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How I Forgave What I Couldn’t Forget

“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.

About Patty Richmond

Patty Richmond is a married mother of four adult children, author, and founder of funfamliving.com. Life has brought her tremendous joy through her family, husband, and children. She has also experienced considerable loss and challenges, which she explores in depth in her book Justice Unknown. She hopes to offer hope and encouragement to others as they journey through marriage, parenthood, relationships, and life struggles.

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  • Patty,
    While I can’t exactly relate with the problem, I know how it’s like when someone you know and trusted do something you never thought they would.
    I have a restaurant business and one of my partners just left the partnership, so my remaining partner and I have to deal with the problems on our own. I won’t go any further, but you get the idea.
    Instead of choosing to remain a victim, I’m glad you were able to choose the difficult route and forgive, even if it was so hard that time.
    Forgiving doesn’t mean condoning, but making peace about what happened.
    Forgiveness benefits you, because you choose to let it go instead of allowing it to destroy you.
    I salute you for remaining strong. 🙂

  • Metoo2

    This could be an episode of American Greed. I don’t understand how a person could do this to someone. SMH

  • Juliette Mills

    Patty,

    What a great article. This is something that i’m really struggling with at the moment. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD due to a childhood trauma and am in therapy trying to deal with it now. Forgiveness is something I just feel I’ll never be able to do. I hope one day that I can but it feels a really long way off at the moment but your article is definitely helpful – thank you.

  • Seb

    Patty, thanks so much for sharing. I have tried a version of what worked for you, and with some relief, but the problem is that I am trying to forgive/forget an ex-spouse who I have to have semi-regular contact with because of my sons. Each contact brings renewed hostility that can derail me for days. Any thoughts?

  • Patty Funfamliving

    HI Seb,
    I’m sorry you have to keep dealing with things and especially since it happens around the times you get to see your son’s. My daughter’s boyfriend deals with the same thing. His wife’s lawyer had him put into jail because of a poem he wrote that was misunderstood in a bad way. It’s a constant reminder. Maybe everyone has to find one way of seeing the situation in order to forgive. I’m not a therapist and I’m not sure they would tell you exactly what to do. I always heard “don’t give them the power over you!” At first I couldn’t recognize that and I thought I was loosing my mind and I questioned, why was this happening to me. Finally, when I saw that person as they truly were…small, and terrible, on the inside, I guess I just decided they weren’t going to ruin my days anymore. I hope you find your way and just the fact that you are trying tells me that you will be able to. When I say forgive, I definitely don’t mean like. Because I very much dislike the person who did this. I hope that helps

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Thank you, Nicah. Sounds like you get it also. I’m glad you are aware of how you are benefiting by letting go. This sounds crazy, but sometimes I think of it as one of those games at an amusement park. The game where you have to hit the mole on the head with a mallet and knock him back in his hole! The temptation to run the story through my mind comes back with the emotions sometimes, but I refuse to let it happen! It’s in the past and the future is good.

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Funny you should say that, I thought the same thing! I watched episodes of that and thought that we could really go after this guy with a district attorney, since we couldn’t afford a lawyer. But John got cancer and it took a few years until we had any energy to deal with it. Plus, we decided our sanity and less stressful life was more important, although I think he could be doing it to someone else. If I had the money to do it and the time to rest off the additional stress I would.

  • Patty Funfamliving

    I am sorry about the trauma you experienced. It is sad how many people suffer from terrible things every day. Forgiveness isn’t easy and it takes time so don’t be hard on yourself about it. The best thing you can do (in my opinion) is to continue to enjoy your life as best as you can, considering. I took naps every day I could because the emotions were exhausting. I did that for years. Depending on what it is that happens to people it has to be harder at varying degrees. I wish you the best and hope you continue to find peace and joy in your life as you work out what happened.

  • Seb

    Yes, your thoughts were very helpful, and that you shared them at all, so kind. Thanks so much.

  • Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. I had to forgive a few people in my life from close friends to close family members and like you said it’s a tough journey. But it’s worth it. Not only you find peace again but also the journey makes you stronger. People are here to teach you something about yourself. There is always a lesson to learn. And being able to find peace is a blessing. Even if it’s hard it’s worth it. Because you gain so much abundance in your life. In the end those people are the ones who suffer the most. Like you said they are the ones who need mercy. Resentment and frustration leads to so much pain in the world. Learning to find peace in ourselves is the first step to heal this planete.

  • Starr

    Thanks for sharing your story, Patty. I used to struggle with forgiveness, but don’t now because I decided not to feel obligated to do it anymore. The challenge I have with our conversations about forgiveness is that it has to happen to feel free. Do you think it’s possible to experience all the feelings of granting forgiveness (moving on, letting go of anger, etc) without actually forgiving? That’s where I am now. I continue to be open about all topics of forgiveness b/c perhaps there’s something I’m missing.

  • Thank You for sharing, I struggle with this but your story puts things into perspective. I don’t mean to compare but I’ve never had that heartache that you have been through yet I hold on to this angst towards people for petty things. If you can move on then I need to remind myself that you yourself have found it better to forgive than to hold on. Thank You again.

  • Mac Karanjah

    Thank you Thank you for the shared story. As an empath I could feel this anger. I have gone through this almost the same thing and I can say forgiveness is a struggle. What I now know is you forgive because of peace for yourself not because of the person who wronged you. The path to forgiveness and letting go is something you need to walk with everyday. Shalom!!

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Thank you. I like when you say people are here to teach us something about ourselves. Even though at times I wish I never met them it is a way of learning instead of dwelling on how they wronged you.

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Your welcome! Sometimes the petty things hurt us deeply and may seem petty to others but I can understand why you would hold on to them. Sometimes someone will say something to me that is hurtful but I’m trying to learn not to take it so seriously also. I’m glad you could use some things in the article for your own life.

  • Exactly! It’s a way of directing your energy towards something positive instead of draining yourself.

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Hi Starr,
    I personally believe (since I’m not a therapist), that as you are, you have granted forgiveness. I think it’s possible to move on and let go of anger and decide that the act is a form of forgiveness. A person may move on and not appear angry, but be miserable if he hasn’t forgiven. Then he will not experience the freedom from the situation. I think we have been told for so long that forgiveness means having feelings of love for that person. I think that is unrealistic. We shouldn’t force ourselves be okay with someones actions. It’s more about not giving them the power over our emotions and future happiness, moving on, and realizing in the back of our minds that we don’t know why they did what they did. More importantly, they may not know why they did it. (why they had to act on their greed, selfishness, or inadequacies.) So my forgiveness was a kind of acceptance that this person had human imperfections as me but different and possibly more difficult ones to deal with. When I felt myself feeling sad for the emotional issues he must have dealt with, (an it was a brief feeling of sadness!) I realized my feelings were a form of compassion. I count that as forgiveness even though I will never be able to be friends or even talk to him again because it would bring back the pain every time. I sorta left him off the hook. Some people can forgive in such a way that they can still associate with the person but I think they have a gift of compassion that very few people have. Especially if it was a horrible thing someone did. And sometimes people who go that far may be afraid to move on and are caught in a toxic relationship. Also, we can forgive someone (as in a divorce) and never be with that person again. Not loving them doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven them. I think forgiveness comes in varying degrees and
    meanings for everyone, and considering the offense forgiveness will not always mean good feelings towards the person.

  • Patty Funfamliving

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. I agree, it can be daily, at least for a while, that I have to remind myself that it is over and in the past. My happiness is more important than what he did.

  • AJ

    How is John?

  • Patty Funfamliving

    He is good! He always sees the good side of people and wanted to trust people at their word. Of course he doesn’t do that now but even though this whole thing was a huge disappointment for him he is working as hard as ever and succeeding in his business. He is very strong and his giving and friendly personality will always take him places, I believe. He just keeps his guard up for those who would take advantage of his talents. Thanks for asking!

  • Reshma

    Beautifully written! I know how hard it is forget the major things that pull us down in ways we can’t imagine. But I think with time, forgiving is what works. It just brings peace which is what is most essential!

  • Leandro Aude

    A man gave his son a little wooden board and told him to stick a nail on it for each bad action he had commited. The board was full of them. The father then told him to remove a nail for each good action he had performed. The board was now nail-free, but full of holes. The father then told to his son:

    “Can you see? This board will never be the same again.”