Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Forgiveness: A Letter to My Younger Self

Hope Rising 2019 Keynote Speaker: Shelley Martinkus

Hope Rising sold out and limited additional seating was added, so don't delay!

Purchase In-Person Tickets Here! (limited)
Purchase Live-Stream Tickets Here!

Shelley Martinkus' world changed forever when she found out about her husband's sexual addiction. God used Jason's betrayal as a catalyst for Shelley to look at her own life and start to heal all the broken pieces she saw staring back at her. Shelley and Jason are now 15 years into their journey and she likes to say that her relationship with God, with Jason, and with others is better because of what she has been through. She has written one book - Rescued and co-authored two books - Worthy of Her Trust and Understanding and Loving a Person with Sexual Addiction. Shelley, Jason and their three young boys call Colorado home although a part of her heart will always reside in Texas, her native homeland. You can find her at rlforwomen.com where she loves to blog and support women as they heal from sexual betrayal. Below is one of her blogs.

A Letter to My Younger Self:

Of all the pieces of the process that we, as the betrayed, must face head-on, forgiveness is probably the most challenging. Early on in my marriage with Jason, he opened the door into his secret world, told me a couple of things and then shut and locked the door tight. My solution? Forgiveness. I believed that if I could just forgive Jason and move on, the marriage would heal and we could live our happily ever after.

Obviously, I was wrong. And as the weeds of bitterness started to grow in my heart, I realized that forgiveness was not quick, was not easy, and was not as simple as I had always thought. Nor would forgiveness magically heal my marriage.

Oh, the power I gave forgiveness.

To be clear, forgiveness is powerful. And it works. But it doesn't take away pain and grief, nor is it the sole silver bullet we can use to heal our marriages.

I've learned a lot about forgiveness over the last 16 years – not only from my own personal experience, but also with walking alongside others who are working the process. And for that, I am grateful.

Below is a letter written to my younger self in regards to forgiveness. These are the things I wish I could have told myself back then.

Please note that Shelley is a Christian and writes her letter with strong Christian influence and verbiage. We know and respect that not all of you come from faith and we hope you are able to still work through the letter and find the many tools of forgiveness she provides to be helpful in your own journey. We value your involvement in our organization and would never want to see someone offended in their own world view when our goal is to do all we can to help you heal from probably one of the most devastating crises you've ever faced. Thank you.

- The Hope Now Team

Dear Me –

I know you want to do the right thing and forgive Jason quickly – isn't that what any noble Christian wife would choose? I know you want to push the pain down and not have to grieve. I know you want to move on from this nightmare and pretend like none of this ever happened.

To you, forgiveness would take all of this away. You could forgive Jason (for what exactly, you're not sure), and then you could move on. Just skip over this mess that has become your life.

Please hear me say: this quick and easy forgiveness isn't the way to go. If you are using forgiveness to circumvent the grieving process and to push it all under the rug – don't do it.

Listen. Look in my eyes. Hear me say: forgiveness WILL come. You don't need to panic. God equipped you with His power to do the forgiveness work. But first, you must sit in the pain. You must feel the feels. That in and of itself is a big part of the forgiveness journey – being true to how you feel and sitting in it.

You will hear people say, "You just need to forgive him," and, "It's going to make you feel dumb." But you aren't dumb. Forgiveness is for you and it's a gift from God; He will help you get there.

The road will be slow for you. And it will be messy. You won't fully understand how forgiveness works when you are ready to take that leap of faith. You will have your doubts. But God will make it really really clear when the time comes to take that leap of faith. Your job is to trust in Him.

And as you press into your big "Yes" of forgiveness, you will experience a Kairos moment—where heaven and earth collide. Forgiveness will be an act of worship, an act of obedience, as you intentionally let Jason out of the prison cell in your heart.

Try not to panic when you wake up a couple of days later after your big "Yes" and you feel resentment—again. It's not that you didn't do it right; it's just that forgiveness is a process. You will continue to go back to that holy ground and forgive again and again and again – not for repeated offenses, but for all the past offenses.

Forgiveness will draw you closer to God. It will humble you. It will remind you that you need Jesus.

In the end, you will have a newfound respect for forgiveness. You will see how it has worked in your life – how it has set you free. You will also see that it takes sitting in the pain and grieving. You will see that it doesn't mean the pain is gone or that the relationship has been restored. You will see that it's mysterious and something that can't be accomplished by human hearts alone.

So go now. Grieve. Get comfy in it. Cry a river of tears. And be at peace that it will happen in due time.

Love, Me

I am so looking forward to the Hope Rising Conference in Austin, TX on October 12th. You can click here for more information and to register for the conference.

Hope Rising 2019

Along with Shelley, you'll also hear from trauma expert, MJ Denis. See what she has to say about Hope Rising below. If you love what she has to say, you'll love what we have in store for this year's conference. Our team of experts will be sharing on topics like:

  • Sexuality after Betrayal
  • Cultivating Empathy
  • Shame
  • How Cumulative Trauma Impacts Recovery
  • Gaslighting
  • Identity
  • ... and don't miss a special appearance from Samuel and Samantha!

Hope Rising space in person is limited, so don't delay!

Purchase In-Person Tickets Here! (Limited)
Purchase Live-Stream Tickets Here!

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Conference

I have registered to watch it live from home. I wish I had the time and money to fly to TX to be there but this is my way to be involved and learn from these experts. I am really looking forward to it.

Note to my younger self

You should have seen the red flags in personality differences when you were dating and should have run, run, run far, far, far away from your future unfaithful wife. How could you have been so stupid with your youthful puppy love in your early 20s when you knew she was far more into adventures, exciting guys and you were more introverted and stable, but not charismatic. You waited on her hand and foot, doted on her, did everything for her for 17-plus years after you married her until you found out about the 2-year emotional affair.
Why, why, why were you so captivated by her charming smile and her somewhat loving ways early on in the relationship, but then that selfish, narcissistic side that was shown in spurts during that first year-plus of engagement should have been the warning sign.
Now you are trapped you stupid dumbxxxx! Now you have three kids -- two of whom are adults and one left at home in high school -- who have witnessed what an ugly "Christian" marriage looks like. No love, no emotional or spiritual connection, no hope. Now you have to hope and pray that you can salvage something of your life, find an eventual exit plan and maybe, maybe -- if God blesses you somehow, someway -- can find a new woman who will actually appreciate you and love you like you should be loved and treated with respect and affection that has been missing for the past decade. Maybe you can actually find a woman who will look you in the eyes and say "I love you" -- three words that you haven't heard in 7-plus years and have eaten away at your very soul when your unfaithful wife continually says them to the kids, her family and friends at every turn BUT NEVER YOU!
Yes, you should have just taken your 23-year-old self and run or the hills. Now you've wasted 25 years of your life that you'll never get back. Too late. Just too late.

Your letter

Yes, that is true and costly forgiveness you describe, the kind that gives us glimpses into Christ's forgiveness and not the cheap version pushed on so many Christians by their pastors and churches that expect everything to be ok days after disclosure. Thank you for sharing.

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