I want to share a story about the power of forgiveness. It begins when I was harboring the deepest un-forgiveness I’ve ever felt.
After four years of dating, my fiancée told me she didn’t want to marry me after all. This felt like such an unfair decision. I had no choice –- no say in it at all. Also, it felt like it came out of left field.
It was such a struggle. I was very angry, and I grappled with intense feelings of loneliness and worthlessness. I’d loved this woman so dearly for such a long time, but after the breakup she seemed so cruel. At least that was how it felt at the time, and I couldn’t reconcile the two images.
I was diagnosed as clinically depressed, among other things. I contemplated suicide. Several times I called suicide hotlines in the middle of the night.
I vividly remember the turning point. I had left a class early because I started to experience the symptoms of a panic attack. I went home to my dorm room and started calling friends. No one picked up. Not even my parents answered, which was unusual. After trying about 30 different phone numbers, I gave up and just wept.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy….” 1 This passage had new meaning for me that night. It became a poignant fact.
Later, still feeling a powerful urge to speak with someone — anyone — I thought of my old Sunday School teacher. It was 11:30 PM, but by that point I was feeling so desperate that good manners went out the window.
I woke him up. He assured me he didn’t mind. Then I just vented for a good ten or fifteen minutes. He listened calmly and patiently. Finally, he asked me a striking question: “Do you love her enough to let go of this?”
The question baffled me. I’d never even considered letting go. She’d let go, which was why I was so angry. Plus, the love we’d shared was so dear to me. How could I let go of it like it meant nothing? So I just talked around his question, probably for another ten minutes.
Then he asked again, “Do you love her enough to let go?” The only response I could think of was, “I never thought I’d have to.” Long pause. Then he answered, “Yeah . . . neither did I.”
I instantly knew what he meant. And it was something much more profound than my insecure rambling. He was referring to his wife of 20+ years, who had passed away unexpectedly just a few years before. Every memory I had of this woman was so warm, so encouraging, so welcoming, and so joyous. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been for him to lose her. So I just stopped talking. What could I say?
He spoke a little more, gently offering some advice. And after we got off the phone, his question, which had been so alarming to me, finally sunk in. I realized, for the first time in months, that hanging onto the past wasn’t loving toward my ex. It wasn’t helping me either. Letting go was actually the most loving thing to do for both of us.
For me, in that moment, this was a revolutionary idea. I realized that I didn’t have to stop loving my ex, which was something I’d feared. I could continue loving in a deeper way by honoring her path, even if it was going in a different direction. Right then, I decided to forgive her completely. And for the first time, it was my decision to let go, rather than having the decision forced on me.
I woke up the next morning feeling freer and more alive than I had since the breakup. I called my ex and, for the first time in months, she took my call. I invited her to meet me at a coffee shop, and she agreed. That in itself was amazing.
Once there, I told her I’d genuinely forgiven her, and wished her nothing but the best. As we talked, she began feeling a huge sense of responsibility for the way she’d been treating me. That, too, was amazing. When I no longer needed to hear an apology — that’s when I got one.
To be honest, we still had arguments after this meeting, and eventually decided not to maintain contact. But we came to that decision together, as equals, in a spirit of unselfishness. And over time, all my scary diagnoses dropped away into their “native nothingness.” 2
This experience remains a watershed moment for me. I learned for the first time what real forgiveness feels like –- and I experienced the gentle way forgiveness allows healing to happen.
By Gordon Myers
FORGIVE 70 x 7
Topics: Dating, Depression, Topics in Focus