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Coping with Divorce – Why “Forgive and Forget” is Part Myth

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it. Forgive and forget, they say.

How do you forget being abused? How do you forget that your spouse had an affair? Can anyone actually forget such serious hurts? Is it fair of us to expect they should?

Why Forgetting is a Myth

Forgetting the deep hurts of divorce isn’t realistic, especially while you’re coping with divorce. Forgetting implies you don’t remember, like the wrong never happened.  Over time some things may fade from your memory but it’s unlikely you will actually forget the things that hurt you deeply anytime soon.

What’s more, true forgetting could set you up to repeat mistakes. If you literally forgot that a dog had bitten you you’d not remember that you needed to beware of that dog in the future. God gave you a memory for a reason. Remembering allows you to learn from the past.

The challenge is to stop focusing on the memory and dwelling in the pain that remembering can bring.
That’s easier said than done, especially with deep hurts. You can’t just flip a switch and turn off such pain, you have to process it.

Yet, if over time you allow yourself to continue to be dominated by the pain, you choose a damaged life. I believe that life is too precious to let the past dictate your future. There is hope for moving to a more peaceful and positive place.

Why Forgiving isn’t a Mythcoping with divorce forgive

We tend to associate forgiving with reconciliation. It’s a beautiful thing when forgiving results in reconciliation but it doesn’t have to. For forgiving to result in reconciliation there needs to be repentance. Otherwise, you can end up in the old cycle of a hurtful relationship.

When I talk about divorce and forgiving I mean letting go of anger, hurt, and resentment to the point that they no longer control your emotions. Those wounded feelings may be totally justifiable but you can’t find peace when your life is dominated by the power of bitterness. Forgiving to let go of malice in your heart happens by the grace of God. It doesn’t require you to confront your ex.

Forgiveness doesn’t say what happened is now okay. It also doesn’t mean you automatically trust the person again. Forgiving to clear blame and bitterness from your heart isn’t about your ex. Such forgiving is for your own well-being.

What’s more, forgiving allows you to be civil without subjecting yourself to further mistreatment. Being civil is important if you share children. Letting go of bitterness and anger allows you to behave in a kinder way.

Forgiving doesn’t deny that you’ve been done wrong.
Instead, forgiving allows you to keep that wrong from leaving you wounded forever.

The Payoff of Forgiving

Forgiving allows you to clear the anger and resentment out of your heart. Forgiving frees you and brings you closer to the heart of God. Forgiving paves the way to peace.

Talk with God

God, I have a right to be hurt and angry because I’ve been done wrong. But, just because I’ve been done wrong doesn’t mean I want to live my life dwelling in anger and bitterness. Help me to forgive so that I can find your healing. Clear the bitterness, anger, resentment, and hurt from my heart. Help me to stop self-talk that feeds bitterness. Give me strength to forgive and help me to replace the pain with your peace and hope.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NASB)

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About the Author

Renee Smith Ettline, life after divorceRenee Smith Ettline, M.Ed. is founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC, author of Peace after Divorce, and creator of the Peace after Divorce Workshop. Her Peace after Divorce Workshop group study is widely offered in churches and reaches across denominational lines.  She builds on her background as an educational counselor, her Christian faith, and her own divorce experience to light a path for those who need support for healing from divorce.


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