Monday, October 16, 2006

A Fit on Forgiveness (Part I)

I've been thinking, recently, a lot about forgiveness. Not only for forgiveness received, but also for forgiveness granted. And, to be honest, forgiveness withheld.

I'm not going to go into great detail in this post, but my wife and I separated for seven months, primarily due to a lot of confusion over what we each wanted and because we had each made choices that the other found painful on many levels.

We've recently reconciled and I am now in the process of moving into the house she rented when she moved out. Somehow, through our individual pain, we managed to maintain a fought for and, having won, held onto most dearly.

She had a couple of really huge things to forgive me for...and I had one or two of the same. Yet, somehow, we managed to find a path toward forgiving each other for the mistakes we'd each made.

And we also found the way to accept...and love...each other as we each are...unconditionally.

And so, I find myself marvelling at the very human capacity for forgiveness.

Especially in light of other things I deal with as a parent...and an ex-husband.

Yes, I've been married before (once). And the difference between the two women who, at one time, each considered themselves my wife couldn't be more striking.

My first wife chose to have a secret affair, eventually kicked me out of the home we purchased together, and then manipulated my feelings to unfairly obtain assets, possessions, and custody of our daughter. To this day, she continues to interfere with my relationship with my daughter and tries to interfere with my parenting. Worse, she denies her actions and refuses to discuss them.

I find it difficult to forgive her for these (and other) actions. Because she refuses to acknowledge, let alone accept, personal responsibility for what she's done (and continues to do), I cannot help but be extremely wary whenever she does something that could conceivably be considered "nice." As my father used to say "Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me." (Okay, he put it a little more colorfully, but you get the point.)

When bad things happen between people, I believe it's important to review those events and to try to find closure, especially when those people need to interact on a consistent basis (e.g. as parents). By clearing the air, you get the opportunity to cleanse anything that's left over. Once cleansed, you can move forward with a clear conscience.

My ex prefers to simply sweep things under the rug and pretend nothing happened. "It's over and done with; let it go," she says. A noble statement, one that is very easy for her, especially since she's the one who did the dirty deeds. By ignoring her previous behavior, she gets away with what she did. Or so she thinks.

She also inherits a complete lack of trust and a complete lack of faith in her integrity. It frustrates her when I treat her as if she's toxic and complains that I'm being unfair.

She clearly doesn't get it. She doesn't realize that forgiveness comes from trust. She abused and violated my trust; she wants me to trust that she won't do that again...without any evidence to the contrary, without any statement of regret or remorse, and without accepting any personal responsibility for her actions.

I think my father would consider that a foolish thing to do. And, frankly, I would be hard pressed to disagree with him.

And I think that's why I was able to forgive my (second) wife, whom I adore beyond measure, in a heartbeat. And that dicotomy gave me pause for a very long time.

And I think I may finally understand why.

I've forgiven her because she spoke of her actions and apologized with meaning. She helped me understand what was going on for her. She demonstrated that she understood why my trust might be shaken and she took direct steps to address the fears involved. As a result of her actions, she demonstrated that she is a person well worth trusting and one well worth forgiving. She demonstrates these qualities in many other ways in her daily life and actions.

Yes, there comes a time when we must accept the past, learn to integrate the knowledge gained through the experience, and then move on.

But it's so much easier to do when the person who hurt us acknowledges the hurt and apologizes from a place of awareness, regret, and concern. While many things cannot be undone, some things can be made right. Broken trust can be repaired; it's not easy, but it can be done. And a meaningful and truly heartfelt apology is a significant and necessary step for doing so. It's also very healing, for both parties.

Which is something I don't believe my first wife is capable of recognizing, let alone acknowledging or (heaven forfend) acting on.

You see, my first wife seems to believe that apology is a sign of weakness. She doesn't admit error; she simply changes her mind. She doesn't lose arguments, she walks away from them without warning. And she never revisits decisions that may not have been wise or fair.

Personally, I feel that the ability to openly and honestly apologize is a sign of strength, a demonstration that you're grown-up enough to admit your flaws and take your medicine.

And what gave me pause enough to sit down long enough to write about forgiveness is, well, the fact that my wife chose to go to painful places and face whatever she needed to face in order to authentically own and deal with whatever was necessary to move forward.

My ex-wife chooses to live in a place of denial and deception (self and of others). She convinces herself and those around her that things happened when they didn't and that others are guilty for her errors of judgment. I believe, though, in the secret places of her heart, she knows precisely what's she's done. She's completely aware of the web of lies she's woven in order to be able to face herself in the mirror each day. I think, on some level, she's afraid of being found out.

Maybe this is a post about honesty. Maybe it's a wish for the same.

I have flaws. I am a work in progress. I have things to learn in this life....and I am actively trying to learn and apply those lessons.

To my (current) wife, an amazing woman of intelligence, wisdom, grace, and talent, I offer praise and thanks.

Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for seeking forgiveness. Thank you for accepting it. Thank you for taking another chance and for opening your heart and your home to me.

Thank you for working so hard to make it our home, a place for both of us. I am a very lucky man and am very proud to hear you call me your husband.

Thank you...


Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Thank you sweetheart for putting a voice to our process and honouring what we've both been through. I love you and I love the place we're in now. x...x, Deborah

7:53 AM  
Blogger Chulita said...

Wow, this is so powerful and so right on!!! I related so much to the forgiveness part. I too strongly believe that true forgiveness for another's transgression can only come when the person truely and wholly ACKNOWLEDGES their actions/behavior/words. You are indeed a very lucky man to have found Deb, as I am a very lucky person to have the privilage of working with her and getting to know her. Thank you so much for your honesty, your openness and your fearlessnes in writing this post. From knowing Deb and reading your blog, it's apparent why the two of you chose each other and have decided to reunite in love and forgiveness.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Footpad said...

Thank you, Chulita, for sharing your lovely comment.

I agree with you; I am indeed a lucky man.

-- f

8:50 PM  

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