This past weekend was Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday also known as the day of atonement. What that means to Jewish people is that this is our time to repent and ask God for forgiveness for our sins.
I thought this was a perfect opportunity to write about forgiveness, since it is something in divorce that in my opinion virtually does not exist. The bottom line: Ex's co-parent, they move on in life, they even find love again. But do divorced men and women ever really forgive their ex's? Sadly, not often. Here is why you should forgive your ex.
Before I get into it, however, let me validate how a divorced person might feel. Maybe your spouse left you for another women or man. You burn with anger and you feel an injustice like never before. Why is he or she allowed to end up happy while you are alone? It's not fair!!!
Or, here is what I hear from lots of divorced men. "She kicked me out and then took my kids and now I have to pay her every month and I see my kids two nights every other weekend." Ouch. That is brutal.
Another scenario is that there could possibly have been mental or physical abuse or cheating. How on earth do you forgive that?!
I'm not saying it's easy to forgive, but I want readers to consider the following three reasons why you should forgive your ex, and the benefits of forgiveness.
1. Forgive for your children: Every single thing you do in life, every action, every word you speak, every facial expression, everything is being watched by your children, who are eventually going to (if they don't already) emulate millions of things both you and your ex do. Don't you want them to learn forgiveness? Don't they deserve to know the power of forgiveness? How it can change their lives? If your children mean the world to you (which is one of the only blanket statements I feel I can make when I write) then forgiving your ex solely for your kids' benefits makes sense.
2. Forgive for yourself: Forgiving, in my opinion is a selfish act. Why? Because when you forgive someone, it means that you are releasing your anger, you are showing compassion and understanding, and you are displaying behavior of grace and acceptance. Doing all of those things will make you love yourself. It will make you proud of the person you are. So, in effect, you're forgiving to benefit your own life. Who wants to walk around with anger, bitterness and that burning in them? Get rid of it. I'll go so far as to say you should tell your ex you have decided to forgive him or her. Your ex will either laugh in your face and say, "Well, I don't forgive you," or he or she might jump on your bandwagon, thank you for being so brave, and apologize. Whatever happens, you can know in your heart that you did the most gracious and mature thing you could have done.
3. Forgive because that's what God says we should do: Forgiveness in the Jewish religion goes back to the 13 attributes of mercy, which are the words that God taught Moses for the people to use whenever they needed to beg for divine compassion. God said to Moses, "Whenever Israel sins, let them recite this [the Thirteen Attributes] in its proper order and I will forgive them." Thus this appeal to God's mercy reassures us that repentance is always possible and that God always awaits our return."**
So, if God is willing to forgive us when we ask for forgiveness, then shouldn't we do the same when it comes to others, no matter what?
In closing, let me say this. Ultimately, forgiveness is your decision. You're the one who gets to decide if you should forgive the man who broke your heart in a thousand pieces, or the woman who threw you out like an old pair of shoes. Again, I'm not going to say it's easy to forgive. It might be one of the hardest things to do, but so worth it if you can get there.
**from Ronald Eisenberg's "Asking God for Forgiveness."
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling She is also the author of the comedic novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE about life after divorce. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. And she's divorced (obviously.)