…80 percent of what we see when we look at a person who recently wronged and deeply wounded us must lie behind our eyes in the memory of our pain. We filter the image of our villain through the gauze of our wounded memories, and in the process we alter his reality.
The Art of Forgiving by Lewis Smedes
Following the discovery of Ann's affair she became the wrong she did to me. Mostly what I saw when I looked at her was a dark wall of pain mixed with red hot streaks of anger. When I didn't see that I saw only a liar and adulterer holding a knife dripping with my blood. The gauze of my wounded memories distorted the image of who Ann really was.
I knew she wasn't perfect. She could be short with me or the kids occasionally. She could have a tough time saying no and get overcommitted and overinvolved with a bunch of worthwhile projects. A little gossip slipped out here and there about a co-worker or friend at church. But infidelity, cheating, sex with another man? No, no, no she would never go there. When it came time for her pants to slide down her legs she would certainly remember me and our vows. An affair? Nope, she's not capable of that.
She certainly was and is. So am I. So are you and so is your spouse. Every person on this planet is capable of heinous self-centeredness. Initially, through that gauze of wounds that's all I could see.
I saw Ann through a different lense before I found out about the affair. I saw her through a view that was more about how she made me feel. I wanted her to be who made me feel the best. I wanted her to be always happy, always glad to be with me, always pretty so that life would be easy. I wanted her to be my Easy Button. That's not love. That's me attaching a hose to her and sucking the life from her into me.
Through these skewed lenses at first I saw only what made me feel better. Then I saw only what hurt like hell. Moving through forgiveness meant dropping the lenses and getting a clear picture of Ann's humanity.