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Choose to Forgive and Grow from Your Pain, Because You Deserve to Be Happy

Sad Man

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself.” ~Walter Anderson

“Are you really okay?” I lost count of how many times my immediate family and friends asked me this question.

My positive, light-hearted attitude seemed to be difficult for people to comprehend, but for me it was the only option and means for survival.

I remember the situation like it just happened yesterday.

I was driving home during a holiday weekend after hanging out with a couple of friends and received a text message stating, “This is his girlfriend.”

At that precise moment, it felt like my heart stopped beating for a minute.

I had to pull over at a gas station to catch my breath and allow the tears to flow down my cheeks so that the road could be visible again.

I responded to the text and told her to call me. I spent over an hour listening to another woman cry and try to understand what was happening.

The man that I had been dating for over a year had been with this woman for over five years and to put the icing on the cake, they live together.

Fact vs. Fiction

Imagine meeting your dream guy at a wedding party mixer. He was handsome, ambitious, athletic, family-oriented, fun, and the list goes on.

He was the epitome of a typical “perfect mate” list so many people draft hoping to find that person.

We had amazing chemistry, always laughing and enjoying good conversations. We spent a lot of time talking about our dreams, ambitions, family, and personal obstacles. It just seemed so easy, perfect in a sense.

He and I both lived in different states, so we made travel arrangements to see each other.

I would complain about us not seeing each other as often as I would have liked to, but his gentle reminder about the nature of his demanding job would quickly stroke my compassionate, understanding side.

It was not until I moved closer that I began to question his behaviors.

Originally, we lived over ten hours apart, but after I relocated due to a job promotion, we were now three hours apart. The excuses about not being able to travel due to his work schedule were a tad irrelevant at this point.

His stories about his car being in the shop, which restricted his travel, and the story about his coworker moving in with him temporarily due to some personal problems did not seem to make sense after a while, but sometimes you want to believe the best in a person despite what your instincts are telling you.

It was not until my hour-long conversation with his live in girlfriend of five years that I realized the extent of the lies he’d told. This dream guy was not the person I thought he was. I had been awakened from the dream.

You Have a Choice

It was at this moment, I had to make a decision. Did I want to react from an emotional, hurt place and focus on my pain? Or did I want to help this woman who had plans to marry this man, who lives with him, who has made many more sacrifices than I ever did to be with him?

See, this woman had been with him to aid him while he transitioned careers, when his family disowned him, when he had nothing. Listening to her story tugged at my heartstrings and made me for a brief minute forget about my feelings.

So many times in life we get so focused on ourselves and do not lend ourselves to be in the moment and hear others. Yes, what happened to me was like a scene out of your favorite Lifetime movie, but my situation was nothing in comparison to hers.

I had the option to easily remove myself from the situation and allow time to heal the wound, while she had to literally undergo a complete lifestyle change.

Life is about choices.

You can choose to stay in bad circumstances.

You can choose to listen to your instincts and your gut feelings that tell you something is not right.

You can choose to support a complete stranger and be the listening ear during their time of need.

You can choose to release a situation—the pain, the hurt, the sadness, the anger.

And more importantly, you can choose to forgive someone you never received an apology from. Forgiving an individual who you feel may have hurt you initiates the healing process.

The first step in the healing process was being able to truly address how I felt about the situation. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to speak to this person to get an explanation or an apology, and I had to learn how to process my feelings without internalizing them.

Using techniques such as journaling and exercising, as well as speaking to close friends and family about the situation, really helped with getting my thoughts out.

However, I believe allowing myself to learn and grow from the experience is what helped me to move forward.

It’s so easy for us to embrace the victim mentality and place blame on other people for their wrongdoing, but this is the very type of mentality that keeps us angry, bitter, and hurt.

There is healing in accepting your role in each situation, and for me that was accepting the fact that I chose to avoid the signs.

I wanted to believe that this person truly loved and cared about me and would never hurt me, so I chose to look the other way, and that is not a demonstration of self-love.

Over the course of time, I was able to embrace the fact that every being is flawed and we all make mistakes. By no means was I or am I perfect, so who am I to hold this grudge and anger toward another being?

At times, I thought to myself this man is delusional and absolutely crazy for trying to live a double life. However, for a brief moment, I realized he was probably miserable and seeking an escape from his reality and at that moment, I felt bad for him.

For me, forgiving this man was pivotal for my life and well-being, because I was able to learn the value of self-love again.

I found strength, joy, overwhelming gratitude, and peace. I also learned one bad relationship is not an indication that every relationship will be horrible.

Choose to grow from your pain and learn to forgive, because you deserve to be happy.

Sad man image via Shutterstock

About Agnes Pagán

Agnes is a Therapist and Certified Professional Coach and Owner of SkyeMari Solutions, LLC, a life coaching agency dedicated to encouraging people to live exceptional lives by embracing their personal experiences and strengths as tools for success. Learn more about her services at www.agnespagan.com. Follow her on Twitter @HiExceptional and Instagram @sayhellotoexceptional.

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  • That’s a great story, Agnes. Thanks for sharing it.

    Not allowing forgiveness is selfishness. If you think about it, the person who does you wrong most probably has the problem. It only happened that they did it to you. Not understanding their struggle and thinking only about yourself, is selfish. That’s hard to do, of course. But it’s true.

  • Nadia

    I am feeling absolutely surreal reading this. Agnes, your entire story is pretty much exactly what happened to me last weekend — except I was the “girlfriend” who had invested more years. When I learned about the “other girlfriend,” the poor girl was couldn’t even believe me. I was angry at that time, but I tried my best to tell her the truth—even if she couldn’t accept it because he was sitting right next to her, lying to her face as well.

    I felt betrayed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed—I still do—and am not proud of my reaction afterwards. I didn’t try to get “revenge,” but I did want some very special, materialistic things back because I couldn’t fathom the betrayal. Since the wound is still fresh, I’m going through all the motions and expect “answers” from him, that I know I’ll never get. I tried, but it’s all in vain.

    This is a very inspiring story. I do am guilty for not trusting my intuition enough, loving myself enough, and ignoring all the red flags. I too feel sorry for this individual who thought he had no choice but to live a double life — but this is because my love for him was true and pure. I’ll feel sorry for him, but this sorry and pity is the catalyst for the self-love that I never thought I had in me.

    Thank you so much and God bless you in your journey. xx

  • Susan Mary Malone

    What an inspiring story, Agnes. And I applaud you for being so open and honest. I just love, “It’s so easy for us to embrace the victim mentality and place blame on other people for their wrongdoing, but this is the very type of mentality that keeps us angry, bitter, and hurt.” That is so very true!
    Thank you for this.

  • You did an amazing thing by listening to her. I admire that. However forgiveness is not always possible. It doesn’t mean I’m playing a victim–although victim shaming is not wise since you don’t know where others are coming from. It’s ok to grieve what was lost, to be angry, and to process. Yes, ultimately, healing and living is the goal. However, after being abused my whole life by parents who are NPDs, who tried to take our child, destroy our family, and sued their 20yo granddaughter is not forgivable. They do things to manipulate and hurt people. I don’t feel sorry for them either. Over the past month, I’ve gotten lots of advice, comfort from friends, and what empowers me in healing may not be what works for everyone. The only person I need to forgive is myself.

  • I disagree. For too long I sacrificed everything, and very nearly my life, because I was raised believing I was bad, I was stupid, and I was not worthy of love. And that’s just the verbal and emotional abuse. I’ll spare you the physical abuse. I don’t give a crap about their problems. When you are a parent you don’t abuse your kids. For the first time in my life I’m thinking about me, taking care of myself and trying to heal very deep wounds. Judge me if you like, but I came out of this, breaking the cycle of abuse, and raising two amazing kids. If that’s selfish, well, so be it.

  • Peace Within

    Hey, I don’t think anyone thinks you are selfish. The point of forgiving is for your own well being not for the person/people that hurt you. I am glad that even though you had a hard childhood you still became a good parent yourself. I really admire that. You said when you are a parent, you don’t abuse your kids. That is ideal, but it isn’t always true. Some people are bad parents. At the end of the day, they are human and human beings have flaws. If people knew better, they would do better. I am glad you are thinking about yourself and taking care of yourself. If you don’t, who else will? Take care.

  • Bullyinglte

    Agnes. A very interesting story. The only true forgiveness is within. I wrote a whole section about how to say “I’m Sorry” in my new book “A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance”. It is never as easy as we want it to be and in many cases we just need to move on. Anger is on us and we can decide to be angry or not. No one else decides that for us. I agree with “The Crafy Angel”, that sometimes forgiveness is not possible against others, but we can forgive ourselves and must move past it to the new day to let go of the pain. That, to me, is the most important lesson.

  • Bullyinglte

    I totally understand where you are coming from, Crafty, and know that I have great empathy for what you are saying. C-PTSD from child abuse may be the hardest kind of abuse to deal with. I can’t imagine the pain it has cost you. But you are right, you can forgive yourself and remember that we all deal with some form of displaced aggression due to how we were brought up. With a little help and a bit of time, we can make progress to get better. I know, just by you sharing, that you are working toward that. Best of luck to you on your journey to health.

  • Thank you so much. Obviously this article struck a nerve, and I have a lot of self-work to do. I apologize for being so defensive. I appreciate your kind words.

  • Thanks, I realize I’m very defensive since I’m just at the beginning of healing. I appreciate your kind words. Of course I know that parents do abuse their children (or God forbid worse). I can’t accept that abusive people get a pass since they don’t know better. In this day and age, child abuse (or any abuse to anyone of any age) is inexcusable.

    You are right, we should be responsible for our self-care, it’s healthy to take care of ourselves.

  • Your book sounds interesting! I volunteer for an anti bullying organization. I’m glad to see more attention given to this subject. Best wishes to you.

  • Barblllm

    It’s one thing to believe that people care about you and love you, but what do their actions show? If their actions towards you reveal that they are shallow, selfish, or unkind, then no forgiveness is necessary–or possible. Forgive yourself for believing in them, and cut them out of your life. Who needs people like that anyway/

  • Bullyinglte

    IMHO, there’s never a need to apologize for your feelings. You own them and have a right to feel the way you feel. That’s OK and you have been through a lot. My only helpful thought is to be able to listen fully as others have been through many troubles too. You are never alone and the internet has made us lucky to be able to communicate together.

  • John Deever

    I’m sorry for your heartache, which must have been very hard. However, I don’t know if it’s acceptable to generalize from a personal relationship setback like that to other kinds of hurts. Your advice might sound nice for some, but for me, it’s infuriating. Grow from your pain?

    Two years ago this summer my infant son died. He was perfectly healthy but suffocated when my wife’s uterus ruptured. She had never had a C-section and thus was not at risk for what happened. If you have never held your own dead baby in your arms, a child who was healthy moments ago, if you have never experienced the grief and anguish and rage at the universe I have, how can you offer such platitudes as “grow from your pain”? Who is there to forgive for this evil, this cruel injustice? Or many others like it. The answer is: nobody. There is only outrage and helplessness.

    This month we learned that my wife, who nearly died during the birth of our son, now has Stage Three breast cancer. Another club nobody wants to be in. Lucky us. She will get good care here, we are just starting, and chemotherapy begins next week. And she will prevail, I dearly hope. But my rage is boundless. I will never heal from the unexpected death of my son. In working with my local hospice and my therapist, it seems most people have a similar experience of loss — the grief that is the price of love will never disappear. Lessen over time, perhaps. But there is no growth or betterment that comes out of such life experience. It is all bad, all of it. How dare you tell me I deserve to be happy.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Oh boy – you are far more compassionate than I can ever be! #HUGSS

    I hope the other lady finds peace in her life too. In all honesty, I hope she has moved on and found someone who truly appreciates her <3
    Kitto
    Kitto

  • LaTrice Dowe

    It’s a challenge to forgive someone who hasn’t accepted responsibility for their actions. It’s even more difficult when they refuse to apologize for the pain that was inflicted on those who didn’t do anything wrong, but to looked past their flaws, and loved them anyway.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Agnes, which was nothing but pure honesty. Life’s too short to be unhappy.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I apologize for the death of your son, John. I apologize for what your wife is going through right now with breast cancer. She will prevail. What Agnes is trying to tell everyone is that life’s too short to live unhappily, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better to remain positive than to spend the rest of your life in misery. Hang in there, and be strong for your wife.

  • John Deever

    Thank you for your kind words, but your apologizing to me for something you didn’t do doesn’t mean anything to me. “Remain positive” is the kind of phony, shallow spirituality I can’t take any more of. I’m mad as hell. And luckily for her health, at least, my wife is the strong one, not me.

  • AnoB

    Losing something you dreamed of is the most devastating thing that could happen in your life. I don’t know the pain of losing a child but I do know the loss of losing the one thing you hoped for the most. I know the torment, suffering, anger, sadness and rage. Horrible things happen and you are angry and ask why?? You have every right to be mad as hell. It is hard to “think positively” about a totally negative situation. I too looked for answers desperately and received generic spiritual answers I didn’t fully understand. I realized, my heart was too raw to conceive it. But I want you to know that I pray you keep on your search for something that will give your soul peace, I am on this journey as well and I wish you the best of luck.I am praying for your wife’s health to be restored as well.

    I never comment but this just weighed on my heart. I can only offer you a few things that have helped me.The word is simply “resolve” it helps because with resolve you let go of some of the anger. there are times when everyone is dealt a bad hand. In life there are things that you can’t get back and you will be sad that they are gone but there are also things that you still have and can be thankful for and should treasure while they are still here. We came into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. Remember that everything we gain in-between is a gift. I recommend reading “One thousand gifts- by Ann Voskamp” She lost her sister and other family members including infant children tragically and is trying to cope with the things that happen in life.

    She writes,” From my own beginning, my sisters death tears a hole in the canvas of the world. Losses do that. One life loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes , lack, deficiency……I know it but I don’t want to: it is a choice. Living with losses, I may choose to still say yes. Choose to say yes to what He freely gives. Could I live with that–The choice to open the hands to whatever God give? If I don’t I am still making a choice. The choice not to.”

    The poem ” After a while” by Veronica A Shoffstall helped me too. With every goodbye you learn (sadly)

    I wish you and your family the best John. I am praying you find strength and peace.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Hey Peace; its so nice to see one of your comments in quite sometime… Miss reading your INSIGHTS!! Hope u have been well?

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “I can’t accept that abusive people get a pass since they don’t know better.” I completely agree with you on that..!! I’m so sorry to hear about all the struggles you had to go through in your life esp with your parents, but glad to hear that you are doing your best not to continue that CYCLE with your children. I also don’t think you are being selfish or defensive by any means; but speaking your TRUTH from your life experience(s)…

    If you are new to our Tiny Buddha; welcome to the family! 🙂 As our Founder/Matriarch; Lori Deschene has said time & again over the years…the main purpose of our community is for people from all walks of life to share their experiences & wisdom — & hopefully find the HUMANITY in ourselves & each other!

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    WOW; that was one of the most thoughtful replies I’ve seen in a long time!! You should actually write more often….

  • John Deever

    Thank you for those kind and helpful words. I will look into those things you recommend, and I admire your compassion. -John

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Very thoughtful post. I understand that remaining positive is impossible, but how else can anyone get through the most difficult time in their lives? You have every right to be angry, John, and I can’t blame you for that. But honestly, I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

  • Hi Crafty Angel,

    I would like to apologize if I made the wrong choice of words and made you react that way. I’d never mean to do such a thing.

    When I said “selfish,” I meant taking hold of all the anger and hate we feel for the person who has wronged us. Instead of letting them go, we continue to let the whole idea hurt us. It’s not that we choose to–those ugly things, they come across our mind from time to time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t let them go. Our mind will remember significant moments in our life, but it doesn’t mean we can’t forgive.

    This is how I see it–one day I’ll be on my deathbed. I’m not sure about others, but I don’t want to manifest forgiveness–in its truest sense–only when I’m on my deathbed. Doing so, when I’ll be probably 70 or 80, would only mean I didn’t allow myself to be free from all the hate, for that long. If I could do it now and it would mean peace, at least with myself, then why not do it? I don’t want to retire with hate in my heart, but more than that, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life holding on to hate, when I know I can let it go.

    I’m sorry to hear about your abusive past. I can’t imagine it; I don’t know how it’s like. And I don’t think you’re being selfish at all–I only think you’re on your way to complete healing, which is wonderful.

    I don’t want to impose anything upon everybody else. I know some things are inexcusable, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t forgive those who do it. I know you may not agree, but I believe that’s the whole point of forgiveness. Forgiving even if it seems wrong. Forgiving when we only want to take revenge. Forgiving those who have wronged us–we don’t forgive those who have not.

    There are people who have wronged me too, and I felt like I wouldn’t be having peace with myself if I didn’t see them pay for it.

    I’ve come across another article that said something like this: Forgive even if the other person doesn’t ask for forgiveness. That woman’s therapist said otherwise (don’t reconcile if the other person doesn’t say sorry), which the woman didn’t agree with. That, to me, is forgiveness–the other person doesn’t need to know you’ve already forgiven them. It’s about coming to terms with yourself.

    As I said before, it may be hard to do. I think we were all conditioned to think that we “forgive” only if we “can.” Of course there is time for all hate, grief and frustration, but if one truly believes that forgiveness does set one free, they will forgive even if it doesn’t feel right.

    I’m only speaking from experience. And I’m being honest when I say that it makes me feel better, it brings me peace–it doesn’t make me feel sorry for myself for having been the victim, or the “playing victim” mentality, but it has become how I now understand the true meaning of forgiveness.

    Crafty Angel, I know you’re doing better everyday. I only hope that you get to see where I’m coming from, without the intention of violating others. Take care. And thank you for sharing your experience.

  • AnoB

    You are so welcome John. Thanks for your kind words as well 🙂 I’m just glad you wrote back, I felt I was sticking my nose in someones business because like I said I’ve never commented before on a post. I’m happy I could help in anyway. Sending happy vibes your way -Andria B.

  • AnoB

    Thanks to your reply I think I may start to write again 🙂 Thank you so much for your encouragement Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt!

    -Andria B.

  • AnoB

    Thanks LaTrice! You are right, I think that more people should understand that its ok to be angry. During my journey no one ever told me it was ok to be angry and when people dismissed my anger it only made me angrier because it makes you feel like your feelings aren’t validated. They are valid, but it’s important to not do destructive things with your anger or make it a permanent dwelling place because you want your world to be happy and it is hard to have a happy life if you keep re-reading your sad stories.
    -Andria B.

  • Lon

    Nadia,
    My wife of almost 25 years confessed to “sleeping with” a coworker for “several months”… someone who had been pursuing her for almost 2 years… I could see what was happening a year earlier, and so I confronted her…. she told me “he’s just a friend” but she never let me meet him. She would say she was working late, but she would be out with him… a friend even told me she’d seen them, and when I asked where she’d been, she lied… I sought counseling for us, but it was never anyone she liked. She moved out, yet she still came to visit me on the weekends for “conjugal visits” and I thought we were working on things… when she finally told me 4 July 2014, I took her hand, and told her “I love you. I forgive you. Please, lets work this out.” she replied “I’ve done nothing to be forgiven for.”… so I filed for divorce.

    She originally told me “he’s too much of a pot head for me to get involved with him.” and then there was “He’s a jehovah’s witness. I could never marry someone like that.”, yet, last sunday, she texted me a photo of the “ring”… Our divorce was official August 8, 2014… 4 days short of 25 years.

    As the anniversary of my biggest mistake (marrying her) comes this Wednesday, I will be gazing into the eyes of a wonderful woman I have fallen in love with… someone I’ve known for over 12 years, also divorced… I contemplate how different my life could have been had I met this woman instead of the one I married, but to think of those things is to doubt the “perfect timing” of our Heavenly Father. I wasn’t “who I am now” back then, and neither is she…

    I only wish the ex wife had been more honest, and not lied to me, and not had sex with both of us for however long that was… I could have been friendly with her, had she not broke my heart the way she did… I have moved on, although the pain is still there… 27 years is a long time to throw away. I have forgiven her, but I could never trust her again, and what good is a “friend” you can’t trust. It’s best I keep her out of my life, as all she’s tried to do lately is blame me for all her recent bad decisions.

    Good luck… I feel as though I’m finally on the right path. I pray you will be, as well.

  • Peace Within

    Take care. Make sure that you give yourself credit for even the smallest steps in your healing. It helps a lot.

  • Peace Within

    Hey! I been good, how about you? Sometimes I just like to read, sometimes I like sharing my perception. Love the articles!

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  • Soul Mate

    Wow, your story is very sad, but i applaud you for taking that decision to file for divorce. Myself i am struggling to leave my girlfriend even though there is someone she calls “friend” in her life. I don’t believe her, but i dont know why i cannot leave her. i tried before but it only lasted for 4 months and i came back to her again. Maybe one day i will conquer the fear and leave for good.

  • BehindTheBeauty100

    This is so similar to what I went through. Through forgiveness I was able to move on and continue being happy.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    I know..glad to hear u been doing well. Its been quite a challenging year for me to say the least, a lot of it I brought it on myself more or less. Regardless, I’m happy to say that our Tiny Buddha Community has been one of the few & yet vital things that has kept me going. So, I’m hanging in there & slowly picking up some of the pieces again…

    P.S. Sorry about the late reply. You should write more often..you often have something very insightful to share about whether its on the articles &/or on things people comment on….

  • Peace Within

    Hey! I hope the year gets better for you. I’ve had my ups and downs. Do things that make you happy, it helps! I really love Tiny Buddha, it helps me out a lot. Also, I believe there are people that think like me on here. I know how it feels when you are picking up the pieces again… The way I see it, I become stronger. Reflecting back to the things I overcome makes me feel good too. Makes me feel like I can make it through anything. Of course it’s never easy. Take care!

  • Nadia

    Hi Lon,
    It’s been almost a year since I commented on this and you commented back. Sorry I never left a reply, but I did read it at the time. I’m curious to know, how are you doing? The seasons have changed, I’ve been feeling much better than I was at that moment in time when I wrote this comment, and I truly hope you are too. I pray that you still feel you are on the right path.. lots of love and wishes xo.