This story was shared by a single mother who felt helpless to provide a secure environment for her son, until she was able to let go of negative judgments, anger and hatred to find forgiveness for those she most blamed.
Like many people these days, I am a divorced parent. My child’s father remarried when my son was 2. For a few years, all went somewhat smoothly. Then about the time my son turned 5, I began seeing traits in his stepmother that I didn’t like. I told myself for quite a while that “it wasn’t my business”. All the while watching my son becoming more sad and closed down. I realized my son was living in an environment that neglected his emotional needs and focused on “finding faults” in him. This was done by his stepmother, and it seemed his father ignored the behavior.
Over time, the situation became intolerable to me. For a few years, I put my energy into trying to protect my son (to no avail). I spent untold hours arguing with my ex-husband and spent a small fortune on costly attorney fees for numerous court dates. Through the course of all of this, I went from being concerned, to angry and ended up being downright nasty – all in the name of “protecting my son”.
The change was gradual so I was unable to see that my bitterness and fear eventually came to permeate my family, household, and entire way of life. The hostility I exuded was tangible and stifling. I hated my ex-husband and his wife. I justified my anger by seeking solace from well-intentioned friends who agreed that the situation was terrible and that my ex-husband was an absolute jerk.
I became so short-fused that I would explode at the drop of a hat. I lost touch with all joy in life. My time with my son was spent spewing venom about his step-mother and my time away from him was filled with worry, fear and tears. I developed minor medical issues and gained excessive weight. My son became depressed and his life was full of sadness. My world seemed so small. I felt overwhelmed that I had done “all the right things” and still couldn’t fully protect my son.
Then I realized the truth. I had done many things “right”, according to attorneys, Child Protective Services but I hadn’t done the right thing in my heart – to love and forgive something “unlovable”. I knew I couldn’t live like this anymore. I had tried everything but forgiving that which I had previously perceived as unforgivable. I had to forgive my ex-husband and his new wife for the sake of my son.
Now the real work had to begin. How could I forgive someone who I believed didn’t deserve it? I had no idea how to forgive, just that I HAD to do it. I wanted forgiveness as an event – something quick and easy. That isn’t what happened, it ended up as a slow process. I realized that I had to get help. I contacted a dear friend who led me through some profound forgiveness exercises. On many days, I wanted to stay angry because it seemed like such a familiar and safe feeling. But I remained willing to do the work to let go and forgive my ex-husband and my son’s step-mother.
I realized that I could only change my own thoughts and behavior. As time went on, I noticed my heart feeling a little softer. I was able to see qualities in his step-mother other than “emotionally abusive” and “neglectful”. I started putting energy into teaching my son ways that he could protect himself in various situations. I taught him that what was happening to him was in no way his fault, nor was it to be tolerated. I emphasized that he didn’t have to make this situation mean anything negative about himself. Together we also learned that in life we get to love people, for all of who they are. Although he is just a child, he was able to understand all of this.
I began modeling the traits of love and tolerance, instead of hatred and character assassination. Slowly by slowly, I came to see my son’s other parents in a different light. As I continued daily prayer for myself, my son, and his other family, the frequent arguments with his father subsided. We were able to interact with each other cordially. I gained the courage to have some difficult conversations with my ex-husband –
conversations that came from love rather than hate. I was able to see that my son and his father have their own path and life lessons to learn together, and I wouldn’t want to take their journey away from them. My only stipulation was and still is that my son gets to leave when either verbal or emotional abuse begin, and that he can return only when the environment is safe again.
My son needs a relationship with his father, and his father needs one with him. They both love each other. Today, because I have chosen to forgive (sometimes on a daily basis), my life feels wonderful again. I have lost weight and my health issues are resolving. I no longer feel the need to have an attorney as my co-parent mediator.
My son no longer cries daily and his grades have improved. He’s much happier and laughs a lot – as do I now too. My son still struggles at times knowing his father won’t leave an abusive situation. This enables me to teach him that we all evolve and grow at our own pace. I am also able to help him understand that forgiveness is a powerful tool and that it can be the first thing to try, rather than the last.
I feel differently about myself and the entire situation. I am now the mother I want to be and since I chose to forgive my ex-husband we have a great relationship. We respect each other’s differences and use those differences to lift our child, instead of letting them drive wedges between everyone.
Very recently, my ex told me that he may need to get a divorce from his current wife. Whether that will happen or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that he now has an open invitation to live with me and my family, if need be. Should he choose to stay married, he has my support on that too. NONE of this would have ever been available if I hadn’t made the choice to forgive my ex-husband and his wife, and choose love.
Submitted by Taylor S.
If you can’t forgive for your own benefit, then for who’s sake can you find the motivation and courage to forgive?
Want to find out more about forgiveness and forgiving?
Read The Forgiveness Handbook – A Simple Guide to Freedom of the Mind and Heart.
Find it at: www.theforgivenesshandbook.com
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