I believe that forgiveness for me, the victim, is far easier than it is for most of you.
And I have a theory why:
It’s because I know Adam.
I know his whole life, “the whole timeline”, and because of that I don’t see him as only “a cheater”.
I see all of him.
I have pictures of him in my home. I have oooed and awed over the adorable baby version of him.
I know the stories of his childhood.
I’ve heard how 6 year old Adam carried his brand-new baby sister, through the snow–from the car to the house–while his daddy was distracted helping in his poor, post c-section mama.
The mother in me cringes at the idea of his toddler arms carrying such precious cargo by himself. And the wife in me recognizes that already, at such a young age, Adam was the kind of person who recognizes a need, (Someone needs to get the baby) and steps in to help.
I have read the story Adam wrote as a ten-year-old kid about the untimely, and far too early death of his beloved PaPaw. My heart breaks for the little-boy struggling with the reality that this man he so adored would never take him fishing again. And I fall in love with the man who still dreams of being, “half-the-man my Papaw was.”
I’ve seen the pictures of Adam from his teen years. And I can guar-an-dad-gum-tee that the shy-silly girl I was in high school would have definitely been falling all over herself trying to grab the attention of the cowboy/skater kid, who dressed like this at his high school prom:
I knew him in college.
(Holy over-plucked eyebrows, batman!)
I’ve witnessed his work ethic, his charity, his sense of humor. I’ve laughed myself silly, I’ve danced at dozens of weddings, I’ve cried along side him. We both have spoken at a handful of funerals and held hands at more than a few grave sides.
I know more than just one side of this man.
And I love him.
All of him.
I’ve also seen in my mind the man he will one day be. We’ve dreamt of retirement together, planned out our future dreams. I can see who he will be, I feel like I know that man already. And I know that the man he will be in 10 years, is a man I will still want to be hitched to.
This thought, this idea of “the whole timeline” has helped me through a number of heartbreaks and set backs.
It helped me get through two terrible pregnancies by BELIEVING in the healthy, happy, non-pregnant woman I knew I’d someday be.
It helped me survive my mother’s passing: knowing in that soul crushing first year–someday the pain will be bearable.
And yesterday, “the whole timeline” helped me take a huge step forward in our healing.
I was talking to a dear friend who shared with me a story about a “person who’d done her wrong” from way-way back and how her feelings of hurt still sideline her sometimes, all these years later.
And she told me about how she wished she would have said something back then.
This conversation came up because I had received an apology letter in the mail, but instead of bringing me closure, like I (and I’m certain the sender) had hoped for. Instead the letter stirred up feeling of anger and betrayal.
I was wrestling with these emotions when my friend told me her story and I just knew, I owe it to the woman I’m going to be in 10 years.
I need to deal with these emotions now.
So: I told my plans to a handful of friends, spoke with my counselor, watched a dozen Ted Talks and googled up a storm, and on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. I sat at a coffee shop across the table from “the other woman” and I did myself a solid.
I forgave her.
But first: I accused her.
(Justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin, and I definitely had to have both.)
I told her I wasn’t there to talk about my husband, I wasn’t there to talk about his affair. Her affair meant one thing to her, but her story has no power over me, my marriage or my happiness. The only version of that tragedy that matters is what was, and is true for us. And that’s all I choose to care about.
No, I told her I was there to talk about how she cheated,
and not on her husband,
but on me.
I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me. I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me woman to woman, and I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me as a friend.
Then I went down the list. I named off the top 5 most horrendous things that happened.
I spoke them out loud.
I looked her in the eye and I named the pain.
I talked about friendship, about loyalty, about trust.
Then I spoke about her: I said that she can’t treat herself like she is worthless and expect others to recognize her worth. I said it wasn’t up to anyone else to make her happy or to keep her entertained.
I told her she was beloved.
I told her she was enough.
I told her redemption is already hers if she’ll accept it. And I told her she deserved to be treated so much better than she is allowing.
I said that I’ve only known her as one thing: a mistress. But, just like Adam, I know that she is more than just this moment in time.
I told her I have no interest in any form of a future relationship, but that I sincerely, honestly, wish her well.
I said thank you for meeting with me…
and I said goodbye.
It took all of about 15 minutes but I believe I changed the course of my future in that brief moment in time.
I no longer have to fight around all of those words clambering for attention in my brain.
I no longer have to live in fear of running into her because I know I’ve had my moment.
I spoke my piece.
(Or should I say: peace.)
I won’t have to carry this bitterness around with my like a ball and chain, and my children will be raised by a woman who is free and clear.
And I am most certain that my marriage will benefit from those short 15 minutes for the rest of its life.
My heart was pounding, my hands were trembling, my voice shook…but I spoke up anyway.
And today I feel free. I feel released.
God opened my prison doors and set the captive free.
Adam is more then just one thing, so is this woman, so are you, so am I.
You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.
I believe that the woman I am 10 years from now is going to look back at the woman I was yesterday and be so damn thankful.
I did that girl a huge favor.
I’m so glad I did it, and I’m SO glad it’s over.
AND let me just say:
I would HIGHLY recommend facing whatever demons are beating you down and do your future selves a solid as well. Honestly, I feel like I’ve discovered a real gem here.
As my final act of friendship to the other woman, I will say one last thing:
There are about a dozen negative ways she could have reacted during those intense 15 minutes of pain and she didn’t employ a single one. She sat in front of her sin, listened to her list of crimes, took ownership for what was hers, and allowed me to heal without rebuttal.
She was brave, she is more, she is forgiven.
She too has a whole timeline.