So often I see people grappling with either anger or severe sadness, especially when they first come to me for help with a divorce. Sometimes, they blame the other person entirely for their pain, but there are others that turn that critical eye inward to an unhealthy extreme, and they cannot forgive themselves for having made such a mistake in some of the choices they made when picking their partner, for enduring as much pain as they did, for not leaving sooner, etc. They will perseverate about this so much, that eventually they become filled with fear and self-doubt about their ability to judge others in the future.

Remember, hind-sight is 20/20.  You can’t blame yourself for not seeing into the future, or giving people the benefit of the doubt.  Some people are excellent at hiding their truly nasty side until the honeymoon is over, and others will change based on certain life challenges that no one could have predicted.  So, at some point, you have to find a way to forgive yourself  in order to move on and possibly find love again.

With respect to forgiving others, I know first-hand this is not easy, and yet harboring anger and resentment against others is just an incredibly heavy load to have to carry. Negative feelings will fester and eat away at you, and this too will hold you back in your ability to allow new, healthy relationships into your life.  So for your own sake, you need to find a way to let go of the past– but don’t forget the lessons.

Throughout life, we are all bound to be disappointed by others– friends, family, lovers, colleagues, peers, service providers, even random strangers may not live up to our expectations and can inflict pain upon us. Some people will not gain our instant forgiveness, and no one should force upon us some artificial timeline. Only you can control when you are ready to forgive, and the level of that forgiveness, depending on the transgression.

Today’s workshop on forgiveness taught me that forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing the behavior that offended us. It is not about becoming vulnerable again or re-establishing a relationship. Instead, it is a complicated process of multiple layers. It is a choice we make, and it is a gift primarily to ourselves, that may in fact have a powerful ripple effect upon our larger community– particularly the more apt we are to share these amazing stories.

Sometimes, to face our greatest fears we need a little inspiration. Sharing my family’s story today was my way of providing others with a powerful example of how forgiveness allowed me to unify a family torn apart for decades as a result of an erronoeous court decision. Facing my greatest fear has become my greatest source of strength, and is my sincere hope that others will experience a similar outcome once they find the courage to deal with the deep wounds, which we all carry in life.

We are defined by the choices we make in life. I hope we can all choose not to be emprisoned by our fears, and that by facing them, we can free ourselves and inspire others to do the same. The choice to forgive past transgressions so that we can move forward in life and enjoy all that it has to offer is indeed the best gift ever.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.