Between Tiger Woods’ many affairs, former presidential candidate John Edwards denying being the baby daddy to his mistresses’ two year old child, Charlie Sheen’s alleged domestic violence and Governor Mark Sanford’s highly publicized tryst in Buenos Aires, people have been asking me a lot about forgiveness.
While marital infidelity is never acceptable, there is a big difference between an impulsive, one time, drunken mistake and an ongoing, lengthy affair that involves ongoing lies and deceit. It was not surprising that Jenny Sanford filed for divorce last month given the level and frequency of deception in this case which was off the charts and from which it would have been nearly impossible to recover.
Thinking about forgiving someone who has harmed you? Here are the four “R’s” I recommend you examine before deciding whether or not to forgive:
- Take responsibility. Has the person taken responsibility for their actions or are they still blaming, accusing or making excesses?
- Show remorse. Does the person seem genuinely sorry for what they have done or are they just paying you lip service? Do they seem to genuinely understand why what they did was wrong and how it has harmed others?
- Take steps to avoid repeating the same kind of mistake. What is being done to assure the same mistake is not going to happen again? Has the person started therapy or religious counseling? Has s/he agreed to stop spending time with someone with whom they have experienced temptation? Has s/he agreed to be open and candid with information, emails, cell phone information or remove him/herself from social networking sites?
- Work to repair the damage. A commitment to the relationship and working to repair the damage caused are important parts of moving forward. It takes time to heal broken trust.
There is one exception to all of this and that is domestic violence. Domestic violence is a deal breaker. Regardless of promises, it is likely to escalate and can end in murder. According to the FBI, one third of all murder victims are killed by an intimate partner. If you are experiencing domestic violence you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 for help.