Divorce and forgiveness

In relation to forgiveness in the context of divorce, evidence suggests that it is important to address wounds of divorce while they are fresh. It is clear that depression and anger can linger on into the later stages of divorce and life in general. The findings from my study on forgiveness and divorce suggest that depression negatively affects our ability to forgive both ourselves and others.

State anger, or the kind of anger that is temporary and related to the situation, negatively affects our ability to forgive others for the period of time that we are focused on negative appraisals of the situation and person. The most harmful of all is trait anger, though, or the kind of anger that turns inward and becomes deeply ingrained into our sense of self and expectations of the world. This kind of anger can become part of our personality and it is particularly detrimental in relation to the capacity for self-forgiveness.

The time just after divorce can provide a window of opportunity for exploring alternative thought/feeling patterns and reinforcing them so that they become part of a new understanding of your life. A new frame on life can allow the story of your past to rest within you, yet invite a fresh chapter that both includes and transcends the past.

Learning and practicing mindfulness and forgiveness helps in gaining a sense of internal locus of control and a mature pathway for dealing with anger, and this improves our emotional and physical health and the lives of those we touch.

Take some moments to notice the patterns of your breathing and to notice, without judgment or attachment, painful or joyful experiences that trickle through you. This is the beginning of what it means to be mindful. Mindfulness naturally nurtures compassion. Out of compassion comes an easier road to forgiveness of self and others. There are particular forgiveness or compassion-building practices that you can engage in, if you so choose.

My favorite practice is metta, or lovingkindness meditation. For further information and training in metta practice, a couple of pioneers in bringing this ancient practice into current hearts are Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg. Lovingkindness meditation involves centering in the heart and envisioning loving intention for yourself, for significant others, and expanding loving intention even to strangers and to those for whom it is difficult to do so. You focus your attention to expand this feeling of lovingkindness to the entire world, to existence itself. It is an extremely powerful practice. I highly recommend it.

The importance of engaging in these types of practices cannot be stressed enough. The divorce rate in the United States continues to remain at high levels. More violence is committed in domestic cases than in any other. Hate and revenge continue to destroy lives. In light of this, it is important for us to continue to explore how forgiveness affects divorce and to consciously engage in practices that both include and transcend our prior histories.

Again, forgiveness is not condoning, nor does it mean that you enter back into an abusive or toxic situation or that you even have contact with another. It is a gesture of impartial beneficence. In moving the direction of your attention to this impartial beneficent stance, you will walk differently in the world, with more confidence and integrity, and it will greatly improve your life and the lives of others.

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