He cheated on his wife. I cheated on my conscience.
Five years later, he reached out to let me know that he was sorry.
I considered not responding, but I wrote back: “No need to apologize,” I said. “I’ve forgiven myself for my immorality at that time in my life. And, I hope you have, too.” I forgave him years ago, after our brief affair. A message from him now felt out of place, intrusive.
Why now? Why did he have the need to apologize?
When the conscience and the ego unite, hindsight replaces the view of the present; an apology becomes their mission, to help soothe the consuming regret.
He continues to feel ashamed of his actions. He hasn’t forgiven himself, so he looks to me to validate his remorse. However, my acceptance of his apology won’t make his guilt go away.
Forgiveness is an inside job.
When we ask someone for forgiveness, we are asking permission to forgive ourselves, while seeking absolution from the other person, so we can let go of our mistakes.
But, the absolution, the permission begins with us. We have to learn to accept our mistakes, our stupidity and our immaturity before we can apologize to others.
I forgave myself by changing my ways.
When he reached out a month or so after the affair, I told him we couldn’t communicate anymore. I was given an opportunity to act the same or act differently. I chose to act differently and that led me to this place, of acceptance.
I also spent a lot of time apologizing in my prayers. I thought of his wife, even though I’d never met her, I felt like we were connected. I imagined curling at her feet, holding them, sobbing. I was weak, I would tell her. I was weak, and that helped extinguish the disgust I felt for myself.
We all transgress, and we all transform, too. It is between those two points that we accept our past behaviors and forgive ourselves; then, forgiveness has the capacity to be accepted by others.
I hope he gets there, and when he does, I hope he says sorry to her. ~Rebecca