Two great challenges come as a result of my divorce:
-Finding peace and meaning in the struggle
-Forgiving in the absence of apologies and continued hostility
The struggle is to overcome anxiety and falling back into old patterns: denial, anger, acquiescing. Denial is SO STRONG. I cannot emphasize how hard it is for me, personally, not to want to go back into denial, not because I don't know about the issues, but because I don't WANT to see or know. I don't want to reduce my faith in people, so I try to deny harmful behavior. I think this is where the deep work happens. The parts of me that believe that offer such rich wisdom. To come out of this without being bitter, anxious, and cynical will be a miracle. And I will, with the grace of God, friends, lovers, and my family, take part in that miracle.
Forgiving is hard enough when someone actually acknowledges the harm they've done, and offers restitution, and shows remorse, but when they don't, it is damned near impossible. Damned near, but not completely. It is such hard work. I think you have to continually distance yourself and see how the faults of that person (or family) that hurled their judgment, criticism, lies, self-deceptions, blame, contempt, snobbery, passive-aggression...you name it...towards you, defines THEM through those actions. They aren't defining YOU in any way, although it feels personal and that is why it hurts so much. They are advertising their own anger and unhappiness. But it is hard when you care about a person and your relationship with them, only to be offered hostility and be made into an enemy.
So you will never hear from them, at least not in any meaningful way, that they are sorry or that they even hear how they have hurt you. Apologies and remorse just aren't for them.
Which is sad, sad, sad, for them and for you. That is just HARD to reconcile in your heart. They feel no remorse or sorrow or care for what they did to you and the families involved. Forgiveness must be pieced together from your own sad, angry place. And what forgiveness is, is defined differently under those circumstances. Because it isn't fair, just, moral, or right to simply ignore another's humanity that way. What kind of person feels good about treating a fellow human with contempt and shame? It's a valid question, one worth wrestling with, one that will lead to healing and forgiveness.
It does not make you a victim. A victim has no choices. You have the choice to forgive in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You were a target of someone's bad messages, behavior, lies, deception, abuse. Perpetrators rarely have choices about their behavior.
For it is a gift to let go of wanting or needing those people in your life, of wishing for their apologies, for some sign of their, to be blunt, humanity. It won't happen. And so, through that, you learn how to turn from that futile fantasy, and toward the reality of people who, like you, do feel remorse, who believe relationship is so important, who value you as a person enough to care about your feelings. It is so strange how uncomfortable it is at first, to receive this kind of good treatment.
So there are gifts that come from forgiving, even when it is impossible. There is that place in you that will never let these people into your life again, because to do so would be unhealthy, even for your children. You don't want your kids to witness more strange, demeaning behavior toward their mother. But you can let go of their power over you, and pray for them, and hope they find peace within themselves. It is a worthy overcoming.
I found this article so helpful. Even though it uses the word "narcissist" it could be applied to many, many situations:
What does it mean to forgive a narcissist
Forgiveness means to free ourselves from the web of the narcissistic lies and triangulation and to stand up for truth and justice
Forgiveness means to give up and let go of toxic emotions such as anger, hurt, bitterness and resentment
Forgiveness means to recognize that this is not normal but a sickness designed to destroy our lives and poison our souls.
Forgiveness means to refuse to live as a victim of our abuser and to become an empowered human being willing to do what is right
Forgiveness means that we give ourselves the freedom to be all that we can be and to contribute to society all of the positive attributes that we have to give
Forgiveness means that we allow ourselves to feel and express genuine love, joy, empathy, compassion and humility: something of which they can never understand
Forgiveness never suggests or demands that the abuse be pardoned or that justice not be served but instead it empowers us to stand against it
Forgiveness means that we have given ourselves us something greater; which is a spiritual healing of deep psychological wounds
Forgiveness empowers us with the strength and love that we need to help others to know that they are not alone in the struggle to be free from the abuse
Forgiveness means that we are better people than they are because we have something much deeper and tender within us which is genuine love; real love and not this false self that they present.
Forgiveness means that we have peace with our memories and have turned the page on the past and onto the next chapter in our lives
Forgiveness means that we understand that they are incapable and unable to express genuine tenderness and deep love for themselves and for others thus being deprived of life's most important treasures
Forgiveness means that we have the strength and courage to show our loved ones; especially our children a better way of life
Forgiveness means that we learn to love ourselves and to let that love flow within us and expressed through us onto our children and onto others
Give yourself the gift of forgiveness today.
Written by Angela M. Watts