“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that their behavior was ‘OK.’ What it does mean is that we’re ready to move on. To release the heavy weight. To shape our own life, on our terms, without any unnecessary burdens. Forgiveness is pure freedom—and forgiveness is a choice.” ~Dr. Suzanne Gelb
I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my veins, my head pounding, and my heart beating faster. Every time I remembered what happened, I either cried or felt a wave of depression. This guy was someone who’d hurt me in a way that I never thought would happen. His deeds affected my family and me for years afterward.
It was a complicated mess that he created, but he still managed to overtake the business we’d worked nearly twenty-five years to build. He took from us the ability to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of which we’d been loaned against our home. He stole all this in a highly manipulative way.
We met this man, a realtor, at my husband John’s parents’ auction. Since the house didn’t sell then, he was able to talk John’s parents into listing their house for sale with his small real estate company.
Through this time we got to know him and his girlfriend, and shared a few visits with them. We went to their wedding, and he came to John’s dad’s funeral. Soon he and John started talking about how they could work on a big project together, since it involved investing, and more people would mean less money for each to put in.
John, being a builder, would both invest and work on the construction of dozens of homes. Both the realtor and John would stand to make a good profit.
The realtor never showed us the paperwork between the developer and the former owner, but he told us that the bank needed four lots as collateral for a loan for the land. We took a loan against our house for the lots, and also borrowed from John’s mom. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. What could go wrong?
We were excited because this meant continuous work for quite a while, and John’s business stood to make a million or more within two to three years. Finally, we got the break we needed to make the business bigger.
After investing much time and money, we began to worry about why the homes weren’t selling, and why the realtor always put off paying John.
We decided to take a drive to the development. Maybe the realtor needed to hire new salespeople who could get something sold.
While there, I looked at the table full of information on the choices of homes to build, the specs, and the info about the builder. I was shocked to see that the realtor had a new building company named on all the literature we’d provided. It was a building company the realtor had started himself.
When we left the open house, John called our realtor friend. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation! We knew there was trouble, but we didn’t know to what extent.
Our contract with the developer stipulated that we had to have sold a certain number of homes within a certain amount of time, or he had the right to hire a different builder. So the realtor just didn’t sell any homes for John to build because the realtor wanted to be the builder and the realtor in the development! We were asked to sign a release form so that our contract would be over.
Sadly, our meetings with lawyers didn’t help us. The realtor had his assets in his wife's name, so there was no money to get if we sued him. There were no houses sold. We thought we deserved at least a piece of future homes sold, but the developer’s and realtor’s lawyers simply said no.
Our only option was to go to court. Our attorney estimated it would cost $30,000. and we would probably win. The downside was that the realtor could appeal the ruling. Then it would cost us another $30,000 to try to win again!
If you remember, we’d borrowed against our house to invest in the lots, and we had no extra money because the realtor hadn’t paid John for a few months. We also had no work because John knew he would be devoting his time to this development. There was only one thing we could do: We signed the release and decided to move on.
We could report him to the district attorney’s office. Hopefully, they would be able to prosecute him for the criminal acts he was doing. But there would be no money back for us, at least not for a long time.
Since we had no work and a huge mortgage, which, amazingly, this realtor had found for us so we could buy the lots, we fell behind on our house payments. Thankfully, within a year John had found enough work to pay the mortgage, but if we fell behind again, our home would move directly into foreclosure.
Looking back, we thought we were friends with the perpetrator. When we realized what he’d done and how he’d manipulated us to push us out of the project so he could benefit, we were furious!
How does a person move ahead in their life when every day they experience something that is a direct result of something the perpetrator did?
Even today, if I ran into him in public, I would avoid talking to him or even being in the same room. I wanted to forget what he did, but I realized that was impossible.
I had the thought of hurting him back, physically, which was a thought I never had before. It scared me. But I knew it wouldn't be worth the consequences.
My husband also mentioned some unsavory ways of getting him back. But he also knew he couldn't do that. I could understand how violence occurs in situations where the person who's hurt can't get the perpetrator out of their mind. It's tough to forget! Am I right?
John worked hard for three years with the hopes that an engineer we hired would be able to subdivide our land and sell a piece to lower our mortgage payment. We didn’t lose hope but pushed ahead. We weren’t quitters and we loved where we lived, so we did everything possible to keep our home.
At the end of those three years, John was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer. He would be incapable of working for a year because of the intense treatment. I was not able to earn enough money to pay the mortgage.
We had to move from our beloved home that we’d built and lived in for eighteen years. It was on thirty-two acres and held the memories of the time we spent there with our four children. We’d worked hard and put everything we had into the property.
It was devastating to lose everything in our fifties! It was a big move backward, and I was overwhelmed at the thought of John being sick and leaving the home without his help.
When you realize that you will never forget what someone did to you, you realize how enormous the job is going to be to forgive.
There were many days that I had to push away the angry thoughts and tears. I had to work and be emotionally available for my kids. But somehow, eventually, I began to think of things in a different light.
The struggle to give up hating someone for the pain they put you through is very intense. It is a battle deep within our very soul and minds.
I had no answers for all the questions haunting me in my mind. Why was this guy so careless about negatively affecting the life of a whole family? How could he spend the energy it took to manipulate us to where he needed us to be so that he could pounce and move in for the steal? How could he sleep at night?
Some people's answer to forgiveness is that you just have to do it! We don't want to live in hate purposely, but forgiveness takes time. If you deny the real feelings you have in order to forgive, just because it's the right thing to do, your buried feelings could cause your emotions to backfire and come out differently later on.
I moved ahead in my life, but not without feeling the pain and working through the emotions.
Somehow I had to figure out how to move on. After all, everyone told me that I just needed to do it! Impossible? Could I forgive him and still dislike him?
I struggled but somehow realized how to forgive. I had the thought one day that people don't always understand the massiveness of influence and hurt they bring upon people. Plus, certain mental disorders cause people to not care about others. Only months or years of therapy can help this kind of illness.
Even when we think someone doesn't deserve mercy, could it be that they do? When I started thinking about why this man would deserve mercy, some of the following ideas came to mind.
Maybe his family treated him badly when he was a child.
Maybe he was taught how to scam people as part of his upbringing or influence from others.
Maybe this person witnessed other adults thinking of themselves first, and he was just doing what seemed natural for him.
Was he desperate for money?
Did greed overtake him?
Could he be mentally ill?
Maybe he had never seen a single ray of true love and emotional well-being in his life. How sad is that?
All these things are the sign of someone who is lost and not able to enjoy real peace in life. Did anyone ever genuinely care for him? Imagine what he has missed out on in his existence. Is he in bondage from adverse actions of those around him?
We have no way of knowing why a person does what they choose to do. However, I believe there is a reason.
I eventually realized, if I could let go of hating this person and what he did to me, by remembering the possible misery of his life, I’d be free from the very bondage that he was also in!
It's a vicious cycle, and I had the option to break it or continue in misery.
I realized that I couldn't live with myself, or love myself, as a person who couldn't love others. And the kind of love for others may only seem like a tolerance at first, but it eventually goes deeper.
I needed to open my eyes to the “why” of this person's actions. If it was hate, jealousy, or selfishness, then I needed to be sad for that person who was unable to overcome those toxic feelings. That sadness for him is what enabled me to forgive and move on.
However, forgiveness doesn't mean I will never have negative thoughts or memories of him. I would have to remember why I wouldn't remain angry toward him. I didn't have to like him, spend time with him, tell him, or think of him. I needed to replace the bad memories in my mind with new plans and experiences for my future. It was a new way to live, and I had to accept it to get through it.
I credit my husband for explaining it this way. When I would bring the situation up, he would say, “I'm finished with that, and I’ve moved on. That is in the past.” In other words, don't let yourself keep repeating the experience in your mind over and over.
Did you ever see loved ones of murder victims, for example, tell the murderer, “I forgive you?” I always wondered why in the world would they do that? But I think I get it now.
We have to ask ourselves: Are we going to give this person the power to ruin our joy?
We see the violence of unforgiveness all over our world today. When people hold on to the resentment, they get angrier until they eventually act out in some way. It can be deadly.
We can hold on to the smallest things that family members and friends do and allow it to ruin the relationship. Maybe the person didn't understand why they offended you. Maybe they were struggling with something you didn't know about and were unable to be a better friend. Is it worth it? On our deathbed will we regret it?
I don't know about you, but I would like to be the person that says, “Hey, I'm not perfect, either. I forgive you.”
So forgiveness is possible. The secret? Try to realize the sad state of mind that person was in when they hurt you.
We are empowered when we are aware of the emotions that can get out of control and make us miserable. The emotions themselves are not wrong. When you feel something, it is real, and it should be acknowledged. But you need to let the anger go.
I know I'm healthier, both physically and mentally, since I've learned to forgive this person and have moved on.
My wish for you is that you take the time to work through your emotions and develop the ability to forgive others. We will always benefit when we let go of anger and embrace forgiveness. If enough people do this, our world will be a better place to live.