Dear Suzie, Is forgiveness (letting go of resentments) a decision? Is it a thought, or is it something else? I love him more than myself. But since his infidelity, I’m extremely fearful of the future demon waiting to slay me with another affair. He’s committed to me I know that. But I’m still mad every time my enormous fear strikes!
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Your question is a really good one. And I am honored to help you find the answers you seek. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to approach this by tell you a personal story – about my mother-in-law.
Many years ago, when she was a child, a devastating tornado ripped through my her hometown.
It was the strongest one to have ever touched down in that area. Sadly, the twister leveled many homes in her community, including her next-door neighbor’s house.
She remembers hiding in the basement with her family pressed up against her parents and eight siblings, waiting and praying to survive. The sounds of the howling winds, shattering glass and splintering wood as it tore through the neighbor’s house, creating a state of paralyzing fear and a sense of helplessness for her.
Thank God, her home and family did survive the storm.
But she would spend the next 76 years with a severe (and some might say even phobic) fear of tornados.
She still lives in the same area today.
But for her, springtime doesn’t signal the return of sunshine and flowers. It triggers another season of fear, anxiety, of the past, repeating itself.
Here’s the thing.
My mother-in-law is a highly intelligent woman. But over the years, she’s struggled with her fear.
Members of her family, many close friends, and even therapists have worked to help her overcome this fear.
They told her that (statistically), the odds of a second encounter with another tornado was remote. But knowing the statistics wasn’t enough to ease her fear.
They pointed out that the homes in her current neighborhood were ten to twenty times stronger than the one she lived in as a child.
But just that information wasn’t enough to help her let go of her fear.
Over the years, several members of her church have tried to reassure her that she was living under the grace and protection of God.
But believing in the power of God still wasn’t enough to reduce the feeling of powerlessness that gripped her every tornado season.
Isn’t it interesting?
Logic didn’t work on her fear.
Information about the statistics didn’t remove her fear. Even having faith in a higher power didn’t release her from her fear.
Doesn’t it make you wonder?
What type of fear is so resistant to information, statistics, logic, and even faith in a higher power?
The answer: The fear of recurrence.
You see, I believe that forgiveness and letting go of resentment is easier than most people think. (So easy in fact, that a child playing on the playground can do it.)
And, so when adults, like you and I, are having a hard time forgiving, I suspect it’s not because forgiving is hard – it’s more likely there’s some obstacle preventing us from being able to do what is the natural thing for us to do.
And, as I was reading your question – it occurred to me.
Maybe (just maybe), it’s not so much you are having trouble understanding what forgiveness is, as much as it might be that you’re having difficulty overcoming the obstacles to forgiving.
I started with the story about my mother-in-law because I suspect the same fear that prevented her from being happy is the same one that is preventing you from forgiving.
What’s this fear I’m talking about?
It’s a specific type of fear, known as the fear of recurrence, and you are not the only one to suffer as a result.
So, why do I think this fear might be playing a role in your situation?
Here’s’ my clue: You said” I’m extremely fearful of the future demon waiting to slay me with another affair” That future demon you afraid of? It has a name – the fear of reoccurrence.
So, what exactly is the fear of recurrence?
It means what you are probably already thinking it does. It’s the fear of a traumatic event or experience returning or reoccurring some time in the future.
The fear of recurrence is:
- The # 1 fear among cancer survivors (for many people, their cancer can be gone for decades, but they still struggle with the fear of recurrence)
- It’s one of the critical things that morphs a painful experience into a phobia or neurosis
And it’s also one of the biggest obstacles preventing people from being able to forgive and return to happiness after having had a brush with infidelity.
Consider what I am saying carefully.
You said the commitment is repaired. You also said your love is strong.
This has me questioning whether or not “you not knowing what forgiveness is” – is the real obstacle to you being able to forgive him.
I think the real obstacle for you may actually be your fear of recurrence is interfering with your natural desire to truly forgive him and let it all go.
Let’s see if you agree with my theory.
I want you to ask yourself the following question.
“Would it be hard or easy for me to forgive and let go of my resentments if I did not have this fear of recurrence?”
Please don’t just read those words. Allow yourself to relax, take a moment to pause and go inside your mind – as you picture yourself without the fear of those future affair demons.
What does that version of yourself feel like?
Are you heavier hearted or more lighthearted?
Are you happier or angrier?
Is it easier or harder for you to let go of resentments?
Is it are more likely to be happy or less likely to be happy again?
If the answer is yes, that without that fear, forgiving and sustaining happiness would be much easier for you – then chances are the fear of recurrence is causing a much bigger problem for you than the confusion about what forgiveness is.
However, since you asked – I would like to take an attempt at answering the question.
Your question: “Is forgiveness and letting go of resentment a decision? Is it a thought, or is it something else?”
My answer: Forgiveness is an experience.
And while making the right decisions and holding the right thoughts does help to facilitate conditions by which true forgiveness is experienced, none of those things are forgiveness.
Think about them like the logs in a fireplace.
The logs are needed to create the conditions by which we make fire, but we can’t say that the logs are the fire itself.
So, making the right decisions and holding the right thoughts are ingredients in the recipe for creating the conditions that produce forgiveness – but they are not the experience of forgiveness itself.
In this way, forgiveness is a lot like honey.
I can tell you about it. I can describe it. I can even give you chemical ingredients that go into making honey – but until you have tasted honey for yourself – you won’t know what it really is.
And because forgiveness works much the same way…
Having the insights, understanding, information, and ingredients that create conditions for forgiveness – is only a part of the process. And as lovely as all that is – it’s not until you have experienced the release from fear – that forgiveness gives you – that you can truly comprehend what it is.
Notice: I am describing forgiveness as a release from fear.
And yet, me telling you what forgiveness is and what it is not – is helpful but not what you really need.
What you really need is to taste this freedom for yourself.
Just like a child tasting the honey for the first time, there will be no confusion about what it is or is not.
So, what’s your next step from here?
I would suggest you begin the process of learning what those ingredients are needed in that recipe for creating the experience of true forgiveness.
One way you can do that is by enrolling in my masterclass on forgiving infidelity and releasing pain.
In that class, not only do I teach you about the ingredients needed to create the conditions by which true forgiveness can be experienced, I also help you remove the 5 biggest obstacles to forgiveness (of which the fear of recurrence is just one)
The best part?
You don’t’ have to wait. You can take the class right now. Because all my masterclasses are instantly accessible from anywhere in the world… on any smart device (iPhone, Android, PC, Tablets) and 100% online.
With that said, I want you to do something for me.
Mentally close your eyes and imagine this: (or simply close them after you have read the following)
You are standing in front of two white doors, each representing two possible futures. Behind the one door, is a future where history never repeats itself – in other words – no future affair will even happen.
Behind the other door is a future where affairs do repeat themselves.
From where you are standing today – it’s impossible to know which door leads to which future (after all they are both white doors)
What are you going to do? Well, if you think about it. You only have two choices, don’t you?
Choice A: Open a door and hope it’s the right one (requires the courage to risk)
Choice B: Don’t open either the door. (keeps you stuck in indecision)
Here’s something that might surprise you.
The real pain is not felt by those people who risk opening either door. The real suffering is felt by those who are standing in front of the doors –feeling undecided, stuck in indecision, and too paralyzed by their own fear take a risk on either door.
If being stuck and afraid to move forward is not what you want.
Then I strongly suggest that you open your mind to looking within yourself and find out what is it within you that is greater than your fear of future pain.
Notice: I am asking you to look for those answers within.
Because it’s only by looking inside that you find that “thing” that is stronger than the fear of future recurrence.
My hope for you is this.
I hope that you make that discovery sooner, rather than later.
And when you do, you will be happy to discover that you are not alone. You will join millions of cancer survivors, and other post-trauma survivors (like my mother-in-law) who looked within and were surprised to discover they had for more power over themselves than any past trauma could ever have over them.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!