Am I too forgiving? The honest answer is “no”. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is “too forgiving”. We’re all human and our primal instinct is self-preservation. We don’t like being hurt.
If left to my own devices, I would build a large wall around myself. My Fortress of Solitude. It would be easier, that’s true, but also very lonely and isolating.
What I do possess is the power to align my behavior with my goals and principles rather than with my feelings. Believe it or not, sometimes my feelings are a bit erratic and irrational. They don’t serve me very well. Go figure!
I am not an animal but I have animalistic tendencies. When a dog has its tail stepped on, the natural, quick response is for the dog to yelp and take a nip at the person or thing causing it pain. In humans, we call this “lashing out”.
As a human, I’m not driven by instinct. I have much more control over my actions than birds flying South for the winter or the migration of wildebeests across the savannahs of Africa. I don’t need to lash out or nip at the person causing me pain. I can make the conscious choice to table my gut reaction and choose a different response instead. This is one of the things I’ve been practicing as part of my new attitude.
For example, if Husband #2 hurts my feelings or betrays my trust, my normal gut instinct is to cut him off…to deprive him of my company. It’s a two-fold reward for me:
- I remove him from my presence and that minimizes my pain temporarily
- I punish him by taking myself out of our future planned activities…something I know he’s looking forward to.
But this quick response isn’t aligned with my personal goals and beliefs. It flies against my goal of being the better person and practicing my belief in forgiveness. Stonewalling and punishing do the exact opposite of what I want to happen – to create a more open, trusting relationship with the people I love.
Instead of lashing out, my new productive, thoughtful responses would be:
- Voicing my displeasure in a non-destructive way by saying, “I’m disappointed in your behavior.” Hate the game, don’t hate the player.
- Giving the opportunity to make amends by asking, “What can you think of that will fix this damage?” and then coming up with solutions that are not overly punitive
- Thanking him for an apology, no matter if I feel it’s sincere enough or not. I have to believe that he is not inherently evil but comes from a place with goodwill in his heart.
- Offering up what I need to help with healing with statements like, “It would help me to trust you more if you offered up an apology in front of those people you embarrassed me to” or some other relevant behavior.
- Thank and forgive Husband #2 in front of others
And the most important part of forgiveness
- Never use this behavior against him EVER
I realize that this change may be completely one sided. Even if I am successful in making my changes and being a better person, there is no guarantee that Husband #2 will notice or reciprocate. It takes restraint to hold my tongue and keep from telling Husband #2 what I think he should do to repair his relationships…not only with me, but with my children and family beyond.
Rather, I listen and offer up encouragement that follows the lines of “you don’t know until you try.”
Is this an easy change to make? No. But it’s something I’m willing to try to make myself a better person, spouse, mother, worker, and friend. Everyone benefits.