About a year after my divorce was final, I was invited to go on a spiritual retreat. During the retreat I heard a talk about the need to forgive those who have hurt you. Well, I could definitely relate to the being hurt part, but, frankly, the thought of forgiving my ex just made me angry. I had been hurt too badly.
Since this was a spiritual retreat, and I was trying to be a good retreatant, I begrudgingly decided to give forgiveness a shot. I went into the chapel, and before the Blessed Sacrament, I began writing my forgiveness letter. Well, it started out harmless enough with my describing the forgiveness talk that had inspired me to write the letter. However, the more I wrote, the angrier I became. Suddenly, my “forgiveness” letter was anything but, filled with accusations and laments of “How could you do this to the kids and me?”, etc., etc. Finally, I gave up and just sat and stared at the Eucharist feeling angry and defeated. I couldn’t forgive her, and, frankly, I really didn’t want to.
Fast forward two years… I had not really thought too much about forgiving my ex since my botched attempt on my retreat. It did nag at me from time-to-time, especially when I focus on the words in the Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In my mind, I was still content to let my ex squirm under the weight of her guilt. Then one day I found out she had lost her job and was in danger of losing her apartment. I honestly felt bad for her. I spontaneously prayed a quick prayer to the Blessed Mother asking her to pray for my ex to find another job.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, it hit me. I actually prayed for my ex. That seemed weird to me. Yet, I could not deny that it was an authentic prayer. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did it. That’s when I realized that I had forgiven my ex. I could not have prayed for her unless I had let go of my animosity and anger. I guess all my Our Fathers, receiving the Eucharist, and experiencing forgiveness myself in Reconciliation, had a cumulative effect. It was the Lord’s way of softening my heart, and giving me the graces I needed, to forgive the one person that had hurt me the most–something I could not imagine ever being able to do. You see, my past effort was a solo attempt and it failed. To really forgive requires the help of supernatural graces.
Forgiveness is absolutely essential for you to be able to recover from divorce. By not forgiving, you may get a sense of satisfaction or power by holding your ex hostage to their past mistakes, yet, in reality, you are holding yourself hostage to the past. The only way to heal and move forward is to forgive your ex. Doing so frees you of all the pain, anger, and self-righteousness that does nothing but anchor you down to your past. Don’t force it. Pray for the graces you need to forgive your ex, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you down this path. While it will take time, it will ultimately lead you to freedom, peace, and joy.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. – Matthew 6:14-15