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Forgiveness Comes From Without

By Kellie Purcill

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In one aspect of his life, my ex-husband is incredibly generous: he gives me countless opportunities to practice forgiveness. Time and repetition have not made forgiveness easier. If anything, my anger and disappointment have leaked into other areas of life, instead of immediately charring to blackened curls on the most recent act of stupidity.

Leaked, because instead of having charity, there have been times when I have wanted to go and break my hand punching him, and the lack of his address was the only save/spoiler. Other times, I am so bitterly disappointed in myself at being surprised by his behaviour that eucalyptus and lemon scent the air around me, which then cooks into steam in my fury. Then, sodden with my emotions and burdens, I flash fry everything within arms reach in frustrated realisation – now I have to try and forgive myself as WELL as the idiot I once loved.

Forgiveness hurts. Like when it’s left me cramping in a corner, trying to straighten out my fingers, because countless things I’ve forgiven have had my claw marks on them by the time God gets them. At times, the knowledge of how hard I’d have to work to repent and forgive has been the only barrier stopping me from hating my ex-husband. (That doesn’t mean I haven’t straddled that fence, wondering if I could still deliver a good kick from where I’m fuming). Sometimes, the only reason I can forgive others is because sometimes I see them in my sons.

Forgiveness hurts. It hurts right in your heart, and in the middle of your throat, and at 4pm on a sweaty afternoon when you’re struck mute at the beauty, majesty, stench and brilliance of your first born son, who clears his throat exactly the same way as his father and grandfather, and who has a mole just like his Oma’s above his lip. Forgiveness hurts as it burrows into the dry, desiccated threads of your uncertain soul, only to pour out glorias and exultation as your youngest drums out a crazy solo on the soft belly his paternal family has gifted him with. Forgiveness hurts as the love I have for my boys swamps me like an endless ocean, flooding back up the genetic ladder, until I’m unable to hate the flawed, frozen, fragile people that have had starring roles in creating my cruelest memories and – above all, and ultimately – my sons’ bodies, which house such incredible souls.

Forgiveness hurts. It cracks me open, from my furious logic to my scared, scarred heart, and scatters pieces of me into new, aching alignment. It hurts. The cracks are wide, fathomless, gentle and ferocious. The cracks are where the light gets in, swirls, soaks, soothes and – hopefully, thankfully, eventually – sweeps away to shine on others, even those lost in the dark.

Have you ever found your self at forgiveness, from an unexpected angle? How do you stop yourself being furious, hurt or betrayed at someone?

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

18 thoughts on “Forgiveness Comes From Without”

  1. Wow. I am still grappling with forgiveness for some very close relatives who have passed away. Time and distance have allowed me to ignore my problems, but when I examine myself and the situation, I know I am not there at all.

  2. So well put, Kel. One of my favorite quotes is Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past. When that past is continually shown to you in the shape of your loved boyos it makes it so much harder. I hope for the best future for you and your amazing sons.

  3. Oh my gosh! Thank you for such incredibly beautiful, profound prose about a subject to which we can ALL relate…perhaps not to the same intensity? But perhaps that's because I don't have your raw honesty. Thank you for the reminder of the WHYs of Forgiveness. Thank you for baring your beautiful soul. I am SO SORRY you have had to feel such bitterness and experience such horrid actions. Then my heart says, "If such torture bears beautiful fruit, then perhaps someday we will rejoice and know the price was worth the knowledge gained!" (A LONG WAY in the future for most of us!) I will hold your words in my heart for weeks and try to ACT on them.

  4. This made me cry. A friend recently made the comment that living the gospel is easier than not living it. I agree, but it certainly does not always SEEM easy–like saving for retirement is easier than NOT saving for retirement or like forgiving someone is easier than not forgiving them as you so eloquently pointed out. Anyway, thank you for sharing this.

  5. I also have an ex-husband who left me for another woman. I see MUCH of him in all three of our children, but that doesn't make them HIM. I can separate the hurt he has caused all of us from the elements of him within our children, and that takes a lot of time to do. (We have been divorced for 11 years) For me, I had to adjust my expectations. I don't expect him to do anything kind, helpful, or even act like a decent human being when it comes to thinking of any of our feelings. I talk to him as little as possible. I live in a different state now, and the kids fly to see him for spring break and one month in the summer. He knows he is welcome to come here to see them, he just never seems to be able to manage it. He pays child support, for which I am truly grateful, but he seems to feel that is sufficient for his parenting efforts. I don't expect any more from him than that. He is not capable of more than that.

    I think we want to think better of people than what I have described here, but sometimes we can't, or we will continually be hurt. Forgiving someone does not mean we let them continue to hurt us. We need to protect ourselves from those who mean to harm us, and your ex seems to have proven that he is one of those.

  6. I first read this right when I woke up in bad humor directed towards my husband, so it kind of slid right off of my eyeballs, to the keyboard, and left to the realms to the internet. Now mostly repentant and forgiving this evening, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of it. It resonates so deeply. It has taken a lot within me to recognize that my boys are not the dominate features they share with my paternal line (and myself) and fully embrace every aspect of their physical features, coupled with their already fun and trying personalities. Thank you for sharing this – it's definitely something I've thought about a lot and it helps to see, with all my senses through your beautiful metaphors, that there is a way to accomplish this. 🙂

  7. As another single mom, I feel you on so much of this. Especially this line: "Other times, I am so bitterly disappointed in myself at being surprised by his behaviour ". I get frustrated that I still expect better of my ex even though he's proven over and over that that will never happen.

    Also like you, I struggle as I see the things my kids inherited from him, physically but especially emotionally. I liked LLH's comment above about how those things don't make them HIM. I want so much for my kids. Not just for them to be different and better than their father, but better than me too.

    These years post-divorce have taught me a lot about forgiveness as well. I never realized how LONG this process could take, especially when you are forced to keep interacting with the person you're trying to forgive. Hugs across the ocean to you in your efforts.

  8. 2 possibly relevant points:
    1) I believe we can only forgive someone for the hurt they've caused us, not for their behavior that requires forgiveness. We don't have the ability to do that; only Father in Heaven does.
    2) I was taught recently that part of the Atonement is restoring to us in a future time, whatever we lost or had damaged by the actions of another. The Savior's already made that possible. Its another reason to work on emotionally setting that person aside. They & their behavior don't matter, because we will be compensated for what they've done, not by them, but by our Savior. So don't give them power that the Savior hasn't given them.

  9. kel, you are an amazing woman, what a great read , I wish I could write down all the frustrations of past disappointments I think I would have a great book to read. You are awesome kel ,you have got an amazing talent straight from the heart.

  10. The light you've let in is shining on us Kel. Thank you for sharing the joys and pains of your journey. You have so much to offer because of your experience. I love you. And sweetest picture of your boys. xoxo

  11. One of the things I have been feeling lately is a quiet tapping at my soul saying that to hold resentments against others who have bumped up against me in my life is to resent the plan of God in my life…not that He has wanted me to suffer, but He does allow suffering in mortality. I am often not ok with that part of the plan, but the Spirit is inviting me to trust the plan wholeheartedly, to submit my will to have things not hurt and let Him heal my hurt.

    And I really resonated with this: "At times, the knowledge of how hard I’d have to work to repent and forgive has been the only barrier." How I need God's mercy! Again, my natural self fights a lot against the almost clichéd principle that we can't obtain forgiveness if we don't forgive. But I'm also coming to feel that truth differently: That it's not that God will withhold forgiveness from me unless I somehow shape up, but that my heart won't be able to feel the power of His love and mercy toward me if I don't let Him be that loving, merciful God toward others, too. I feel like I'm here for one main purpose — which is to come to know Him.

    And it really can hurt a surprising amount in the process. And yet the fruit, when that light does come through, really is so sweet.

    Thanks for the beautiful post, friend.

  12. Lisa G – Thank you.

    Tiffany W – it almost seems unfair that even people are "gone" they can continue to hurt us and complicate our lives, while we keep on living, struggling and dealing with what they've left behind. May you find calm, peace and success!

    Sage – That's one of my favourite quotes too! Just as well I love it because I'm terrible at doing it. “Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.” – Buddy Wakefield

    Eliana – I hope that dream stays gone for you. (Isn't it amazing when a quote can speak so much to us?)

    Kim – thank you. As painful at times as it is to reflect on and live it, I have learnt so much, and gained beyond comprehension, as a result of the pain. Beauty from ashes can be a welcome (if very, VERY late) reality.

    Ana – I guess it depends on what cost or ease you're putting on the other end of the scales. I love the thought though, I've been chewing on it for days.

    LLH – Absolutely agree with what you've said. Especially about not exposing ourselves to further hurt.

    Hildie – thank you.

    Tay – loved your eyeballs line! Seeing genes tumble down from not/as-loved ones to our cherished ones is HARD, as you said. Here's to kids being their own wild, individual selves!

    KJ – " Not just for them to be different and better than their father, but better than me too." Absolutely! Hugs right back to you!

    SWW – well said. I'm constantly in awe of the atonement and how it works so mercifully for everyone involved.

    John – A great book to read, absolutely. Thank you for reading!

    Catherine A – Thank you. It's a blessing to see how the mess really is working for my good.

    Michelle – oh, I agree totally. I listened to a talk where the speaker said that God has to have an empty vessel to pour His answer into, which I think resonates so well with what you put so beautifully.

  13. Forgiveness has always been my biggest struggle in life. The only thing that put it in perspective for me was a quote from Hyrum Smith : "Forgiveness is in advance of justice." I always wanted the person to know what they did and have some sort of punishment for it before I had to forgive, but I am slowly learning to let it go. I also came to the realization that even if I forgive someone it does not mean that our relationship has to go back to how it was before the offense; it will forever be changed and its finding a new relationship with that person.

  14. Thank you for your beautiful words, made all the more profound because they give insight to such a hard and even ugly thing. Love you.

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