- Willingness: The essence of forgiveness, which slays resistance. Resistance to forgiveness is natural, but unhelpful. If you’re not willing yet, pray for it. It works. I nearly re-enrolled in an eating-disorder clinic because I couldn’t stop starving myself. The facility was sickening. Men shimmied under couches to do push ups. Women taped water bags to their thighs at weigh-in. I couldn’t return but was unwilling to change, so I prayed for the willingness. The results were immediate. After one day, I ate a sandwich. Within two weeks, my period returned. In two months, I conceived.
- Open-mindedness: Forgiveness feels unnatural as bathing with a blade, making mental flexibility indispensable. No pressure. You can always reinhabit your habitual cocoon of hate. Even if forgiveness doesn’t promptly take, it eventually will—God isn’t going anywhere.
- Patience: This is not a bobsled race. There are no straight trajectories. Rather, it’s a winding path best benchmarked in hindsight. Rapidity is rare. Surrender to the heart’s glacial pace.
- Cooperation: This process fails when attempted alone. Replace self-sufficiency with God-sufficiency… or fate… or ancestors. Forgiveness takes faith in something greater. Forgiveness takes Grace.
- Boundaries: Honor yourself. Reteach others how to treat you, even if your initial gauging is incorrect. Both my marriage and three-year divorce were brutal. By the end, I was a subservient husk of a woman who appeared homeless. When my therapist asked for my favorite color, I asked to call my mother… until the anger kicked in. I thought, goodbye, mute Susan… speak up or die trying! Overcompensating, I raged at a geriatric who cut me in the ice cream line. Centering pendulums take time.
- Compassion: Your understanding of compassion is mandatory, as emotional brutality accompanies the territory. Resentment draws out the worst of us. We’re harsh with ourselves and everyone else. Make a decision to be unconditionally self-compassionate. Alleviate the perception of yourself and whomever you’re forgiving, especially in light of mistakes. It’s how God sees you both.
- Fearless honesty: Grievances aren’t your fault but are your responsibility. The truth about honesty regarding forgiveness? Even the flattest pancake has two sides, said a wise man. Your situation requires identifying their part… and yours. Viewing through a lens of fearless honesty helps balance the emotional scales. Reflecting on my marriage, I never matured and siphoned my husband for fulfillment. He recoiled, I grieved, and my body mirrored my malaise. Chronic Lyme disease raged from remission, which prompted a revelatory near-death experience.
- Trusted friends or family. Drop those rubbernecking drama. Trusted friends hold you silently, as you sob in the car. They arrive with groceries and knock when you don’t answer the phone. They oversee your wrath and self-pity, which is vital if responsible for children.
Minimal ingredients, but simple isn’t easy regarding recipes of the heart…
1) Activate God-sufficiency using prayer. Even if you don’t instantly feel better, ‘thanks’ is a perfect starting place. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was praying—asking and thanking. Our highest and best activates the moment of our intention—and God knows you better than any human. This mantra healed my mother and me after decades of cyclical blame: God, I release (name) to the holy spirit. Say it with the same vigor you’d water a wildfire.
2) Be honest with trusted family and friends, but starve the beast in casual company. You’ll never forgive by Pez-dispensing acrimony. If an acquaintance asks how you’re faring, keep it brief, then subtly refocus on them. Most gossips distract easily!
3) Repeat step 1 tirelessly.
4) Neutrally assess your part, or risk a repeat performance. Do this in the name of humility. As poet Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better” (Angelou 2011).
5) Build a gilded monument to boundaries. They are a beautiful thing, especially if you must continually interact with the source of your resentment. It’s like someone died without the opportunity to grieve. I relegated communication to email and text, as phone calls only escalated emotions. Remember, you’re not remanded to immediately answer calls; it only feels that way.
6) Consider the wilderness beyond normative. We discussed open-mindedness and philosophies that counter your current beliefs. From decades of meditation, it’s my understanding that souls gather before incarnating to plan their journeys and the overlapping roles members will play for each other. Surprisingly yet assuredly, a beloved soul family member volunteers to enact the villain in support of your chosen emotional theme. Only your closest play leading roles, whether savior or rogue. Always.
American poet Mary Oliver said, “Someone I loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift” (Oliver 2007, 52-53). This compliments American author Wayne Dyer’s adage: “Your soulmate is the person you can’t stand” (Dyer 2009). My former husband helped me explore the dynamics of power, power over and power under. So did my father, my old priest, and my first, deceased spiritual teacher.
By taking a broad view, you, too, can discern a pattern of behavior. It is your unique power. The pain I faced in my relationships with these men ultimately empowered me, and now I use my experiences to empower others. Bless your betrayer. They are your ultimate teacher! Still unthinkable? Thankfully, concepts aren’t made of brick and mortar. They aren’t fixed… and freedom lies in changing your mind!
Angelou, Maya. “The Powerful Lesson Maya Angelou Taught Oprah.” Oprah.com, October 17, 2011. http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/the-powerful-lesson-maya-angelou-taught-oprah-video.
Dyer, Wayne. “Wayne Dyer -- Soulmates Part 1.” YouTube, June 20, 2009. https://youtu.be/EXvtyK_xIWE.
Oliver, Mary. “The Uses of Sorrow.” Poem. In Thirst: Poems. Target, UK: Bloodaxe Books, 2007.
Susan Dyer is a champion of women’s spirituality. She was born clairvoyant and merged with unnamable ‘God’ in a 2017 near-death experience, which clarified her journey. She graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Cultural Anthropology. She has published in FOLIO Literary Journal, Dance Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Wingless Dreamer, NINETENTHS Quarterly, and her work is forthcoming in Down in the Dirt and Quillkeepers Press.