Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Desmond Tutu on Forgiveness

 "The invitation to forgive is not an invitation to forget. Nor is it an invitation to claim that an injury is less hurtful than it really is. Nor is it a request to paper over the fissure in a relationship, to say it’s okay when it’s not. It’s not okay to be injured. It’s not okay to be abused. It’s not okay to be violated. It’s not okay to be betrayed.
The invitation to forgive is an invitation to find healing and peace. In my native language, Xhosa, one asks forgiveness by saying, Ndicel’ uxolo—“I ask for peace.” Forgiveness opens the door to peace between people and opens the space for peace within each person. The victim cannot have peace without forgiving. The perpetrator will not have genuine peace while unforgiven. There cannot be peace between victim and perpetrator while the injury lies between them. The invitation to forgive is an invitation to search out the perpetrator’s humanity. When we forgive, we recognize the reality that there, but for the grace of God, go I."~excerpted in Spirituality & Health from The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. 


  1. Wondering about forgiveness WRT the OW. I can see myself forgiving her because I recognize that a hurt, damaged person behaves as she did. I have compassion. But I am still angry and occassionally hateful. I want to let go of that anger toward her but I don't know what I need to do to achieve that. I know that the truth and reconciliation/restorative justice movement like in South Africa have perpetrators hear from their victims. Does that make sense in these situations? I don't know if I should even interact with her. What if she doesn't recognize where she went wrong--does that even matter? I just know that i am tired of giving her more importance than she warrants.

    1. MBS - honestly I think it's time. I suspect approaching her would not be a good idea, for you. The sort of people we are (I suspect) if the OW out of humility not narcissism wrote a letter asking for forgiveness I imagine we'd be glad to feel the milk of human kindness and forgive - at least a layer of anger would evaporate. But that's not likely to happen. The OW wasn't thinking about you. You were a non-person. You didn't figure in her decisions.

      I'm not ignoring your husband - forgiving someone who is genuinely seeking forgiveness is different. And even so 'It's not OK to be betrayed.' I'm just reflecting on my own experience dealing with thoughts about the OW, in case it helps you.

      I've no interest in actively forgiving my husband's OW at least yet but this - 'I am tired of giving her more importance than she warrants' was exactly how I felt until a few weeks ago. Exhausted. Frankly I want to be as indifferent to her as my husband is. I don't want to hate anyone, I don't think I've hated anyone for more than a day before this vile experience. After all, the woman has never met me, doesn't know me, may not even know I know about her. But I am angry. I think I have the right to be angry. I am not going to stop being angry or turn my anger into guilt. It's on a slow burn in the back of my consciousness. I find it empowering.

      It's not really in the spirit of this post, but reading this article by Susan Schorn was what turned the corner for me.

      I've never even thought about doing karate, but I think about it now. When I read it I breathed out for the first time in months (metaphorically) because I felt that someone really powerful had my back. I didn't have to justify anything to anyone. I could just say - this is what I think, take it or leave it. I have a black belt (with a literature professorship) on my team, and I wouldn't want to face her as an OW. She is not going to say - 'This is nothing to do with me' or 'Only your husband should have had loyalty to you'. She is going to expect responsibility.

      'I don’t know what kind of fight we’re in, exactly, but I know we’re not going to lose.'

      As you might expect, this relieved me of having to feel personally and individually insulted. It was not my problem - at least it was not a problem I had to carry alone and in silence. Round about the anniversary of d-day (I couldn't remember the date) instead of feeling the need to cling to the furniture, I read it to my husband.

      When I reflect on the quote above I remember that people have to deal with atrocities, this hardly compares. What we may be left with in our case, without a request for 'peace', is the knowledge that we have not de-humanised the OW. We expect her to take responsibility for her actions - even if we never get the chance to see her do so - and this makes her our equal. I think the hate and anger over time will slip away. Forgiving her, or more importantly finding peace, will be easier.

    2. Iris, thanks for posting that link -- great essay. I like knowing there are women out there who haven't been betrayed themselves but are firmly on our team (and are itching to kick the OW's ass).

  2. I just found out my boyfriend has been cheating on me. While we've only been together for 5 months, it was, so I thought, wonderful. He said he loved me, wanted to bring me into his life, his kids life, even mentioned wanting to have more kids (which at one point he said he wanted no more as his kids were past that young age and he didn't want to do the baby thing). I was shocked and yet took it more as he really was serious about being with me talking future (not necessarily actually having kids).

    I confronted him that I knew there were other women, at first he was going to deny it, but realized he was caught. I grabbed all my things and walked out the door. No yelling, no screaming, no scene (his daughter was also in the house). He loaded my car and said "I'm an idiot". I said, "no, you're a liar and a cheater and I hope it was all worth it".

    I truly loved this man and gave him everything of me, unconditionally. We had an amazing sex life. I know he was having love-less sex with other women, but sex nonetheless. And he flat out lied to me where he was going to be - said he 'needed alone time' rather than me coming over.

    So, wanting to find out if this is something new or an old pattern, I called his ex-wife who I'm friends with (she's a lesbian and is in a happy relationship with a woman). We get along great and she confirmed this is not new behavior. Sadly that hurt even more. She has a good relationship with her ex (my current-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend) and said she liked me with him and for his kids. However, if she didn't know him like she does, she'd probably say run. Her advice was to figure out what I want and need and if he's willing to give it to me.

    While this only happened two days ago, the emails (and very eloquent from him) are remorseful there was no mention of him willing to get help. He can't figure out WHY he did such a horrible thing to such an amazing person. I told him to get help. And to tell the other women its over. Why should he still be getting pleasure when he's hurt me (and himself) so bad. Clearly i'm NOT the therapist, but wondering if it's worth it to go to counseling so he can figure out "why".

    I'm looking on the internet (ha) to figure out if he's a cheater or a sex addict. I dont believe he does online porn, but is with women he knows. One has been going on for 2 years (That his ex-wife also knows about and says that I shouldn't be threatened by her - she's in her early 50s and I know she wants more from him, but he wont give it to her - emotionally). But I digress.

    I know i've done nothing wrong. I've been there for him. Communicated with him in a non-threatening way. And sharing my feelings with him - authentically. So, I am not blaming myself for anything here. The only thing I'm not strong enough to do at this point is walk away. I want to fix it, but only if he does. As in him getting help.

  3. Iris,
    That article was rad. It does feel good to have someone on your team. I can't help feeling a little let down by how many people in my real life have responded and supported me (half heartedly, barely acknowledging how much pain I was in, "staying out of it", even buying into the notion that maybe my husband did find "true love.")

    I just started boxing so it really resonates. I am trying to just not "do" anything about the urge to lash out at the OW. It makes sense that I want to, but it also makes sense that I shouldn't. I am just trying to sit with that and acknowledge and process the rage that makes me want her to feel recrimination all around her.

    Thanks for the article. Booking marking it for daily reading.

    1. MBS - cool :)

      Trust me: I'm on your team.

      There is also the urge to punch whoever it was said your husband maybe found 'true love'. Even if they thought he did (if that's how you find true love you can keep it) they did not have to tell you their opinion. I had a girlfriend express sympathy for the OW - 'Poor woman, she was in love with him and he didn't want to be with her' (not that we have any evidence of her feelings) as if the wife of 20 years should buy the mistress flowers. I still can't believe she said this.

      As for lashing out - 'It makes sense that I want to,' yes it does. 'it also makes sense that I shouldn't.' Well, after a while punching something inanimate you won't need to, so that's ok. Keep punching. Enjoy yourself. Feel your own strength. Feel the rage. Be glad you're not her.

  4. People know and understand the difference from right and wrong, we are taught it from a very early age. Betrayal is the only act that is commented that you do not legally have to justify your actions. You don't go into a courtroom and account for what you did. Many BW on this site often say that their husbands do not tell the truth once they are found out and it can take months to get the truth. They are aware of their actions and like a murderer or bank robber they just don't think they are going to get caught, Its human nature to think that other wise no one would commit a crime. The difference is that both adulterers never has to face a court and can still lie when it all comes out and sometimes carry on seeing the OW. Its easy as the person they have wronged has collapsed in both body and soul at that point.

    If they are decent people and once they awake from whatever it was they where in, its only then that I think they realise the harm they have done. I do think that my husband feels devastated and sad for what he has done to me. But then I ignored the signs because i believed he would never have an affair! So what do I know!

    As for dealing with the OW. I went to her house once I had a private detective trace her mobile number, but her husband came out and defended her - she told him quickly once she see my car in their driveway. I waited a few months and from the internet knew that her husband was out of the country and went to their club they own together (part of her business is a wedding venue. so while she was making couples 1st day of their married life pleasant she was destroying mine!!)
    she came out and just stood, she never said a word. Not that I let her as I had rehearsed over and over what I was going to say. I was calm and dignified very unlike me. All I wanted to do was smack her in the face. But I would not give her the satisfaction. Now a year on, I would love to sit with her as I have different questions because I have more understanding that all my feelings are normal and I am not the crazy women that I thought I was in the beginning.

    You need to do whatever you feel helps you in all this mess. After all they did! xx

  5. My goal is peace for myself (as Iris said above). I don't want my rage to speak for me and lead me to act out. I did that a little, and I didnt feel better. Sometimes I still lose it, and I don't feel better. Trying to find ways to release the rage and save my energy for my healing. I also know that the other woman doesnt deserve to be involved anymore in my life. She doesn't get to know about me or my family. Ignoring her makes her as much of as a non-entity as I can. She was just a fantasy object that temporarily soothed my husband while he was in crisis, like a bottle of alcohol. It sucks to be her. She was desperate for attention and flaunted herself infront of her. And he reached for her in desperation to escape his own pain, not because she actually offered anything real. She is not a real person to him and it was not a real relationship. I understandably still obsess about the affair object/her but I know that giving her any attention will give her more significance than she ought to have. It will lead her to think that she was in equal competition with me. As much as I also have this urge to make her feel bad, she doesn't get to be a part of my life and the life of my family. She just gets the sound of crickets from me for now on. I have asked everyone we know in common to keep her out of our way.

    But I am wondering how to reach forgiveness. I believe that by being able to forgive, I get my power back. I know I want that with my husband atleast, but I am not there yet. Is it just a matter of grieving and healing over time? Processing the rage? How do we know we are ready to forgive? What does it look like?


    1. MBS,
      I don't know what forgiveness looks like. I think it's different for each of us. I have often said that I don't think I have "forgiven" my husband. And yet, here I am, seven years later, and I can talk about what happened without pain. I can see my husband through compassionate eyes. I no longer feel much of anything about the OW. I feel...peace. So I guess that's actually forgiveness, though I've never spoken those words to my husband. Being here, day in and day out, giving him the chance to love me, sharing my life with him. That's forgiveness.
      Forgiveness, I've heard it said, is giving up hope of having a better past. It's acceptance that this happened and nothing anyone can say or do can make it un-happen. It's moving forward without wishing ill on anyone.
      I think it happens by focusing on yourself. By holding yourself to integrity. By understanding that hurt people hurt people and that this wasn't about you.
      It happened, for me, invisibly. But, I now realize, it happened.


  6. I haven't forgiven. We're together and doing really well, but I cannot ever use that word. Perhaps one day, who knows. He hasn't asked for forgiveness either. I said on the first day I found out, don't ever ask me to forgive you, its too unforgivable for me. I've heard that I should forgive in order to move on;well considering the bomb that blew up in my heart, I think I'm doing pretty well moving on without forgiving.

    Who feels better when " I forgive you" is said? Both people, the husband who committed the adultery or the person forgiving ? Does it really help forgiving. Has anyone forgiven and then regretted it?

    1. Your question, about regretting forgiveness, leads me to think you don't really understand forgiveness. It's not about the other person. It has nothing to do with whether or not they've done anything to 'deserve' forgiveness. It has nothing to do with whether they even want your forgiveness. It's absolutely about letting go of what they did to you and moving forward. Of refusing to allow their actions to determine your future actions or feelings. It's about letting YOU off the hook.
      Whether or not you choose to forgive your husband isn't about a mutual agreement of culpability. It's simply accepting that he is human and made a horrible choice that impacted you and then refusing to allow that choice to hurt you further. I know it's confusing. But yes, I do think forgiving helps YOU.


  7. 4 months after D-Day. I told him I will probably never forgive him. We are doing pretty well but to be honest, "it" is kind of getting pushed under the rug and we're not dealing with it. His choice, not mine. I am just tired of bringing it up all the time. MC has not really helped. We're just being polite, friendly with each other. Sex was great at first, but has dwindled. He hasn't been able to perform and that causes me to cry, so we just now skip that too.
    Healing??? Forgiveness? I doubt either will ever truly occur, mostly due to his not being able to really look inside himself. He just says it will never happen again and I believe that. He is the type who can just give things up, but I know this isn't really the way to do it.
    To me what he did is too awful to forgive since he deliberately hurt me; he knew better and simply did what he enjoyed at the time with no concern of what it would do to me. I can go on without forgiving him. I don't think he really has earned my forgiveness.

  8. I need an opinion. My husband and I are 6 months post d-day. For the most part things are great. I am very insecure with my weight but am working on losing it. A couple years ago my husband told me he was not attracted to me because of it. A couple days later he said that was not true he was just lashing out. Then 6 months ago I find out he was having an affair. She was small and exotic looking. I know it's over with her and I believe him when he says he loves me. But I have noticed that when we watch TV and talk about attractive people they all have the same look as she did. I told him this tonight. I'm completely opposite of that look. I'm worried. How can he find me attractive when he is attracted to people who look completely different. He said he is attracted to me but never denied that he likes the other look. Am I being paranoid because of my own insecurities? Please help.

    1. I'm sorry for everything you're going through. I applaud you for taking steps to lose weight because it will make you healthier. Please understand that being less heavy does not make men more faithful. So I want you to keep the focus on HIS behaviour, not on your weight.
      What he did was incredibly hurtful. He betrayed your trust. He violated your agreement to forsake all others. What is he doing about that? What has he said about that? What makes you think he's deserving of a second chance?
      I want you to do some reading about why men cheat. And I want you reading smart material, not US Weekly, which has the same warped notion of infidelity that most mass media has. Men do NOT cheat because of how their wives look or even, really, how the other woman looks. They cheat because they like the reflection of themselves they see in this person's eyes. They cheat not because of who she is, but because of who they're not. They cheat for escape. For a distraction from feelings they can't deal with.
      He always had the option of talking with you if he had issues about your marriage. Cheating is never a fair option.
      As for what's attractive and what's not, I like to believe we choose our life partners because of who they are inside, not what the package is like. Do you know why your husband married you? Can he tell you why he married you? Has that reason changed? Is the weight gain recent? Is it a consequence of feeling emotionally unsafe in the relationship? Are you "eating" away your feelings?
      I hope your husband finds you attractive because you're a smart, kind, loyal and interesting partner to him. If it's about your waist size, then he's not the smart, loyal, kind and interesting partner YOU need.
      As for your insecurities, I would urge you to address them for your own happiness. Our culture is so hyper-focussed on appearance but we see so many gorgeous miserable women on the covers of magazines to know that looks is hardly the key to happiness. Figure out what you need to feel good in your own skin. Be kind to yourself. Recognize your beauty. It's there.


  9. Forgiveness to a man who has crushed our sons and daughters life; they both need counselling, parents who have suffered ill health since finding out, a wife that is a shell of the woman she was. Devastation everywhere. I cannot begin to forgive.

  10. I remember saying less than one week after dday…after having sex with him after 22months of no sex...'you always knew I'd forgive you didn't you'...I don't think he answered me...I look back now almost 17 months ago and think what the heck was I thinking when I said that!! My IC asked me why I said that and I really don't know but I think I was as 'foggy' as he was!! So much has happened since that moment and I now know that forgiveness is like peeling an onion...layer by layer...tears and more tears too! I get closer and closer but feel myself holding back...I am not ready to let go and free myself from the pain just yet...does this make sense to anyone? I know I love him...I know he loves me...I know he is so remorseful...but the choices he made were HUGE...luckily our adult children know nothing...only one close friend knows...his AP however divorced her husband in that 2 year time period...that however is her problem and not mine nor my H. Lives changed...forever...I am not sure which layer I am on but I do know that forgiveness will come for me...

  11. I am 11 months post d day #1 and am reading Mira Kirschenbaum's book on trust. At one point she states that at some point you may just say "whatever". Sometimes I just cant obsess any more and just want to move on. I still think about it every day but I don't sob. I still bring it up occasionally but not with the same poisonous words and tone as before.

    And yet, a little voice inside my head says im letting him off too easy. Im condoning it by moving on. Im letting him think its all ok now.

    On the other hand, he says he was afraid I would divorce him if I found out; clearly that was not a deterrent to him having first a year plus long physical affair followed by an emotional affair with someone else followed by a 10 month long physical affair with someone else followed by sexting 2 other women. So why bother making his life and mine miserable with endless sarcasm, bitterness, and resentment.

    No, I am not condoning or forgetting; I am simply choosing happiness for myself and family, realizing that life is too short to hold grudges for this long.

    Good luck to all of us.


    1. Sam,
      I'm so glad you've reached this point. Whatever his issues were are HIS issues to work on. You can't control his actions.
      But, as you've realized, you can control your own. You can ensure that you feel strong enough in your own skin to handle whatever he does (or doesn't do). You're not letting him "off the hook", you're choosing a present and future over a past.


  12. I'm kind of worried I'm really afraid that I've forgiven my H way to quickly. I hope not but now I'm starting to wonder what he might try next. It want be prostitutes. But every so often he pulls a good one I don't know how much more I can take.

    1. Lossing,
      You need to be in counselling to help you through the trauma of all you've experienced. Please find yourself a counsellor who can support you through all this.



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