A few weeks ago I decided to face my struggle with forgiveness head on. I struggle with it a lot. There’s the rational side of me that says my anger and contempt for her is justified. Not to mention I just can’t figure out how I’m supposed to think of the woman that had an affair with my husband and have any kind of good feelings about her or not feel the anger or see her as anything but pure evil. I just can’t fathom how it’s possible. The other side says that I should be Christ like. Extending mercy and grace and forgiveness and seeing her as a child of God that simply made a bad decision. This side says that I should care about her soul just as much as anyone else’s.
So it sounds simple enough. Choose to be the good side. In my mind I can choose it. I can say yes, I want to be that. But then I think of her, and feel nothing but anger. So I can say it. I can say it over and over, but it seems insincere. Because I don’t really feel any differently about her.
Yep. Forgiveness is hard.
Jeff and I are doing great. There’s been a lot of healing, a lot of moving forward, and a whole lot of happy. We have found an unimaginable amount of redemption in this past year and a half. So this unforgiveness I held for the other woman seemed to be the one major thing still holding me back. Keeping me shackled to the past. And the thing I hated most about it, was the fact that it gave her power over my feelings, my emotions, and ultimately my healing. And she doesn’t deserve to have that.
So what does she deserve? That’s a loaded question.
And probably not the best one to ask me.
I should definitely not be the one to pull the trigger on that one.
Because my first instinct is that she deserves a punch in the nose.
For her skin to shrivel up.
Her hair to fall out.
Her tires to go flat.
For birds to poop on her head…
..Every. Single. Day.
To gain 50 pounds and undo every bit of that liposuction she had.
For her husband to leave her.
For her friends to turn their back on her.
To be alone.
Miserable and alone.
(And here y’all were all thinking that I was all sweet and precious. I am. Like 99.5% sweet and precious. But that other .5%…maybe not so much. You probably really don’t want to be on the receiving end of that .5% 😜)
But then…that voice of reason:
“Well then, does Jeff deserve all of that too?”
I don’t want any of those things for him.
Did he deserve them? At one time, I’d have to say yes. Yes he did. All that and more.
But he was sorry. He is sorry. And he isn’t just sorry, he’s changed.
Reformed. Renewed. Rebuilt, reborn, transformed , whatever name you want to give it. He is that. He embodies it. He lives it out every single day.
He’s not the same person that made those bad choices. I forgive him. I forgive him for being that person. And I am thankful for the person he is now.
Sounds easy right? In some ways, I guess it is. Now. But in truth it’s been nearly two years of continual hard work, effort, and intentional persistence on both of our parts. It did not happen overnight.
I forgave him then, but every day when the reminders come I have to choose to remember who he is now instead of letting the memories be the filter of how I see him, and I have to choose to forgive him over and over and over again.
In a conversation about infidelity recently, a friend made the comment that when incidents happen in which trust is broken or brought into question, “those things never really go away.” And a truer statement has never been spoken. They can’t be undone. They can’t be erased.
If only people were reminded of the levity of that before making such a mistake, many hearts, lives, and marriages would still be intact.
But Jeff’s renewed sense of self, commitment to God, and dedication to our marriage makes it pretty easy to choose to forgive him. To love him more than ever before. Even when the reminders come.
And they come less frequently. I mean, there’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t have some thought about it. But not necessarily in the painful ways. It’s just a matter of fact. It’s my story. It’s our story. And it is what it is. I have to accept that. But occasionally I’ll still have a trigger. A few weeks ago it was a song I heard while driving home. I had never heard it before and I have yet to hear it since. So I couldn’t tell you what it was or who sings it. It was a duet, where the girl is singing something along the lines of “what if you’re not the one, what if you break my heart, what if you leave me… and the guy sings something like, “but what if I am the one, what if we grow old together, what if you’re my last first kiss”. I don’t know why any reference to that destroys me the way it does. But it just tears me apart.
His last first kiss was supposed to be me. His last first everything was supposed to be me. It was mine. Mine. And she took it. And I can never be his last first kiss again.
It will forever be her.
And that’s a crack in my heart that can’t be easily repaired. You can’t restore that. Jeff can’t give me that back. That’s one of the cracks that only Jesus can fill in. And boy, does He ever have His work cut out for Him. Because the only thing I could think about in that moment listening to the words to that song about being his last first kiss was how much I hate her for that.
I hate her for that.
Wait…. I still hate her? I thought I’d moved beyond the level of hate. But that feeling I had when I thought of her taking that last first kiss, as much as I’d like to be able to deny it, is undeniable hatred.
The dictionary defines hatred as this: Extreme dislike, disgust, resentment.
Yep, that pretty much covers it.
I hate her for everything she stole from me. I hate her for never taking responsibility for her part in it and I hate her for never saying she was sorry and I hate her most of all for making me hate. I hate her for not wanting to do the right thing and for not having the decency or the conviction to reach out with a simple heartfelt apology for the pain she inflicted.
Whew. That’s a lot. And here I had been thinking that I had made some progress in this area. I’d been praying about it. I’d been reading about it. And I don’t hate her at a level where I sit around constantly and think about how much I hate her. I’ve got way too much good stuff in my life to just sit and let thoughts of her consume my days. But in that moment, the hatred that I thought I had downgraded to a slightly less extreme dislike came back to the surface just as easily as a fizz bubble in a freshly poured Coca Cola. And I have to say, acknowledging this fact burns a little in the same way those fizzy bubbles sometimes do.
And that’s when I realized that I’ve got a long way to go in this forgiveness stuff.
And after hearing that song that day, I kind of put the whole subject on the back burner for a couple of weeks.
Because it was….
Just. Too. Much.
So I sat it aside and stopped thinking about forgiveness and stopped reading about forgiveness and basically just said “hey, I tried. Who needs it anyway? We’re doing really, really good.”
And honestly I just enjoyed the heck out of these last couple of weeks. I had a week off of work and we did all kinds of things and I just gave myself a nice little break.
Sometimes we need to do that. When a task is just a little too overwhelming, we just need to step back, lay it down, and let things settle. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves the time and space and grace to recharge.
I guess I thought that if I just willed myself to make the decision to forgive her that it would be easy. That I’d somehow find the magic key to unlock the door and just let it all go.
And maybe one day I will. Or maybe it will just take time. And maybe part of the problem is that I’m just not ready yet to let her off the hook. Maybe, probably, if I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to not hate her. A part of me that can’t really fathom not hating her.
I mean come on. I think most of you could admit you’d most likely feel the same. She SLEPT WITH MY HUSBAND after all. Not only that, but she had a relationship with him. For 9 months. 9 MONTHS. And she helped set the stage for it to happen for months before that. Years really, in all actuality. She set out to take what was mine. She took something holy, and sacred. She had no regard for the pain and heartache she would cause not just me and my children, but her own husband and children. She lit the fire that destroyed the world as I knew it.
Jeff took the bait, yes. He broke our vows. He utterly and completely broke my heart.
The only difference between the two of them is that he owned it. Every bit of it. And he was sorry. He apologized to me. To God. To our children. To my family. To our friends. And to basically anyone and everyone that he came into contact with. He apologized to her husband. And he has spent every single day of his life since attempting to make amends to me and every one else for it and build a new life.
And yet, she is silent.
Despite the fact that she knows how to contact me.
Despite the fact that I feel pretty certain that she got the message that I sent through one of her friends that accidentally sent me a friend request when checking out my Facebook page. (Yes, that happened. And yes it was awkward. Thankfully, her friend was kind and forgave me for my initial reaction to her accidental friend request.😳)
Despite the fact that I reached out last year and wrote her a letter.
No response. Still silent.
Despite the fact that I feel sure she has read my posts on this blog.
Despite the fact that I’ve given her opportunity after opportunity to show me she’s capable of being a decent human being. One that I could possibly learn not to hate.
Still, all there is, is silence.
So, what then? At this point, am I to assume she truly has no remorse? Or at the very least, if she does, she has no intention of sharing that with me? Which again, makes me think that she isn’t truly remorseful. Because wouldn’t that a make a person want to do everything in their power to set things right, as much as possible anyway? I can’t imagine if I were in that position of having caused such damage to a person, and to life as they knew it, if I were truly sorry I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t tell them so. Is that just me? Am I wrong to think that when someone is truly sorry, they would be compelled to apologize? Or is it that she doesn’t have the nerve to reach out? Or does she indeed carry so much shame that she can’t bear the thought of facing me? (Texting or writing would do. It requires much less personal fortitude. I’m just sayin’ )
I’m pretty sure her marriage is still intact. So she’s apparently convinced her husband of her remorse. For his sake, I hope and pray it’s real. I really, really do. Honestly he’s the only person that makes me not truly wish all those horrible things I mentioned above on her, because he deserves a happy marriage. A happy life. I truly want her to be as remorseful as Jeff is, and to be able to build something new and real with her husband. He deserves absolutely nothing less.
So many questions. Questions that she apparently has no intention to answer.
Does it really even matter?
Would I be able to not hate her if I knew how sorry she was? Would it be easier to forgive her if I knew how sorry she was? I think so, but I guess I may never really know. Looks like she’s gonna make me have to do it the hard way. I’m just going to have to find a way to purge myself of the hatred that bubbles to the surface.
I still believe one day I’m going to wake up and find that she is nothing more than a fact, an incident, a character in the story of our lives that is no longer capable of producing any real effect on my emotions, except for the gratefulness for the story that comes AFTER her brief but destructive presence in my life.
One day the hatred WILL be overcome by grace. And the grace WILL allow for forgiveness. And forgiveness WILL allow for FULL redemption.
As is evident by everything you’ve read in this post, I’m obviously not completely there yet. And I have kind of wanted to beat myself up about it. But I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep moving forward. And maybe not put so much pressure on myself to be able to do this overnight. Deep wounds require deep healing. You can’t just slap a bandaid on it or put some makeup on it to make it look pretty. Underneath the band aid or the makeup it’s still ugly, right up until the moment that it’s not.
So I’ve still got a little ugly that I need to clean out of my wound.
I think the real problem I’m having with forgiveness is that I’ve been trying too hard to figure out how “I” can do it. I’ve been looking to solve my own problem, to find my own answer, my own solution. I’ve been trying to find a logical equation that adds up to an answer that makes sense to me. But the truth is, forgiveness doesn’t make logical sense.
Wikipedia says that forgiveness means letting go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. (I can’t even believe I just quoted the wikipedia🤦🏻♀️but hey, they had a good definition)
The hardest part for me has been that no matter how hard I try, I can’t figure out a way that it makes sense to me to not feel negatively towards her. Not of my own capacity anyway. I can read all the books in the world. I can comb over every logical written fact about the subject, and possibly even be able to make sense of it in my head, but all the while still be unable to reconcile that with the feelings in my heart. And I can beat myself up about it until I’m black and blue.
The fact of that matter is, I. Can’t. Do. It.
If true forgiveness comes, it will not be because I’m a woman of such strength, or of such virtue. It will be because God himself stepped in and made it happen. It will be a true miracle of miracles. It’s going to take God working on my heart in a way I can’t even imagine. And I mean it when I say I literally. can’t. even.
So I guess it’s a good thing we serve the God of miracles.
I guess I’ve just painted a pretty ugly picture of myself here. Reading back through it, I can’t help but feel a little vulnerable. I can’t help but think that I probably should paint myself a little prettier. A little more like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” or “Reader’s Digest” or “Lifetime Christmas movie” version of forgiveness and a quick tidy little story all wrapped up with a bow and life lesson. I could have come here and only written the things my head knows, without revealing the darkest corners of my heart. My head knows I need to forgive. And I could have just said that I did it. I’ve forgiven her. Easy peasey. Tied it all up in a pretty little package for you with a pretty little bow on top. I could have gone with that whole “Forgiving is the right thing to do so I’m just gonna say that I do forgive her” scenario. I could paint you a nice little tidy picture of perfect little me, easily offering forgiveness with not so much as a drop of sweat off my brow. I could have made myself look like the pillar of strength, Godly woman I’d surely like you all to perceive me as.
But it wouldn’t be the truth.
It would probably get me more blog followers.
Probably a lot more Facebook shares.
But it wouldn’t be real.
Real isn’t always neat. Real isn’t always pretty. So even though I wish I had a pretty little easy package of forgiveness to present to you, I don’t. All I have is the reality of how truly hard it is.
Those stories are out there. Those “forgiveness is easy” stories. Maybe they make some of you feel better, but I think the more likely truth is that if you find yourself on the forgiving end of heartache, those stories will just make you feel like you’re somehow not Godly enough or inadequate because it hasn’t come quite that easily to you. So I’m not going to hide my ugly. I’m going to share my truth. The truth is forgiveness is hard. And something tells me that I’m not the only one that needs to hear that it’s ok that it’s hard. It’s ok that it doesn’t come easy. It’s ok. We will get there when we get there. We just have to keep walking.
As I was trying to finish this up tonight, I had to leave and go pick up my daughter. On the way home, the radio deejay said something about how sometimes there were scriptures that were just really hard to hear. He went on to quote several verses from Luke 6:27-36:
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.
28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”
🤔 Well, that was no coincidence. He was speaking directly to me.
I got the message God. I did. But love? Love’s a strong word. How about just: slightly dislike but not completely hate?
Or could we go with: not quite love but not wishing for birds to poop on her head daily either?
No. The message is clear. I have to find a way to not hate her. I don’t have to “love” her. Not like I love my husband or my kids or my very best friends. I don’t think that is what this verse is saying when it refers to love. I think it means that I have to not hold her in contempt, I have to find a way to see her through the eyes of God, and I have to find a way to truly wish her well.
I don’t think God was calling me out on the way home. I don’t think he was saying “Hey. You’re gonna do this or else!” I think it was more of a “Hey kid. I feel ya. It’s hard. But it’s possible. Come with me. We’ll do this thing together.”
I know it’s possible. I’ve seen real live examples of it. Of people who truly no longer feel the feelings of hate for the affair partner. I’ve seen the example of a woman who has come to actually care for the well being of the one night stand that had her husband’s baby. And truly want good things for her. You know why? It’s not because she’s a martyr. It’s not because she has some super human strength and the biggest heart on the face of the planet. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty amazing. An awesome, awesome person. But the fact that she can do the one thing that I haven’t figured out how to do sincerely yet, is because of what I said before. It’s because God is a God of miracles.
I’m not completely sure how to get there, to the point where I don’t feel the contempt and I sincerely wish her nothing but goodness, other than submitting this wounded heart of mine to the Father and asking Him to work His miracle in me.
That, and simply, time.
I just have to trust that the things I know about forgiveness in my head, will eventually soak into my heart, and fill in the space where that hatred hides. My head knows the truth. My head knows the answer. I’m just waiting for my heart to catch up.
Amy Thurston Gordy