My ex doesn't deserve forgiveness

A few months ago, there was one extremely angry moment that a woman I worked with had. It was recommended by her GAL that she take a course of mine, so she did, but she made it clear that she had nothing to learn and she was only there because it would help her case as she divorced her husband. I get that a lot and it's OK because most of the time, people walk away learning something to help them anyway. While in the class, we started to talk about forgiveness and why it's important. At that point, this already angry woman became angrier announcing that she will happily learn lessons from her marriage and will let go of whatever comes her way, but she will absolutely not forgive her soon-to-be-ex because he doesn't deserve that. Tears were forming in her eyes, her chin was quivering and her voice shaking. I wanted to reach out and hug her, but I didn't. 

Have you been there? This is familiar territory for a lot of people here. What it usually sounds like is:

My ex doesn't deserve to be forgiven for what he/she has done to me and to the kids. They should have to live with their actions for the rest of their lives. Forgiveness is too good for them.

If we're being honest, I think a lot of us have been here. Right where this woman was. Maybe some of you are in that spot right now. As a therapist, I have to ask myself why. 

Why is it so hard to forgive?

Here's what I've been able to come up with. We're all rational enough to know that forgiveness isn't letting the other person off the hook, but it feels like we are, doesn't it? It feels like if we forgive them and move on, they don't have to pay for what they did to us. We are taking on the role of judge and jury and we're sentencing the ex to a lifetime of having to pay for hurting us. What they did was bad enough to earn that, wasn't it? We went through years of heart ache, they should have to go through the same!

What I've learned is that when we take on that judge and jury role, it leaves little room in our life for any other roles we may want to take on. The woman in this story was smart, driven, and a dedicated mother. She talked about many things that would bring a lot of parents happiness, but I didn't get to see that happiness in her. I believe with all of me that happiness will shine through, but not until she quits her role of judge and jury. That doesn't minimize any of the pain she and her daughter felt prior to and throughout the divorce process, it just takes the pressure off of her to be the person carrying out a sentence. 

Life does a great job of giving us what we focus on. When we're focused on ensuring a sentence we've placed on someone is carried out, life gives us more and more reasons to turn our attention and our focus onto that person, instead of away from them. 

Where do you want your focus and attention to be? Isn't divorce a chance to move on after pain of a divorce? I know for a fact that there is no chance of truly moving on until you have quit your job of judge and given up your seat as jury. Which do you want more? 

By the end of the class, this woman softened enough for me to let her know that this will pass, that life will turn out OK for her and her daughter, and that there's something happier and better ahead for her. I believe the same for you, too. Life is going to be OK, but the best part of it will start when you're ready to move onto better roles. Which roles are you ready to take on?

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