An important step in forgiving someone is deciding what, if any, action to take after you’ve forgiven. In my book, A Forgiveness Journal, I propose seven steps to achieving forgiveness. The sixth step is Take Action. Note that it is the penultimate step, positioned after you’ve been able to achieve some measure of forgiveness. The action you take is always going to be a more effective, more loving decision if you can act with the clarity of heart and mind that forgiveness affords.
Remember, forgiveness is the attainment of a feeling of peace and compassion toward the person who hurt you. If forgiveness is an uncomfortable term for you, you might try to frame it as acceptance of what happened.
When women ask me what to do about a spouse or partner who has been unfaithful to them, I always recommend attempting to forgive before deciding on whether to separate or divorce.
In the case of infidelity, the decision to leave or stay in the marriage should be based on many elements in the relationship, including past history in the relationship (Has the husband been violent or abusive? Is this the first instance of infidelity in the marriage?) and the presence of children. However, the decision you make will be a better one if you can forgive, even in part, before making it.
Jenny Sanford, wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, is a good example of forgiving her husband, who publicly admitted to having an extra-marital affair, and taking decisive action. She has made it clear that, even though she has forgiven him his indiscretion, it is up to the governor to re-build the trust in their marriage. Last month, she moved out of the governor’s mansion in Columbia, SC with her three young sons, citing the need for separation from her husband and less public scrutiny of her sons. She has left the door open for reconciliation and yet took decisive action.
Whether you have an unfaithful spouse to forgive, a toxic boss, an alcoholic or abusive parent or family member, remember that forgiving that person first will give you power - the power to make a clear decision about your actions.
Stay tuned for more in this series of posts on taking action after forgiving.