This post is an introduction. I said that I would write a post to respond to the inspiring comments from the last blog series and I am working on that, but it is not going to be a single post and I don’t think I will connect them all to the series or even their own series, as there are a few topics, some of which are directly related to the series and others which are more general. I have solicited discussions with friends through email and with some professionals at LinkedIn to assist me as I think through my responses.
The Unconditionals are a Radical Concept. When we think of them, we typically think of our MLCers. Those for whom the alienator was a friend, may include the alienator in their thoughts more than the rest of us. And it makes sense. In most situations the affair destroys the friendship with the alienator; that relationship is dead and will not be reconciled. But as Standers, you are open to a renewed relationship with your spouse. That means the process toward forgiveness, along with the actions, is different. It’s a different kind of healing, different consequences different repairs. With exceptions (I knew of a situation where the alienator was the LBS’s sister) the alienator is no longer allowed in your lives. You are not going to concern yourself with rebuilding a trusting relationship with that person—there’s no point if you are not going to allow the person in your life anymore.
We say that forgiveness is for you, it’s a gift you give yourself, to withhold hurts you…BLAH BLAH BLAH. But let’s face it, there’s a lot more to it when the betrayer is still in your life. Rebuilding Trust is additional to forgiveness and being trustworthy can help a person forgive.
Forgiving from a distance may be like trying to learning to perform open heart surgery by reading books, whereas forgiving while continuing (and rebuilding) the damaged relationship is like learning to do open heart surgery by doing open heart surgery. A lot of unexpected things may come up during a surgery—your healing and returned MLCer doesn’t understand your pain, wants things better now, argues and you (the Stander whose goal is now being realized) may be suddenly uncertain, you don’t know if you can trust again, you keep picturing your MLCer in bed with the alienator… Surgery on an actual patient is a lot messier than reading about surgery.
Grace is For Sinners
Last year I read the book Grace is for Sinners by Serena Woods, a woman who had an affair and is now married to her affair partner—both were married to other people at the time of their affair and both couples had been friends. It’s not a great book—speaking as a writer that is, but then, I’m picky. But I am going to recommend it to you anyway. The book is more about the response of the church toward sinners than the affair and aftermath. But I felt I needed to read something to help me (and you) forgive alienators. I needed to come back to a place of empathy and love and I felt that it would be a good blog topic. But there were some things in the book that were leading me way off topic and so I did not write a post.
I think I should try again and since my house is packed for the move—and the book is buried deep—I won’t be able to get at it until I’m moved—and since we are buying a house on short sale, I don’t know when that will be! But if you read the book, by the time I can write a blog post, maybe we can have a more lively discussion than we would if you guys are not familiar with the book.
I think this is a good challenge given that Serena Woods is now married to her affair partner. Because yeah, that does bother me. It really bothers me! And then I feel guilty because does that mean I’m judging or not really at forgiveness?
Standing is important, but it’s not the most important thing. The Unconditionals come first and they are for everyone: The Unconditionals are for Sinners.
Leviticus 19: 18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Jesus is referring to this when he says that loving your neighbor is the second greatest commandment behind the command to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.