So can you forgive cheating?
We’ve talked about the subject of forgiveness a bunch on this site. Based on most information that we’ve read and from reader comments, it seems that the consensus is that you must try to eventually forgive the cheater for your own benefit and that it will set you free and on the road to healing from the affair.
However, the other day while reading I found a somewhat unique perspective on forgiveness that I thought might make for good discussion/debate.
First of all, what is forgiveness?
I found this in Wikipedia…Forgiveness is defined as the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt’.
Can You Forgive Cheating?
Now, here is the unique perspective that I mentioned:
“It is a common belief that in order to ‘heal’ oneself and your relationship, we must learn to ‘forgive’ our partners for their bad behavior and the pain they’ve inflicted upon us.
This is completely false, on many levels.
Forgiveness is the work of God, not of human beings. Let me make this perfectly clear. YOU CANNOT FORGIVE another human being, you have no credentials to do so. Only God can grant forgiveness. You personally do have and will never have enough information, moral superiority or spiritual advancement to EVER forgive another human being!
Forgiveness implies a cleansing of the person, but in the case of human beings, it is always accompanied by expectations of a change in the other person’s behavior. It is always conditional.
When we say we ‘forgive’ someone, all we really do is put them on probation. We don’t wash them clean of our expectations for a change. Nor do we erase the black mark next to their name in the record book.”
The author goes on to further explain that human forgiveness is always a game. It’s a game whereby if I “forgive” you, the understanding between us is that now I am morally superior to you, and that you “owe” me.
The author says that this doesn’t mean we must live in the morass of pain and loss, though. There is a solution, and according to the author the solution is ‘to release that other person from your expectations of them, and of your (often hidden) contract with them that they must fit and meet those expectations’ – whether you continue to stay in the relationship or not. Otherwise, you will never be free of the crazy whirlwind in your own head that YOU are inflicting on yourself.
Yes, the cheater’s behavior was horrible. But from that point on, it is not the cheater inflicting harm on you. It is YOU inflicting harm on YOURSELF.
To the author then, this basically means that you no longer hold the cheater to the vows of faithfulness. You no longer hold him/her to the expectation you have of his/her behavior. It is not a possibility in your relationship from this point forward. And it is something you will have to live with forever.
So, here are some points to banter around in our discussion this week…
First of all, can you forgive cheating?
What are your thoughts/opinions on this author’s view on forgiveness and its alternative?
If you feel you have forgiven your spouse for their infidelity, what was the effect of that on you and your relationship?
Do you feel that you could find peace and healing by releasing the cheater from your expectations of them – their faithfulness?
As always, please respond to each other in the comment section.
Linda & Doug
If you feel forgiveness is possible and necessary, you might want to click the following link to check out a very good resource from Marriage Sherpa.