Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Forgiveness

I just watched a segment on the Today Show, and it was about forgiveness. A divorced woman, Victoria Rosner, who'd been left by her husband while she was pregnant, and later she allowed this man back into the life of her son. At the time, this father had been diagnosed with cancer, and was asking to be involved with his young son. Victoria tells her story in the New York Times. Victoria details the anguish she felt, but in the end, she allowed the dad to be involved and participate in their son's life, even though there was pain involved. She allowed forgiveness to prevail.

My question is this: Why does it seem so difficult to forgive? And what negatives or positives go hand in hand with forgiving? How does this apply to situations of mixed-orientation marriage?

First: Why is it difficult to forgive?

When a spouse comes out, it hurts us, really causing heartache and trouble in our lives, and we have legitimate gripes. Many of us know how heartbreaking it is to realize life can't go forward the way we planned it. We are at risk of loosing our family, our status, our incomes, not to mention the loves of our lives. It feels like we'll never get over it - after all, we've been wronged. When that someone is one we've loved and trusted, it aches in physical and emotional ways. All these things can give us justification to hold on to how we've been wronged.

Often, gay people live double lives. For the straight spouse, this might be the most devastating realization of all. Whether this is known for a long time or a short time, it damages trust and feels like nothing is real, or has been real. The details of the actions of the gay spouse cause real damage to the spouse, the family/children, and often in financial ways. Ongoing problems are often the most difficult to forgive.

Many of us, as church-attending, faithful Christians, have grown up and matured to think and believe that being gay is a sin. This belief is as much cultural as it is religious. However, professional organizations have drawn the conclusion that being gay is NOT a mental disorder, nor is it something that can change through various therapy, prayer, or any kind of effort. If we look honestly at those who are gay, we have to know that they didn't choose their sexual orientation, that they cannot be other than who they are, and it is impossible to hold it against them. (I often say that the Bible is a book to guide our lives, but it is not a sex manual.)

Positives/Negatives

One reaction is to hold it all inside. Many straight spouses go into the closet when a gay spouse comes out. (Read Amity Pierce Buxton's, "The Other Side of the Closet.") It can be isolating to live alone with this truth: My spouse is gay! What am I going to do?

Bitterness can consume us. We can talk up the situation with friends, re-hashing how bad the actions were on the part of the "wronger." Sometimes it might feel great to make ourselves the center of attention, joking at the actions of someone who behaved poorly. At church, for example, how easy it would be to point to the actions of someone who walked away, turned their back, or acted selfishly? And, it can be, in a strange way, comforting to have sympathy from others.

But what happens, and how would that feel when the friends take off, and you have to live with no one but yourself to re-hash? Which member of our families would be better off if we behave that way? What good would be served? Does it really pump your ego to frame the "ex" in a bad light? Will it help make him or her a better person? Ask yourself: Will it make ME a better person? Would it be worth the brief inflation of your own ego? I'd say, "no."

The right thing to do...


Victoria Rosner had to decide whether to allow her young son to connect with his father, after he behaved badly and had had no part in his life for the first two years of the boy's life. She consulted with many people in her circle of acquaintances:
I queried friends, relations, professionals: What would you do? The responses were mixed. A friend said: “How could you let him back after what he did? He doesn’t deserve to know his son.” My mother said, “How can you refuse what might turn out to be a last wish?” And my therapist just said, “You’ll know the right thing to do.”


She knew the right thing to do, and she permitted the father and son to be part of each others' lives. Sadly, the father passed away, and there was even more to deal with: how a pre-schooler deals with loosing his Daddy. Sad, all the way around.

For so many straight spouses, you have been "done wrong." Perhaps you always knew something was amiss. Perhaps you even knew before you were married that your spouse was same-sex-attracted. But so often, one doesn't know, and things happen that are damaging to the relationship - you have every right to leave the marriage. Then again, maybe it's just that the gay spouse needs to leave the marriage, even though they have never engaged in relations or a relationship outside the marriage. In any case, you are the recipient of negative feelings, and you need to forgive him or her of the real, damaging, hurtful wrongs done to you. I understand how you feel.

I get a lot of questions because I have forgiven my ex-husband. In a way, I didn't even have to forgive him because I chose to understand. Even so, I decided early on to NOT hold it against him that our marriage was to end. I decided early on to NOT implicate him as responsible, because he did not choose to be gay. So, I forgave him for what? For being honest? Or for not telling me sooner? Yes, for all that, and more, which I had to give up: an intact family, a life-partner, status at church and in our community. Income. His company day-to-day. ALL that changed, and I forgave him.

I now benefit from a free conscience and relief of not carrying with me the heaviness of being a victim. I benefit by being able to hold my head up and talk openly about my situation, but without vengeance. I benefit with an ongoing, healthy relationship with my ex, and I don't blame him for our break-up. With forgiveness I can go forward, hoping that I've done the best I can with a difficult situation. I think forgiveness is worth that kind of living. I recommend it.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh I pray I can come to the state of forgiveness you've reached, but right now all I can feel for this man is pure hatred. Hatred for all the lies. The verbal and emotional abuse. Hatred for telling me he was working late, then fussing because dinner wasn't hot on the table the minute he walked in, when in fact he'd been with a man. Hatred for telling our children I never tried to save our marriage when in fact there's nothing to save. Hatred for contesting our divorce when he originally told me "I won't fight this. I will make things right." Hatred for publicly assassinating my character. It's so hard not to hate when the person you loved turns into a monster.

I ask God to help me forgive him and I pray my husband finds his way back to God.

I enjoy your blog and your heartfelt and well-thought-out posts.

God bless.

Crystal said...

Just linked to your blog through the Wikipedia page on Ray. As I was sitting here watching the Gospel Hour I DVR's on GAC tonight, I heard his song 'Thank You' for the first time. I'm on a spiritual journey right now & this whole episode just really tugged at the heart strings tonight. So I was a little sadenned to You Tube the video & see such hatred spewed towards Ray. Anyway, just wanted to share. It never ceases to amaze me how we can all live in our own little 'bubbles' and yet we think everyone knows our "laundry". I know I do. When something happens, it is easy for me to think "Oh Lord, everyone is going to know"... but this is a prime example of the fact that although our world is often "small", we still live in a large, large world. I had no idea. The music spoke to me & that's ALL that matters. God Bless. I know you've been through quite a journey.

Laurie Lunsford/ Entrepreneuse said...

I hate the hateful feelings that can rise to the top. Forgiveness is definitely a process. I am glad when I can keep my mouth shut about wrongs done, because then when I have healed and I can look at things more factually, I don't feel bad.
Carol, it has been a hard way to go and has taken a long time. More growth to come. Your relationship with your ex is wonderful. I have deep respect.

Carol said...

Anonymous - I'm so sorry for the pain your ex has caused, and I know you can find peace through all this. Not easily, I know. I'm so glad you found the blog, and maybe there's help to be found somewhere in the links or the resources. I hope so.

Crystal - I appreciate your kind words, and your kind heart. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Laurie - you've been with me through so much of this. Thanks for every time you try to understand :) It means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think that woman forgave the guy and let him have contact with is child out of concern for that child??? Anything other than concern for that child is really just self centered adults acting like children.

And I guess if no real wrong was committed against you as in your case (if you believe homosexuality to e a God given gift) then what do you have to forgive???? I have had to forgive people because they sinned against me. If they didn't sin against me, then there is nothing to forgive and I'm just being a big baby about it. If you believe homosexuality to be such a gift, then really, shouldn't Ray be forgiving YOU for preventing him from realizing his "true self" for all these years??? Something to think about.

Carol said...

Dear Anonymous (of Jan. 29) Of course Ms. Rosner's concern for her child was a critical factor, but she still could have chosen, like many divorced parents do, to restrict communication with her former husband for a variety of reasons. That's how people act, right or wrong.

Your next comment seems rather facetious, and I don't think you are serious. I'm going to ignore your lack of understanding as ignorance rather than meanness.

Carol

Anonymous said...

God led me to your site tonight. During lent at our evening service our worship team has been singing Feel the Nails. That song sends a message out!
In the foyer, I heard several of the older ladies talk that we need to stop singing that song because of Ray's lifestyle. I left church tonight furious. What sin are they without that they can cast the first stone?
I grew up close to Muncie and I rededicate my life to Christ at a concert that Ray had. It was a very powerful concert and strong message was sent out. I don't know where I would be at today if it were not for that Friday night.
In my later years (I am 40 now). I moved to Chicago and I became known as a "Fag Hag." I met a lot of great men that became my best friends that were gay. I had people tell me it was wrong for me to associate with them. They are humans too. I was not going to scorn them. They have been there for me when others would not give me the time or day. They knew I did not approve of their lifestyle. The ones that left their wife and kids had no sympathy from me. But, I did not turn my back on them and I pray for them daily and they all know that!
I am a survivor of very severe domestic battery. I refuse to say I am a victim. I moved on in life and did not pity myself and it made me a stronger woman. It was my gay friends that was there for me. That helped me out of that relationship and to be a survivor not a victim. My girl friends did not understand what I did to be beat and have broken bones and bruises.
It was this one gay friend that told me the only way to get past the abuse was to forgive him. I wanted vengeance and not part of forgiveness. But, I did forgive and I feel so much better.
Yes, I still do have my gay guy friends. Jesus still loves them and not their sin. Again, they know my feelings.
I am sorry for what you and your children went through. When I found out about Ray it was hard to imagine. But, my prayers went out to you and your children first and then I began and still do pray for Ray.

God Bless!
Mary