Inspiration / The Refined Collective / Wellness

The Refined Collective // Forgiveness

Photo c/o Tutti del Monte

This post is apart of The Refined Collective monthly series.  This month’s topic is on Forgiveness.  Be sure and check out the other ladies who are a part of the Collective:  Tutti del Monte, Chelsey Korus, Nikia Phoenix, Joanne Encarnacion, and Lauren Scruggs.

In my 20s I had a tumultuous relationship with a guy.  We were off and on for a few years.  I’ll never forget the exact moment I knew it was over for good: I was at New York Fashion Week, and sat outside of Lincoln Center between runway shows and sobbed.  I was heartbroken.

Over time, my sorrow became muddled with anger.  I felt so misunderstood and dismissed.  In conversations I would find a way to bring him up and share how he had wronged me.  He was in my debt, and I wanted to make sure everyone knew that!  I wanted him to feel all the things that I felt.

It dawned on me one day that, unlike me, he wasn’t walking around thinking about the ins and outs of our relationship.  Holding onto my pain wasn’t doing anything to him, but it was keeping me in bondage.  I was boiling over with hurt, anger, and unforgiveness.  I was chained to him.

One day my friend Elizabeth asked what it would look like for me to forgive him without the expectation of ever receiving an apology.  What if I let him off the hook, and trusted God to take care of things in His way and His timing?

It didn’t seem nearly as gratifying as having my ex grovel at my feet, begging for forgiveness.  But forgiving him wasn’t as much for him as it was for me.  Forgiving him meant freedom for him—whether he knew it or not.  But it mostly meant freedom for me.

Something felt true about that.

And as much as I tried to compartmentalize my life; it never worked.  The feelings bled over into all the other areas of my life.   I was more irritable than usual, quick to judge myself and others, and impatient; it wasn’t pretty.

If my ex had hurt me, I wondered if it was because he was hurting in some other area of his life—a past relationship or break-up, or maybe something else entirely.  It didn’t mean his behavior was excused, but I started to see how much we all need forgiveness.  We’ve all blown it.  I’ve been hurt, and I’ve deeply hurt others.  We all need forgiveness.

Forgiving my ex wasn’t a one time thing; it was a non-linear process that took years.  I’d never had such a confusing and painful breakup; forgiving him was like an atrophied muscle that needed to be strengthened.  Emotions tend to follow obedience, so I practiced daily and sometimes hourly to choose to forgive him even when I didn’t feel like it.

Over time I realized he was less a part of my thought life.  I had fewer imaginary conversations of how I’d tell him off if I ran into him.  And when his name came up I felt less negative energy.   When anger started to bubble up again, I would acknowledge it and once again choose to let him off the hook.

If we look around at our culture, we can see that responding to injustice and pain with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness isn’t very effective.  There’s a reason why abusers give birth to children who then become abusers and marry abusers.

What if there was a different way?  A path that led to freedom instead of more pain?

I think there is— the way of forgiveness.  It’s courageous to replace pain and anger with love.  It’s humbling to go to someone you’ve hurt and ask for forgiveness; it is the road less traveled.

But our time on earth is limited.  We are here today, and gone tomorrow.  A meditation I’ve listened to repeatedly challenges me with this thought:  Some scientists believe that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old.  And the earth is around 4.5 billion years old while human beings have been in existence for a mere 200 thousand years.  To put that into perspective it would be like you stretched out both arms and your entire wingspan represented earth’s history.  Then if you took a nail file and shaved off the tiniest bit of the nail on your pinky finger, it would be like you just wiped out all of human history.  The dust of a fingernail representing all of life as we know it.

It’s as if we are dust, a spark of light in a room.  A hard year can feel like an eternity, yet we blink and decades slip through our fingers.

So what will you do, who will you be with in your moments on this earth?  What legacy will you leave for those after you?  One of debt, anger, pain, and revenge?  Or will you forge a new path—one of light, freedom, love, hope, reconciliation, and forgiveness?



This post is apart of The Refined Collective monthly series.  This month’s topic is on Forgiveness.  Be sure and check out the other ladies who are a part of the Collective:  Tutti del MonteChelsey KorusNikia PhoenixJoanne Encarnacion, and Lauren Scruggs.

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