After another loud, red-faced argument with my husband, I retreated to my corner to mentally reassert my rightness and curse under my breath. Our angry words hung in the air like trapped dust. We’d had too many of these arguments lately, and I hated how I felt. Like a shrew, the kind of woman who makes a scene in public and you watch, shaking your head and thinking, How could she do that?
I hated too the inevitable aftermath: hours, days, of silence, polite avoiding of each other in the hallway, sleeping separately, and the only words spoken questions about food preferences or schedules of the car use.
I tried to meditate but my anger kept erupting, an inflamed tooth. The litany of his “faults” and “mistakes,” kept revolving in my head like a giant restaurant batter mixer. I could feel myself growing weaker physically, drained from all that anger.
Desperate, I cried inside, Please, help. Almost immediately, words came:
Love Forgive Listen Trust
That the answer came so quickly felt miraculous, and the words themselves comforted. I started to meditate on each of them, and insights surfaced.
I’d lost sight of my love and appreciation for my husband. Now I was reminded of the many, many ways he supports me and, beyond all my worst, still loves me.
I replayed one of our early meetings at a local city café. It was raining, and I got there first and took a small table. I pretended to be busy as I rummaged in my handbag and waited, trying not to glance every other second toward the door. I began a list of to-dos, and when I finally looked up, he stood there, rain beads glistening on his hair. I caught my breath. Adonis in a trenchcoat. That is the image, my heart speeding, I relive and keep.
Love really is the foundation, the ground. Whatever other accomplishments I produce (for me writing, publishing, publishing, writing), if my anger at him sticks like old gum, I feel no joy in acceptances. They may be momentarily gratifying but they’re empty without sharing with him.
To regain love, I’ve found, is to forgive. I forgive him for all his perceived mistakes, large (backing the car into a tree) and small (socks in the hall). For all his forgettings and repeatings, all his activities my fearful time-driving ego deems needless or time-wasting, all his actions my stern mother’s eye judges short of done or done wrong or imperfectly. For all the words to others I hear him say and I would have said differently, all offers to them I wouldn’t have made, or would have made differently. For all, for all.
Forgiveness takes humility and pride-swallowing. It takes admitting that we’re not always right and must continually correct others, especially The Other. It takes opening our minds to more than our habitual view of being and acting in the world.
Why forgive? So many reasons. Unforgivingness rivets our energy in hate, resentment, fury. We consume ourselves with our red righteousness. We leave little room, mental and emotional, for other things, especially interests and pursuits we’ve always sworn we want. But we’re too busy replaying the other’s misdemeanors and felonies to devote our mind and energy to our own worthy desires.
Unforgivingness takes its physical tolls too. Our body chemistry changes with our thoughts, for well or ill. As Emmett Fox says, “Resentment, condemnation, anger, desire to see someone punished . . . rot your soul.” It’s an accepted medical fact that these negative emotions contribute to today’s dreaded ills—cancer, heart disease, hypertension, all the –itises.
And unforgivingness hangs in the air around you like radiation poisoning. You can’t outrun it, cover it, or neutralize it by false-floral antidotal sprays that dissipate within seconds.
But you can listen. For guidance in how to forgive—what to say and do, how to respond differently, how to see things differently. When you listen in quiet sincerity to your True Inner Voice, you always hear the answers. As I heard those four words.
When I listened out of despair at my corroding rancor at my husband, so I pledged to listen inside more. I listened for guidance in seeing him whole. Seeing him as unlike me and celebrating his uniqueness. I listened for seeing myself whole too, letting go of that strict and constricting rightness and instead becoming patient, accepting, opening to differences.
As I listened, I asked and waited. In our instant-want society, we rarely wait and allow answers the space to blossom. But the answers are here, prompted to conscious life by our asking and waiting. The listening leads to sure action that heals. I listened, waited, heard, and finally acted.
Finally, with listening surfaced trust. Trust that what I hear truly heals. That what I battle and rage against are the lasers aimed at my own embarrassing places to learn and soften. That what I mightily and futilely try to correct in my husband are the mirror-lessons for me. That they will continue to face me and reflect on me until I face them down.
What I label and lament as these bad experiences with my husband are here because, on some deep level, I asked for them and got them. It’s time to be grateful and learn from them.
So now, with a huge deep breath, I trust. That I will continue the practice of loving, forgiving, listening, and trusting. That the most accepting and nourishing thoughts have surfaced and will continue to surface for us both, and the most nourishing and supportive words will be said at the right times. That all apparent irreparable rifts are nothing more than imaginings, tiny tears that knit like small cuts of their own accord in the strong fabric of love.
And I trust that I can apply this quartet of assuredness—love forgive listen trust—to any other ripple with my husband or anything else in my life.
© 2014 Noelle Sterne