“My husband/wife says that they’re sorry, but how can I ever forgive them after what they did to me?” “I’ll never forgive my parents!” “Why should I forgive him? He still doesn’t admit he did anything wrong!” Other members of S-Anon expressed these sentiments, and many of us have them ourselves. Why should we forgive? Does forgiving mean forgetting?
I met a woman whose husband had left her for another woman seven years previously. He was now remarried and she had not seen him in years. But when she spoke about her pain and anger, it was though the betrayal had occurred a week or perhaps a month ago. She seemed to be stuck in a time warp. Because she had not let go of the past and forgiven her husband, she had been unable to move past her negative emotions and to get on with her life. Her ex-husband was still the focus of her inner life. She had continued to give him free rent in her head all these years.
It is easier to forgive another person when that person wants forgiveness. But even if they are dead, or remarried, or still acting out, we still need to forgive them. The reason is that we forgive them in order to have serenity in our own life. Forgiveness is being able to remember the past without experiencing the pain all over again. When we have forgiven someone, we can think about that person and what they did to us without losing our serenity. Without forgiveness, there is no peace of mind.
Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.