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9 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

Oh. My. Gosh. Y'all aren’t going to believe this! Ok, so I completely agree with the PPs who have said that I need to be seeing a therapist. You are so right. So I logged onto my online visit app, figuring I would throw the dice and try someone new.  One copay. What could it hurt, right? And I discovered that my old therapist is Back In Network! Hallelujah! I took the first appointment she had. I am actually looking forward to it, which is something I couldn’t say before! 

That is fantastic news!  🙂  

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18 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

Another excellent question. I think it’s comprised of the beliefs you have about yourself. So, I believe I was a good parent for homeschooling my daughter because that’s what was best for her, for example. I think a lot of it comes from “shoulds” like you should be compassionate and you shouldn’t treat others poorly. When you live up to those “shoulds” (internally and externally imposed), your self worth increases. Likewise, when you don't achieve those shoulds or shouldn’ts, it decreases. 
 

Rosie, you totally need to be a therapist. You are asking really good questions today! 

If I were a proper therapist, I'd have to adhere to someone else's code of ethics and I prefer mine. 😂
Maybe you're just easy to work with. 🙂

 

Identity is made two parts: our own beliefs about ourselves and the belief and consequent actions of those around us. There's more of them than us, so it's very easy to get outvoted. 

You've got a strong sense of duty there. Use it wisely. 🙂

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2 hours ago, I talk to the trees said:

Yeah, but I did ask for opinions, and those are some really good questions. Makes me do a Poirot and use the little gray cells! 
 

Forgiveness for me would be able to look back on the event without bitterness, and without feeling that the old wound was new each time I think of it. Thinking of it less would be nice too, but right now, I am feeling the effects very acutely and it is difficult not to ruminate.

Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) 

The kind of reflection you are thinking about isn’t necessarily instant - for me it came years after the event in question and wasn’t connected to forgiveness. It was connected to intentional personal & spiritual growth. The incident wasn’t the focus of the growth - the growth process & goals I set were. You have some stated goals in your last paragraph and I encourage you to work with a licensed counselor to figure out exactly what that means for you personally and how to get there.

There is no timetable for forgiveness, and forgiveness doesn’t mean that we automatically stop hurting, that we no longer experience the effects of the event or that we have to have an ongoing relationship with anyone that was involved. 
 

Please make it a priority to seek out a licensed counselor to walk you through this process - it’s different for everyone. 

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2 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

 

The first time I saw my therapist flinch when I told her something that happened was the moment I could see through someone else's eyes that what happened was BAD. You need that kind of recognition way before you can get to forgiveness. 

Totally this. It made me realize that I wasn't crazy or unreasonable. I was wronged and the reason ended up being  not my problem. I have always been worthy. 

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58 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Sometimes when issues are complicated it helps to talk to someone trained to deal with them. You could be having a hard time because there are complicating factors.

This is sooooo true.  Life isn't a neat and tidyscience experiment where things happen in a controlled environment with each variable isolated for clarity.  Life is a big jumbled pile of complex stuff and figuring out exactly what issue(s) are in play can take expert assistance.

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2 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

I think letting go of anger is just what happens after you've had a chance to feel and express your anger, and have your anger heard and respected. 

It's kinda a side effect. A nice side effect. 

 🤣

 

Yes. It creeped up on me and I realized my anger had subsided. 

(I can't get the laughing emoji to delete when I'm on my phone. I mean no disrespect.)

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36 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

Can you objectively think about it in the terms of someone did some things TO you? That person made that choice. That person could have done the same to a different person had you not been available. That person did bad things and made you feel bad, but you are NOT bad. The behavior of that person was bad. Not YOU. Your self worth should not be defined by that. Please don’t let them have that power. Ruminate on that over and over until you believe it, because it’s true.

You don’t have to forgive. Just let go. Really let go. It takes time, but really begin to believe there is absolutely no reason for you to let someone else make you feel this way. Anyone. These things were done to you, but you don’t have to believe this is what your self worth is made of. You have a right to change your thinking, and let yourself believe in you. 

You know I can relate, and I’m on your side. We all are. We can help remind you if needed. 

You don’t necessarily have to forgive, but you can let go….and you don’t have to believe bad things about yourself just because someone else wants/wanted you to.

Edit: Forgot to give you your heart ❤️ 

Yes. Getting angry was the first step for me. I had righteous anger. This person had abandoned me in every way possible, and it was wrong. Then, when I realized I was judging myself on their scale of black and white, their right or wrong I finally got "it" and started the journey to find my own self worth and that I had always been worthy. 

I'm sorry to keep posting. Your post and the replies have just hit on everything I was feeling and experiencing. I hate that you are going through this.

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3 hours ago, I talk to the trees said:

No, honestly, I have laid the blame for the event at their feet for many years. Oh yes, the different perspectives make sense! But I have only recently realized the true extent of the harm they did, and honestly, I just want to walk away from it. I guess I think the only alternative to forgiveness is not forgiving and holding onto the pain for even longer, and I believe that if I do that, it will eventually kill me. 

For me, forgiveness involves remorse, repentance and that includes not doing it again.  For big things of course…..not for little things that we can often just over look.  If it is a big thing, and you (collective you) are unable to let it go then the next step is to approach the offender and let them know what harm you feel you have suffered.  If there is still no remorse….then you must find a way to let it go….which to me is not the same as forgiveness.  
 

Btw, I am terrible at this so I don’t know why I am offering advice on it.  

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I don't necessarily believe that you have to confront the person. In my situation, it would have never worked. I knew from past experiences that they would never take responsibility for their actions and for me to even try to bring it up would just make matters worse. So I implemented boundaries. That and therapy were the biggest things that helped. I also was lucky enough to have my own little cheering squad. People who genuinely cared for me and loved me and listened to me when I was ready to talk about it. 

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42 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

For me, forgiveness involves remorse, repentance and that includes not doing it again.  For big things of course…..not for little things that we can often just over look.  If it is a big thing, and you (collective you) are unable to let it go then the next step is to approach the offender and let them know what harm you feel you have suffered.  If there is still no remorse….then you must find a way to let it go….which to me is not the same as forgiveness.  
 

Btw, I am terrible at this so I don’t know why I am offering advice on it.  

I do. It's because you are caring and sensitive to others.  It comes across very clearly in your posts. ETA: everyone has their own definition for forgiveness and their own way of dealing of with stuff that happens to them...there's no one way. We have our own experiences, expectations and what we bring to a situation. 

 

Edited by MooCow
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I'm so sorry you're going through this, but glad you got an appointment!

For me, forgiveness doesn't have to mean you are going to completely forget what they did, confront them, and feel warm and fuzzy around them. But, it does mean trying to understand that they're the way they are because of a lot of circumstances out of their control: their own complex brains, their growing up, their experiences, the systems they're part of.  I try and imagine them as the person God created them to be, before the harshness of this world and of their mixed up brains got the better of them.  It's a realization that I would most likely have acted the same way that they did if I were them.

Doing that changes the anger to sadness, but at least it doesn't eat away at you the way anger does.

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I'm traveling and don't have a good signal.

Forgiveness isn't about the other person,  it's about you.   Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting,  it means letting go of the hurt.  If they are penitent,  great.  But don't let that stop you. 

In some cases, you still must have boundaries for safety.   That doesn't mean you can't/  haven't forgiven. 

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2 hours ago, I talk to the trees said:

Oh, golly no, I really, really don't like where I am right now, especially the feelings that I'm just not worthy of  respect or love, that that simply isn’t something I can expect or even hope for. There are things to be thankful for, of course. I have a lovely daughter, and more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I am certainly in no position to complain about those things, when so many lack the basic necessities of life! But my life would have been so very, very different if this hadn’t happened, and right now I am looking back on 20-odd years that I can never get back or change. And that means my life now and going forward is going to be difficult. 

I'm so sorry to hear that.  I hope that your life gets better.  It does sound like you have a lot of good things going for you, and I'm glad you have those things. 

I'm sorry I am not equipped to advise you.  I don't know anything else except for look for a support group.  People who have been through the same thing would be a great help for you. 

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11 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

You know, you're allowed to be angry about that. 

Good, clean anger. Not 'I'm angry but I shouldn't be' or 'I'm angry but I should feel grateful.'

This person harmed you. They changed your life trajectory. They took away your self belief. 

Maybe try feeling entitled to some justified outrage on your own behalf here.

Anger helps you understand you deserved better, and continue to deserve better. 

There are helpful ways to feel and acknowledge anger, that don't harm others. 

This.  Anger is not harm and is not violence.  It's the tiny candle flame inside you that's been burning for you all this time, that remembers you were not to blame and you deserved to not be hurt.  Women are so afraid of being angry and are taught that it's ugly or wrong, but anger is a wonderfully healing force, especially for women.  "Good, clean anger" is just an emotion to be felt, it does not need to be expressed as violence or meanness.

When I was finally ready to feel the anger that I had carried around far too long, it was intense.  I imagined myself as a riverbed, and the anger was a flash flood.  There was nothing I could do other than be a riverbed for for it and allow it to rage through me.  And it really did ebb, but only after I had allowed myself to really feel it, which was so hard.  It ebbed naturally, I never had to worry about it or chase it away after that. It took maybe two months of enduring these flash floods, sometimes with me yelling loudly to myself that I was so f-ing angry when I was alone in the car, for it to ebb.

 

 

 

Edited by Harpymom
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10 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I do believe part of healing is feeling like the offender gets what they have done to you.  That is often not possible.  

If the other person has to be sorry for what they've done, many people would never get freedom from their past, sigh.

So you could say that implicit in christian forgiveness is the idea that consequences that don't come now come later--they will regret it eventually. If someone doesn't have that idea of a coming judgment, then I can see why it would feel like people get away with things. 

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15 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

You know, you're allowed to be angry about that. 

Good, clean anger. Not 'I'm angry but I shouldn't be' or 'I'm angry but I should feel grateful.'

This person harmed you. They changed your life trajectory. They took away your self belief. 

Maybe try feeling entitled to some justified outrage on your own behalf here.

Anger helps you understand you deserved better, and continue to deserve better. 

There are helpful ways to feel and acknowledge anger, that don't harm others. 

This. 

Acknowledge the anger. 

Have you thought about writing the person a letter, expressing your outrage, your fury, how unfair this was and just plain scummy?

I find that kinds of thing helpful. 

IT may take multiple letters to pour out your wrath. 

 

And then I move on to "Guess what, you dirtbag? You no longer get to take up space in my head. I'm moving on. Not because you deserve it, but because I deserve to live a life that is NOT defined by what you did to me." 

And it seems that is where you;ve gotten stuck. That person has been allowed to define who you are for decades. 

For me forgiveness is not releasing that person from fault or blame. Its more of "You don't get to influence me any more. I'm done with that. I get to figure out who I am without the tentacles of what you did to me warping me. I'm setting down the back pack of (blame, shame, feeling dirty, etc.) and moving forward as a person who is whole and worthy of self respect and dignity."

 

ETA: Coming back to mention that the letters are not necessarily to actually send to the offender. They are mostly to help you pour out your rage and process how things kappened.

Edited by fairfarmhand
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15 hours ago, I talk to the trees said:

Oh, golly no, I really, really don't like where I am right now, especially the feelings that I'm just not worthy of  respect or love, that that simply isn’t something I can expect or even hope for. There are things to be thankful for, of course. I have a lovely daughter, and more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I am certainly in no position to complain about those things, when so many lack the basic necessities of life! But my life would have been so very, very different if this hadn’t happened, and right now I am looking back on 20-odd years that I can never get back or change. And that means my life now and going forward is going to be difficult. 

I know you don't mean to do this, but the attitude of "so many have it worse than I do" robs you of your right to be fully angry about what they did. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BE FURIOUS about this betrayal, even if "others have it worse." Yes, others have it worse. But that still doesn't take away your right to bbe angry and mourn and grieve the betrayal. The two things can co-exist. Your betrayal was real and horrible. And others have it worse. One has nothing to do with the other. 

After you get done with anger, you can grieve. 

I have been there. I had to be angry for awhile. Then I had to grieve and lament the hurt. Only then was I able to experience a release from the pain and bitterness and heaviness I was carrying.

I journaled a lot. Finally I was able to accept the fact that right or wrong, here I am. This person changed the trajectory of my life. Okay. There are going to be hard things because of it. 

Okay. 

I'll make the best of it and look forward. 

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6 hours ago, Harpymom said:

This.  Anger is not harm and is not violence.  It's the tiny candle flame inside you that's been burning for you all this time, that remembers you were not to blame and you deserved to not be hurt.  Women are so afraid of being angry and are taught that it's ugly or wrong, but anger is a wonderfully healing force, especially for women.  "Good, clean anger" is just an emotion to be felt, it does not need to be expressed as violence or meanness.

When I was finally ready to feel the anger that I had carried around far too long, it was intense.  I imagined myself as a riverbed, and the anger was a flash flood.  There was nothing I could do other than be a riverbed for for it and allow it to rage through me.  And it really did ebb, but only after I had allowed myself to really feel it, which was so hard.  It ebbed naturally, I never had to worry about it or chase it away after that. It took maybe two months of enduring these flash floods, sometimes with me yelling loudly to myself that I was so f-ing angry when I was alone in the car, for it to ebb.

 

 

 

I love this idea.

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I am always so surprised that so few people see forgiveness and repentance/remorse as connected.  I am not required to forgive a person who has no remorse for what they have done to me.  God doesn't forgive without repentance so why would he expect that of me.

However, for the purposes of this discussion I believe the issue is more of 'letting go' than a question of forgiveness.  

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I am so glad that you don’t have any ongoing contact with this person.  I don’t believe that initiating contact again would be helpful.  I’m delighted that you have met up with your original good therapist again!

I encourage you to give yourself a set amount of time per day to ruminate on this issue and just be furious, and then when it pops back into your head at another time of the day, say “Not until tomorrow!” And consciously turn your attention to something else.  You might have a list of ‘something else’s’ in mind for that.  Things like a song that is very engaging, or a plan for your future that your are building, or picturing a great place you have been.  It’s a matter of what you give attention to, not questioning the validity of your feelings.  

Also, a book I found extremely helpful was Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution From Within”.  It’s the most convincing and gentle and helpful book on self-esteem that I have ever read, and I think it might help you with the (wrong) feelings of low self-worth.  You might also consider “The Artis’s Way”, which was originally written to help people with writer’s block but which kind of gives a framework for living intentionally and creatively.  Sometimes an alternate framework for your life for a while is just the thing to grab your attention away from something awful.

Focussing on defining and working toward a future that is better than your past, as well as planning in moments of happiness along the way, is going to be much healthier and more helpful in the long run than focussing on this person who is fundamentally unworthy of your attention.  Lift your attention elsewhere, and don’t give him that space in your head.

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As is clear by the prior posts... people define "forgiveness" differently.  TBH I'm not entirely sure the respective takes by various faith traditions, including my own, are always helpful in laying a framework that helps folks who've been harmed to move towards healing.

My own tradition, like Scarlet's, links teshuvah (a concept that evokes turning, reconciliation, returning, restoration... it isn't, quite, "forgiveness") with the response of the other person. That linkage can, however, result in stalemate.  You don't want your ability to move on to a better future to be held hostage by the same person who harmed you in the past. (I'm no theist, but I don't believe that really is what God "wants," either.)

So for me, the more secular language of "processing" and "moving on" is more helpful than the language of "forgiveness."  The image of laying down a heavy suitcase and declaring "I'm just not carrying that sh!t anymore" is more helpful than continuing to carry the hope / expectation / requirement that someone else - someone who's HARMED me -- "hear" me.  They likely won't.

And the best working definition I've encountered of "forgiveness" is thus Lily Tomlin's (!!):

Quote

Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.

That doesn't mean you give up hope of a better FUTURE.  For the sake of your FUTURE (or safety, or safety of your kids) you may have to set and maintain pretty hard boundaries. And it certainly doesn't mean that you have to pretend what happened didn't happen, or didn't matter. Clearly it did.

But once you've fully and deeply processed it, that constructive and important anger will ebb (not disappear), and you'll discover you can lay down that heavy suitcase where it belongs, in the past. It will still sit there, and every now and again some trigger will dislodge the earth beneath it and its contents will spill out again, messy and real and THERE again.  But over time that will happen with lesser frequency, and it will mostly stay, where it belongs, in the past.

I don't know if that's what forgiveness looks like to you.  For me, that is what healing looks like.

 

(( hugs ))

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2 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I am always so surprised that so few people see forgiveness and repentance/remorse as connected.  I am not required to forgive a person who has no remorse for what they have done to me.  God doesn't forgive without repentance so why would he expect that of me.

However, for the purposes of this discussion I believe the issue is more of 'letting go' than a question of forgiveness.  

I think I see it like this:  If you're hoping for a good relationship again, then a type of repentance is absolutely necessary.  But if you're just trying to forgive someone and move on so that you don't carry that biting anger around (that can eat away at a person from the inside out over months and years), then it's a different type of forgiveness.  That's when you comes to grips with the fact there will never be reconciliation -- and most likely you don't even want that, but you don't end up carrying that sickening feeling in your heart.  I believe it involves recognizing that they are victims too...Things happened in their own lives or their brain is broken or both.  I think it's more than just "letting go." 

What they did to you was just as wrong, and you should feel free to say and think that confidently.

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2 minutes ago, J-rap said:

I think I see it like this:  If you're hoping for a good relationship again, then a type of repentance is absolutely necessary.  But if you're just trying to forgive someone and move on so that you don't carry that biting anger around (that can eat away at a person from the inside out over months and years), then it's a different type of forgiveness.  That's when you comes to grips with the fact there will never be reconciliation -- and most likely you don't even want that, but you don't end up carrying that sickening feeling in your heart.  I believe it involves recognizing that they are victims too...Things happened in their own lives or their brain is broken or both.  I think it's more than just "letting go." 

What they did to you was just as wrong, and you should feel free to say and think that confidently.

I think I can agree.  We have had this Forgiveness Discussion about 100 times over the years.  I honestly think we all just have different definitions of it....but regardless of what we call it is healing to stop being angry at people who have hurt us.  

I am on year two of a battle in my brain over trying to let go of something that was done to me (and part of it to me by virtue of being done to my kid)....the offending parties will likely NEVER believe they were in the wrong, so what do I do with that?  It does ebb and flow and I am going to use the river of rage imagery the next time the anger returns.  Just a few weeks ago I sobbed for most of an entire day and wailed to my good friends.....

Some of the offending people have requested to meet with me because apparently my anger is pretty obvious....but I can't.  I can't trust myself to not say things I will regret.  And my sister.....ugh....she keeps on being the voice of reason.....I bet she has said 100 times, (too cheerily imo)  'what are your options?'  And I mumble back, 'let it go or talk to them.'  

Adulting is hard.

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6 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I think I can agree.  We have had this Forgiveness Discussion about 100 times over the years.  I honestly think we all just have different definitions of it....but regardless of what we call it is healing to stop being angry at people who have hurt us.  

I am on year two of a battle in my brain over trying to let go of something that was done to me (and part of it to me by virtue of being done to my kid)....the offending parties will likely NEVER believe they were in the wrong, so what do I do with that?  It does ebb and flow and I am going to use the river of rage imagery the next time the anger returns.  Just a few weeks ago I sobbed for most of an entire day and wailed to my good friends.....

Some of the offending people have requested to meet with me because apparently my anger is pretty obvious....but I can't.  I can't trust myself to not say things I will regret.  And my sister.....ugh....she keeps on being the voice of reason.....I bet she has said 100 times, (too cheerily imo)  'what are your options?'  And I mumble back, 'let it go or talk to them.'  

Adulting is hard.

I'm truly sorry.  I think forgiving a family member who you've given your life to yet have been rejected or completely misunderstood by them in return is probably the hardest type of forgiveness;  it just hurts so deeply.   It's hard to not let emotions take over.  I think that's when I dig into my faith and seek strength that I do not have on my own.  Strength to not be bitter or broken, assurance to know that I am still beloved and valued, and trust that God will continue to work through me and my life.  And direction so that I keep my gaze moving forward.

I think there are also practical steps one can try.  Just today I was reading about ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).  My church is teaching a class on it.  From what I've read about it, it seems like it could be helpful in dealing with situations like these, where you're trying to come out of a traumatic or devastating event and can't figure out how to move beyond it.

Thinking of you.  ❤️

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10 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I am always so surprised that so few people see forgiveness and repentance/remorse as connected.  I am not required to forgive a person who has no remorse for what they have done to me.  God doesn't forgive without repentance so why would he expect that of me.

However, for the purposes of this discussion I believe the issue is more of 'letting go' than a question of forgiveness.  

From my perspective, repentance is the responsibility of the person who did wrong. There are many circumstances when the person never admits that s/he is in the wrong. As the one wronged, I realize  that I can’t force someone to repent or to feel regret. It’s my decision on whether or not to forgive and that is separate from the person’s repentance. How I live my life isn’t dependent on how someone else lives theirs. Does that make sense?

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8 hours ago, J-rap said:

I'm truly sorry.  I think forgiving a family member who you've given your life to yet have been rejected or completely misunderstood by them in return is probably the hardest type of forgiveness;  it just hurts so deeply.   It's hard to not let emotions take over.  I think that's when I dig into my faith and seek strength that I do not have on my own.  Strength to not be bitter or broken, assurance to know that I am still beloved and valued, and trust that God will continue to work through me and my life.  And direction so that I keep my gaze moving forward.

I think there are also practical steps one can try.  Just today I was reading about ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).  My church is teaching a class on it.  From what I've read about it, it seems like it could be helpful in dealing with situations like these, where you're trying to come out of a traumatic or devastating event and can't figure out how to move beyond it.

Thinking of you.  ❤️

Thank you.  I am getting better and I think I have reached the point where I have asked for a meeting with a couple of people.  I am also striving for peace and unity since these are my spiritual family.  I am not in a position to avoid them.

6 hours ago, TechWife said:

From my perspective, repentance is the responsibility of the person who did wrong. There are many circumstances when the person never admits that s/he is in the wrong. As the one wronged, I realize  that I can’t force someone to repent or to feel regret. It’s my decision on whether or not to forgive and that is separate from the person’s repentance. How I live my life isn’t dependent on how someone else lives theirs. Does that make sense?

Yea.  And I agree.  But again the definition of forgiveness and whether it is a requirement is in question.  Moving on with ones life is one thing……going back to how things were before is another.An example that comes to mind is my best friends first husband.  I loved him like a brother and we were all very close.  Then he turned into a serial cheater and betrayer of all things we all held dear.  And it wasn’t a clean break….it was years of deceit and hurt.  I was very very angry. Eventually, they divorced, both of them remarried other people and my rage did subside.  He came to me after about 3 years and said he missed me and just wished things could be like they were before.  I just looked at him and said, ‘well, I have lost the urge to smash your head with a baseball bat, but things are never going to be the same again.’  He laughed….and now 23 years have passed.  I feel no anger at all.  I feel no anger at all toward him.I would say I have forgiven him.  But he is just someone I used to know who struggles with his weaknesses.  
 

So again it comes back to healing as mentioned by @Pam in CT  I think age and maturity makes it easier to get that point, but also some personalities (like mine) struggle more with letting things go.  

Edited by Scarlett
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