This post by guest blogger, Morgan Forester (Letters From the Edge the Platform) is about forgiving a cheater. What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree? How have you found your way to forgiveness?
Question: How can I forgive a liar and a cheat? (Answer: By admitting that that liar and cheat could have been you.)
Forgiving seems to be a “good” thing to do. Having been forced to go to church as a child, I heard a lot about forgiveness. It seemed to be Jesus’ pet theme. I think most people would agree, nonetheless, that it totally depends on what you are forgiving. If someone cheated on you, you need to have an opportunity to rant about the asshole at length, telling all your friends in no uncertain terms, what a lying, cheating piece of scum he turned out to be. That’s part of the recovery process. And you sure as hell don’t forget that kind of thing. Ever. No one would expect you to forget, nor should you, because it’s also an opportunity to learn something. Either how not to make the same mistake of falling for the wrong guy again or how not to conduct a relationship so badly that it falls apart.
Forgiving is definitely not forgetting, and in fact, involves remembering in detail what happened so that you can see where you may have been responsible in some way yourself, or even whether that person’s circumstances might have driven you to the same thing. Forgiveness has to be the recovery process to let that anger and pain go for your own sake, not theirs. As far as I can see, the point of forgiving is that it’s not a case of helping the perpetrator, by ‘letting them off the hook’, but rather allowing yourself the release that comes from not allowing that person to hold any power over how you feel anymore. As Marianne Williamson once put it, “once you forgive someone you automatically lose your belief that they can hurt you that bad. If I forgive you, I am automatically released from the way you had such an effect on my life”.
That’s not to say that forgiving is easy. It seems to be one of those things specifically designed with inner turmoil as part of the deal. The time I discovered my boyfriend had not only been cheating on me but had lied to me when I’d asked him if he was involved with anyone else, I wanted to throw something scalding hot in his face. Luckily we weren’t drinking any tea at the time. And I’m not the sort of person to lash out anyway. Which perhaps made things scarier for him. It was hard to read me. As it turned out, he had his reasons for not being able to tell the truth at the time I’d asked and I realized that if I had been in his position, I probably would have lied too. I didn’t have to tell him that. But I did, and it made him feel less guilty and he told me he appreciated my honesty. In the end, there was no screaming, no lashing out, a struggle. Just a lot of talking and crying and trying to make sense of everything that had happened so that we could both live with the decisions we’d made and the conclusions we came to about ourselves.
That has to be one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences of my entire life. Yet I know I’m not alone in having that experience. It was harder and more heart-wrenching to have to put myself in his shoes and ask myself if I would have done the same and conclude that I would, but it was the quicker route to being at peace with it all. Ranting and raging about it wouldn’t have helped. I still would have had to do all the self-analysis later anyway, so it was probably best that I took the route of acceptance as soon as I could. Someone once said that it is not the problem that causes the pain; it is the resistance to it. By accepting what had happened (over and over again on a daily basis) and talking it through with my ex, we reached a kind of peace with each other that meant I could even think kindly of his new partner and genuinely wish them both happiness.
It wasn’t a magic pill to accept things, forgive and move on. It took a long time, a lot of boxes of tissues and a total re-think of a number of favorite songs that became newly painful to listen to, but by being honest and fair, I realized there was actually nothing to forgive. He had fallen into circumstances that lead him away from me and there were things we both neglected about each other. In the end, I knew that we both might be better off the way things had turned out.