The question of whether to forgive a wrongdoer has been a hotly debated topic. Here is where I weigh in on Al’s indiscretions in our marriage and why I did not and will not forgive him. Before I do, I want to first say that if forgiveness brings you peace, by all means - forgive! I cannot know what is right for you in your situation.
However, I see it as a choice, a case-by-case consideration, not a one-fits-all-remedy.
In truth, the issue of forgiveness never crossed my mind until interviewed by news reporter George Hunter (!) and I thought it was a good question. Al never asked for my forgiveness during his eighteen months of deception (and, let's face it, there were plenty of opportunities). I also maintain that only the one who is wronged can make a choice to extend forgiveness - or not. It is not the place of someone outside the situation to make that decision, to speak on their behalf (unless asked directly by the person who was wronged).
Yet, I am in no way suggesting we hold tightly to anger and judgement, or bear grudges. No. On that point I am in agreement with those that attest blanket forgiveness as the necessary ingredient to healing. But I see an alternative, a third option. I have found peace in understanding what happened, in (eventually) accepting it did happen and working at detaching myself. I am genuinely happy in my life now, in appreciating my family and I focus on what is right in my world, not the wrongs of the past. It is what it is. You cannot un-ring a bell. Isn't this the same goal as forgiveness? Besides, as I see it, Al paid the ultimate price - not me. What is to be gained by bitterness?
Some points to ponder:
1) Can forgiving an offender unintentionally give them license to continue that hurtful behavior again and again, having once wiped their slate clean?
2) Is it selfish to give forgiveness to gain psychological relief for oneself, masquerading as idealism?
3) Would you ask a robbery victim, "So, how are you and the burglars getting along now?’”
4) Can a culture of coerced forgiveness place additional demands on survivors, insisting we are not whole until we forgive, that we are somehow morally smug or unjustified in our lack of forgiveness?
I would submit, a culture that stigmatizes those who refuse to forgive, adds stress and slows recovery. - the very qualities that forgiveness purports to offer.
Forgiveness is not a black and white choice, as I see it. I believe it is something which needs to be earned. And, yes, I've readily extended forgiveness many times in my life. There is a middle ground of understanding, indifference and acceptance.
In closing, all I can add is, I've lived this path for over 30 years and it's working for me, but it may not be right for you. Ultimately you know your approach is beneficial when you sleep soundly, enjoy humor, trust again and feel appreciation for what life offers.
What do you think?