One of my sister-friends recently remarried after being single for about seven years. Her first marriage ended in a very bitter and contentious divorce. She had not spoken to her ex-husband for almost five years since the divorce was finalized. He had been pretty awful during their marriage, with infidelity and some verbal abuse.
About a week before she got married, her ex-husband sent her an e-mail wishing her congratulations and apologizing for his wrongdoing. He acknowledged that he was immature and his mistreatment of her was not what she deserved. Also, he asked to meet with her sometime so he could apologize in person. Although he made it clear that this was not an attempt to get her back, expressing his respect for her fiancé.
“Why the hell would I meet with him?” she asked when we met to discuss the e-mail. My sister-friend went on to recount all of the vile and horrible things her ex-husband had done and said during the marriage, especially in the divorce. He had fought her on every aspect of the settlement, refusing to “Give her one damn dime!” He definitely was a piece of work and put her through hell.
The difficult time my sister-friend had with her ex-husband was often a barrier for new relationships. In terms of baggage, she had a full set of Louis Vuitton luggage. Thankfully, she met a wonderful man who was willing to love her through her issues and she got over most of it. With that said, I never believed she had full closure because she had not forgiven her ex-husband.
I decided to push her a bit and asked, “Maybe meeting with him is exactly what you need to do before you get married again.” She couldn’t understand what one had to do with the other. I explained that she needed to fully close that emotional chapter and the only way she was going to be able to move forward in a brand new marriage is if she left the pain of the last one in the past.
“Give him a chance to apologize, listen to him and then, forgive him!” I encouraged her to push herself to let it all go and look at him with clean eyes and a clean heart. “That [brotha] ain’t changed... I know him,” she retorted. She wasn’t having it, which was an indication that she hadn’t fully moved past her hurt feelings. So, I knew she HAD to meet with him and she had to begin the process of forgiveness.
The key misconception she was making was that forgiving him was about him. In fact, the forgiveness I was encouraging was for her and her spirit. By holding on to the hurt and the memories of the bad acts, she was disabling her spirit from its full expression. At the mention of his name, she would recoil. If you’re holding something that powerful and negative in your spirit you can’t possibly be living your best life.
As an example, I reminded her of several instances with her fiancé that were manifestations of the hurt she harbored. He’d do something that reminded her of her ex-husband and she’d jump to the conclusion that her fiancé was doing something similar. In every instance she had misread the situation and ended up having to apologize. She certainly didn’t want to take that into the marriage.
Then, I went in for the kill, and said to her, “The forgiveness that you refuse will be the forgiveness that you seek. When you have compassion for others when they make mistakes you will receive compassion when you make yours. And, you will continue to make mistakes.” And, she replied, “Damn, that’s deep!”
Yes, it is deep, but it is also the truth. Letting her heart house even just a bit of negative energy or ill will prevented it from being completely filled with love and positive energy. Forgiving her ex-husband would open up that space in her heart and spirit for goodness. It seems to be an esoteric concept, but it's simple physics -- two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time.
Reluctantly, she took my advice and met with him. And, they had a good time. He apologized and she listened. Once she listened to him and opened her spirit for understanding, she realized he had changed. We all can change and her ex-husband did the work to do it. Most importantly, she started the process of forgiveness and went into her second marriage leaving a lot of that Louis Vuitton behind.
We all have make mistakes and have issues with the people in our lives. Holding a grudge never does anyone any good. It just perpetuates and prolongs a negative experience. And, if you’re in the position to accept an apology and forgive someone, do it because the forgiveness is for you!