Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Forgiveness is the Wrong Word. How about "transformation"?
A woman, involved in the TRC related to apartheid told a reporter that she was able to come to a place of empathy for her former enemy because he had shown remorse and was as disgusted by his actions as others were. In that moment, she said, he stopped being an "other" and become "one of us".
Forgiveness, she said, was the wrong word. Instead, she called it "transformation".
That's what we're after, isn't it?
We aren't after apologies and promises, though they don't hurt if they're heartfelt. We're after the point where our husbands are as disgusted by what they did as we are. As disappointed in themselves.
We don't want them crippled by it, we want them inspired by it. To be better. To learn from this.
It's within that disgust and disappointment where transformation occurs. It's the place where the seed is planted in soil rich with the determination that allows them to choose another path. To be a better person.
I'm always a bit nervous when I use terms like "better" or "compassion" because it's too easy when you're the betrayed wife of an unfaithful spouse, to fall into the trap of believing yourself ethically superior. To position yourself as someone who would "never" do such a thing, who can't imagine making that choice.
And by doing that, we position our spouses as forever after an "other". Even if they use their painful choices to transform themselves, we nonetheless hold ourselves on the moral high ground.
But as our South African teacher is trying to explain to us, our goal is to invite the transgressor to be "one of us". To release any moral hold on him. To celebrate his transformation as integral to our own.
It's the only way, I believe, of creating a truly healthy relationship going forward. As long as we hold on to forgiveness as if it's a magic wand that only we are capable of using to wipe the slate clean, we remain in a power position, which puts our spouse in a subordinate spot. It's a relationship that's ultimately going to fail. Or at least fail to make each partner happy.
And though I believe that, as betrayed partners, we get to dictate the terms of healing because it is, after all, our healing, I nonetheless think it should be our goal to create space for our partners to become exactly that – our partners.
It's the only way to rebuild a relationship of equals. A relationship in which it's acknowledged that none of us is infallible. That even people deserving of our love can make incredibly hurtful choices.
It's the only way to achieve transformation. His and our own.