The Extraordinary Power of Forgiveness

I met a couple in my office who were separating because of infidelities on the part of the husband.  During a particularly emotional and difficult session, we encountered an impasse. I asked to have a few minutes alone with the wife.  

After a short time, we asked the husband to return to the table.  The aggrieved wife looked at the husband and said firmly "I forgive you".  For several moments the room fell silent, eventually interrupted by the husband who, while gathering up his papers, said to me “thank you Nadia. It seems like we don’t need your services any longer” His wife and I looked at each other, immediately understanding exactly how he had heard her words; as an invitation for reconciliation, not the purposeful release of the pain and anger that the wife had been feeling about his betrayal.    

I witness the profound pain and anger that are often present when a couple decides to dissolve their marriage, and by consequence, their family.  Finding forgiveness from the most vulnerable places in our hearts is a daunting task, but the rewards for the extraordinary effort are abundant and the most courageous act of radical self-love we can give ourselves.

When someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain. But, revenge, retaliation or holding on to the anger about the harm done to us doesn’t actually combat the initial cruel and damaging behavior we suffered, maybe it feeds it.  In the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy and, on some level, even start to become them.

What if forgiveness, rather than being like a way of saying “it’s okay”, is actually a way of taking the bolt cutters and snapping the chain that links us, as if to say, “what you did was so not okay that I refuse to be connected to it anymore”?

Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter. And free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentment. That’s worth fighting for. There really is a light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot, will not, shall not, overcome it.

Forgiveness of the betrayal of your spouse especially is empowering and holds great promise to conflict resolution. It is a transforming experience that fosters more positive emotions and less negative thoughts about oneself.

Remember you are forgiving for you and not for the one who has wronged you.

The young lady, that one day, made a powerful and brave decision to forgive her unfaithful husband and empower herself with peace.