Forgiving someone, especially when the thing done was unthinkable, is not an easy thing to do. The pain, anger, sadness and possible helplessness one feels as the result of domestic abuse or random acts of violence are tough things to bear. But, research shows that ultimately, forgiveness is the healthiest thing you can do.
Still, how can one do that?
In my experience the path to forgiveness wasn’t about excusing harmful behavior but was more about learning to let go. My first husband suffered from alcoholism to the point where we could no longer stay together. He was frequently unemployed and there was much verbal abuse and neglect for most of the 20-year marriage. It was very stressful trying to keep our family together. Nothing I did ever worked permanently and most of the time I felt like such a failure.
During this difficult period I was searching diligently for answers and began a daily study of some books that brought and still bring me great comfort and help, The Bible and the works of spiritual healer, Mary Baker Eddy.
I found one model of forgiveness in The Bible to be Jesus. What he taught about this topic caught me a bit off guard at first because of the depth of compassion he required of the forgiver. And I wondered, at times, if I would ever get to the point where I could do what he said. I really wanted to. When asked by one of his disciples how many times one should forgive one’s enemies, he said, “seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times and a lot of forgiveness! That seemed like a pretty tall order in my situation. Jesus also taught that we should love our enemies and I wondered why until I read this by Eddy in her Miscellaneous Writings, “Love your enemies or you will not lose them; and if you love them, you will help to reform them.”
There is a saying that goes, “Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This pretty much sums up how I felt.