feel remorseful and may have learned from their mistakes or offenses
- have compassion
- know with absolute certainty that forgiveness is not excusing or condoning hurtful behavior
- understand what someone does and how they relate to you is about them, not you.
- consider that often people act out of ignorance and their own pain and habitual and reactive ways
- work the 12 Steps if you are in a 12-step recovery program
- learn how to use the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to help you release painful emotions and to heal from trauma
You may understandably have some strong reactions to this article as forgiveness, and whether to forgive, can be confusing and gut wrenching in itself. And if you decide to forgive it can be difficult to do so. Take your time to reflect, contemplate and to review the ideas above. And remember, to forgive is not to forget, and it is for your benefit and relief, no one else’s.