On forgiveness – a letter to my younger self

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Of all the hoops and hurdles that we, as the betrayed, must face head on – forgiveness is probably one of the more challenging and weighted parts of the process.

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 heartI realized that forgiveness was not quick, was not easy and was not 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 while walking alongside others that are working the process. 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.

Dear Me – I know you want to do the right thing and forgive Jason quickly – isn’t that what any noble and good 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 of 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 new found 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

Will you Join 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.

20 thoughts on “On forgiveness – a letter to my younger self

  1. Laurie

    September 10, 2019  |  12:36 pm

    All I can say is WOW!
    This is exactly what I needed to hear. You have cleared up so many questions I have had about forgiveness. What an impact this is going to have on so many women going through this.
    Thank you!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 10, 2019  |  01:39 pm

      You are most welcome Laurie! It’s funny that you say it will be impactful because I seriously was second guessing myself this morning over the blog post. Thanks for your encouragement. xo

  2. Terri

    September 10, 2019  |  01:34 pm

    Beautiful letter – insights so helpful. Much to ponder. Thanks for writing those thoughts down for me to ponder and read. Things and feelings I have been experiencing make more sense to me because of those thoughts shared. Thanks so much!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 10, 2019  |  01:40 pm

      Glad to hear that it provided some insights for you. Forgiveness is so so weighted and it’s something we all desire. The process just isn’t as simple as we would like it to be. xoxo – Shelley

  3. Joy

    September 10, 2019  |  01:40 pm

    Oh Shelley, this is SO timely for me!!

    There are churchy people mouthing the forgiveness line, and it is sooooo hurtful. Like they expect me to do something harder than they can imagine, for their own peace of mind, so they can go on smiling and pretend everything is okay now, so they don’t have to keep bumping into my/our messiness ….!

    And as if that weren’t enough, they’re also subtly accusing me – while I bleed on their carpet – of having a hard heart, of doing a wrong that is apparently ‘wrong-er’ than the wrong committed against me, because I’m hearing the forgiveness stuff an awful lot more than I’m hearing anything about the atrocity of his sin against me. Where is the “How can we help you? You must be suffering terribly!” – ??

    Of COURSE I want to forgive!! But – like you – I did that early, early on …. and it was a ‘brushing under the carpet’ that perhaps, if I had been a little less quick to “forgive”, we could have avoided a lot of the pain the next 21 years brought …

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 10, 2019  |  01:45 pm

      I hear you Joy! And I think you make a good point that sometimes we are told to “just forgive” almost because it’s so uncomfortable for them (the person giving that advice) versus what is best for us (the person hurting) in this piece of the process. We are a culture of fixing versus listening. A good reminder for me to do more listening. xo – Shelley

  4. caroline

    September 11, 2019  |  05:04 am

    I’m so glad you didn’t second guess yourself out of this post!
    Its really beautiful Shelley.
    I love your vulnerability in struggle.
    I also love your warning of feeling dumb when people say “forgive”.

    To these sweet folks I always want to say, “show me”.

    Show me how
    Show me your scars
    Show me the wound that festered and went septic for lack of care
    Show me the limp that keeps you coming in last, yet you always run the race till the end
    Show me me the empty table where your family once sat
    Show me the charred ground where your home used to stand.
    Show me the statement where you paid in full another’s foolish debts.

    Truthfully, those who are forgiving difficult things (for it is ongoing) are the last to lightly say
    “forgive”, because they’ve seen the cost and know how much they themselves still owe.

    There is only One who can say “forgive”.
    Its The One who has forgiven over and above.
    More than any debt I’ll ever be asked to cover,
    He paid.
    He alone can show me how.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 11, 2019  |  09:58 am

      Amen Caroline! Thank you for your words here. So powerful. When is your book coming out again?! xoxo

  5. Erika

    September 11, 2019  |  07:55 pm

    As I struggle under the weight of recent staggered disclosure and the need to forgive, I am reminded of when I felt the pressure to forgive after initial disclosure four years ago.

    I know that forgiveness is for me, and after the first round of disclosure I was so eager to do that. Unfortunately, it always eluded me.

    During that process, I realized it was like I was chasing a butterfly. Once I sat down and stopped chasing after it, forgiveness became possible.

    So, as I sit here today, I’m waiting for the butterfly to land again.

    Thank you for being real and sharing your heart❤️❤️ I look forward to the conference in October!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 12, 2019  |  01:42 pm

      I love your heart and your wisdom, Erika! Thank you for sharing yourself here – I know your words will help others. xo

  6. Laura

    September 11, 2019  |  08:23 pm

    Can forgiveness come before the grieving is done? I have chosen to forgive all that I know. But I am still grieving! I still cry nearly every day. Though I have occasional moments of anger, I’m not angry with my husband, and honestly have never really been. I’m hurt, but not angry.

    I still have a lot of grieving to do. It’s going to be a long time before that’s done. Does real forgiveness have to wait? I feel like I will grieve, for the rest of my life, what was lost. I lost 25 years of my life to his betrayal, anger and shame. That is going to take a long time to grieve.

    But I feel like I chose love and forgiveness, charity and mercy everyday- or at least I try to. I feel like it’s a choice that HAS to be made every morning when I wake up. If I can’t do that, everyday, then I can’t make it through each day myself. But for the grace of God go I, I know this. Does that mean I haven’t forgiven? Truly forgiven? Does forgiveness only come when the crying is done?

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 12, 2019  |  01:47 pm

      Hi Laura – Your question is a good one and I’d be curious to hear what others think. My opinion is this – absolutely you can forgive and not be done grieving. Like you said – grieving we might do the rest of our lives.

      For me personally, I tried to forgive in lieu of grieving – and that didn’t work. But grieving and forgiveness, I believe can go hand in hand. It’s just some might need to grieve more than others before they say their big yes (or many little yeses) of forgiveness.

      Thank you for sharing your heart with us and asking such an important question. xoxo

  7. Erin

    September 14, 2019  |  06:19 am

    Hi Shelley,
    Thank you for posting this despite your second guessing it! I loved the line: “Forgiveness will be an act of worship, an act of obedience, as you intentionally let Jason out of the prison cell of your heart.” That expresses so clearly what I’ve wanted to put into words. It IS so much an act of obedience and faith and worship to God. And the visual of “letting G out of the prison cell of my heart” really resonated. I remember 2.5 years in, I was ready to forgive as I had finally had the courage to write all that I was forgiving him for. It was so much more than “I forgive you for being unfaithful.” I got really really specific, and things that surprised me came up too: “I forgive you for destroying the dream of what I thought we could have together.”, etc etc. Now, we are rebuilding a new dream. And, despite forgiving him in my heart and telling him so, I still say “I still forgive him” when taunting and haunting thoughts come back around. I declare the forgiveness again.

    I hope to see you in Austin!! What a treat that would be!


    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 18, 2019  |  10:06 am

      Erin – soooo good to hear from you! And I am so right there with you, those small yeses of forgiveness continue to come. It’s a sweet surrender that continues to draw us closer to Him.

      xo – Shelley

  8. Brooke

    September 16, 2019  |  03:40 pm

    Best explanation of forgiveness that I have ever read. Thank you, Shelley.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 18, 2019  |  10:05 am

      My sweet Brooke!!! Love you girl! xoxo

  9. Debbie

    September 18, 2019  |  11:51 am

    Thank you Shelley! I’m fairly new to this journey. The night of disclosure I told my husband I forgave him, but then a few weeks later had to tell him that I was still working on forgiving him. I think that surprised and maybe even angered him a bit. He knows he hurt me, but I don’t think he understands the deepness of this cut.

    Like others I try every morning to start my day saying I will forgive him, but then end up berating myself when I find myself feeling anger, hurt, grief over all the lost years all the broken promises.

    Thank you for posting this and for all those that commented that have helped me to realize that I’m not a bad Christian or a spiteful woman because I’m still working through this in my heart.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 18, 2019  |  12:28 pm

      Thank you Debbie for sharing about your forgiveness journey! Just as the other’s comments are of benefit to you – your comment will do the same for women reading this post. xo – Shelley

  10. Kerry Reddick

    September 24, 2019  |  02:49 pm

    Shelley, thank you so much… tears are flowing… it’s such a process. I look forward to coming to Hope Rising!
    Bless you my friend for all you share as it ministers greatly to me!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      October 2, 2019  |  10:03 am

      Awe! Thank you Kerry! I am looking forward to meeting you at Hope Rising next weekend! xoxo

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