How to forgive…Who the heck knows?  Sometimes I think I have but then something happens…

The best part about being a massage therapist is that little face cradle. An incomplete donut that clients put their face in when they are lying on their stomachs.

They can’t see my face and I can’t see theirs. I can have my own private facial responses to what they are saying and they have no idea.

I won’t elaborate because I’m still a massage therapist to this day, however, I WILL say that it comes in handy when I have a runny nose.

I shove Kleenex up and there and because of that glorious donut holding my client’s face, they are none the wiser.

About 2 years ago, I had a client who was new but I knew their partner through massage. I knew the partner was divorced with some kids but had never learned the story. 

As I massaged this new person, they started to share some of their story with me and how they got together with their partner. It involved infidelity. Cheating.


Infidelity was one of the causes of my first marriage’s demise. And not simple infidelity. Grand. Elaborate. Vast. I will limit it to those three words of description. 

And I would have confidently told you, on the day BEFORE I massaged that new client, that I had forgiven my ex and no longer harbored anger, bitterness or resentment.


However, when this person shared the infidelity, I assessed the situation as they lay face down and I eyed the face cradle. 

I envisioned shoving their face through the hole and how good that would feel. Finally, my chance for payback. 

I immediately viewed this person with disgust and couldn’t have cared less if I gave them a crap massage that day. 

They were dirt in my eyes now and I wanted nothing more to do with them nor did I want to do anything to benefit them or make them feel better.

I honestly have not thought about that encounter much until this week. 

For some reason, my mind went down the road of forgiveness and I can’t give you the faintest idea as to why. 

I don’t know what triggered the memory of this client but I realized how deep my hurt lies and, therefore, how much deeper forgiveness must go. I realize I have only scratched the surface in my heart.

I don’t believe I hold onto anger or bitterness or resentment towards my ex. In that regard, I do believe I have let it go and moved on. 

I pray often for him to experience goodness in his life and healing but I think I still hold onto something else and I’m trying to put my finger on it, in this moment, as I type.

I think forgiveness is a continual journey…like working out. You may finish a workout, a program or a goal but you still need to keep working out after that. You still need to choose to put your shoes on. 

You never reach some final level of fitness and health where you can now rest in that state for the duration of your life. It must be maintained and worked on.

I think forgiveness is a maintenance job, as well. I will continually be on a forgiveness journey. 

Every time I encounter someone who did exactly what hurt me in my marriage, I will have a choice.

I will have the choice to dismiss them.
To throw them in the garbage can where I think they belong.
To look down on them. To judge them. To see them as unworthy and unlovable, beyond forgiveness, healing and acceptance.
To choose to not remember that 
they are a child of God and 
loved by Him 
just as much as He loves me.

I also have the choice to deny that, though I may never have committed the offense of cheating, I have a whole binder full of other wrongs I have committed.  

These wrongs may make someone else look at me as garbage, unworthy, unlovable, beyond forgiveness, healing and acceptance. 

We all have our binders. Our own offenses that we’ve committed.

I don’t think I can say that I fully forgive my ex 
if I can’t fully forgive and have compassion 
on the people who walk into my life 
with the same rap sheet as him…or similar.

I remember when Ted and I were engaged, we went out for a nice dinner together. While we were waiting for our food, the ex of someone extremely dear to me walked in with a date. 

He had done things to his ex wife very similar to what my ex had done to me. I had not seen him since the breakdown of their marriage and I immediately felt like I was going to throw up. 

Ted saw me panicking and I quickly tried to explain the situation, as I inwardly prayed and begged God that the man wouldn’t stop to talk to me. 

I’m pretty sure I would have kicked him where the sun don’t shine but, alas, he saw me and avoided me as well.

I’m thankful to say that if I saw that individual today, I would have a much kinder response and less of a gag reflex. 

But that showed the hurt and anger still living inside of me at the time. AND THAT IS OKAY. 

It is ok so long as I’m not content to leave it at that. It is ok so long as I’m willing to do the work needed to slowly evict those feelings from my heart.

I think God understands why my heart hurts and closes up when I hear of someone being the offender in ways that I’ve been offended. 

I don’t think He is mad at me OR YOU. 

I think He completely gets it and wants to hold us close until we can pull it together.

But I’m surrounded daily by people who continually choose to embrace me, love me and forgive me despite my binder. And BOY, have I needed that. 

I couldn’t possibly make up for the hurt I’ve caused so, thank goodness, they have decided to look past it.

And so it is my turn now to look past the binder of offenses others carry.  It does no good to force them to drag it around.  

When my ex was going to trial, they asked if we wanted restitution.  In his wisdom, my dad said to me, “It does no good to force him to pay that back.  It is just a ball and chain around him for the rest of his life.” 

We have a choice 
to put a ball and chain 
around people’s lives or to set them free. 
And when you think about it, 
we receive the same consequence we give. 
If we refuse to forgive 
we put a ball and chain 
around our own life. 
If we force ourselves to let it go, 
we set ourselves free as well.

But as you can see, this isn’t a one time decision. 

I have seen my ex’s face in countless faces since the day we divorced. 

And countless times I’ve had the choice to forgive HIM. 

Honestly, sometimes it comes down to something as simple as choosing to repeat “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, think on these things” over and over in my head till I’m no longer thinking about my hurt. 

Repeat it until the ball and chain is released from my heart.

What about you? Who have you put a ball and chain around? Do you feel the ball and chain in your own life as a result? What would it be like to be set free? Who can you set free? Who has set you free in the past?

May we get on our knees in prayer today 
and unshackle ourselves and our offenders. 
And may we have the strength to do it 
day after day, year after year, over and over…
choosing to set us – and others – free.

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