Kandi Hall . . . I had met her many times. She had held my baby and apparently been on dates with my son. She had willingly and with perfect knowledge defiled my family. She had slept with my husband. My anger toward her was boiling. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t stew about what I would say to her if given the chance. Every time I was driving in the car, I would internally rehearse the conversation I would have with her. I knew our paths would cross eventually. It was inevitable. We lived in a fairly small town, and our houses were only a few miles apart. I had many friends tell me they saw her here or there, or that they were in line behind her at the grocery store. It was going to happen . . . and I was going to be prepared.
Well, that day inevitably came. I craved it like a lion craves its prey. I dreaded it, and yet I needed it to be. I felt it coming every day for a week. Everywhere I went, I could feel her getting closer. I searched stores for her and checked the driver of every car I passed.
Tiffanie called that week and said she was on her way to our house, and that Shawn and I needed to make hotel reservations so she could come and spend time with the kids. In other words, she was kind enough to realize that we needed some newlywed alone time.
It was fun having a weekend to get away and not think about parenting, or any of the daily tasks that occupied so much of our time together . . . or the trial. It was like a two-day-long date, which made up for the months we had hardly been alone for a second.
While on our getaway, Shawn and I were out for lunch, watching the big Boise State football game at THE RAM. We hadn’t been there long and hadn’t even gotten our food yet. I was looking around for a bathroom, and as I turned to look in the other direction . . . there she was. She was walking into the restaurant with a friend. She looked exactly the same as she did the last time I had seen her at Emmett’s office, and she was smiling as if nothing in her life had ever gone wrong.
I flipped around and almost screamed at Shawn, “She’s here!” He looked over his shoulder and let out a few swear words. Both of us huddled down in our chair in shock. I started shaking and hyperventilating. My whole body went cold and limp. I couldn’t breathe. Once again, it felt just like the detectives were sitting on my leather couch telling me the whole story of my husband’s murder. Her, him . . . the affair. My chest stopped working and my heart tried to stop beating.
Shawn rubbed my back as my panic attack took over. I was so light-headed, I thought I was going to pass out. How was this real? As much as I had craved the chance to give her a piece of my mind, how was I going to spew it out if I couldn’t even breathe?
Shawn put his arm around my shoulder and whispered into my ear. Over and over again he said, “It is going to be okay, Ash. Breathe . . . everything is okay. I am right here. I promise I will protect you. Breathe. Please take a breath. Be calm, Ashlee. I am right here. You are okay. Nothing is going to happen to you. Breathe.”
With the help of Shawn’s words, I calmed down enough to take a full breath. I leaned into him and said, “Shawn, I have been waiting for this. I will be right back.” I got up to go confront her and Shawn grabbed my arm. “Ash . . . this isn’t the time. Your anger at Kandi is not going to change anything, and your going over there in this restaurant is NOT going to end well. Please, let’s just leave and forget that we even saw her.”
I looked him in the eyes, my body still shaking. “Shawn,” I replied, “I have been waiting for this opportunity every single day. I have rehearsed in my mind exactly what I’d say. I have been given this chance, and I am not about to let it pass. She has to hear what she has put me through. She needs to hear about the pain my children have endured. She needs to know exactly what I think about her, and about what her selfishness has done to my family. She just got seated across from us in this restaurant, and I’m going to take that as a sign that she needs to hear about all the emotions and pain in my heart. I am not leaving here until every word of it is said today.”
His eyes didn’t leave mine. “Ashlee. I love you. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I don’t think you should do this. However, I am here for you and I support you.”
I was still trembling, uncertain about what I should do. “Shawn, I am going to go into the bathroom, but I promise you, I’m coming back out and I’m going to let her have it. She deserves this, and I deserve to give it to her.”
I went into the bathroom without her having seen me. I ran into the stall, hoping to let my tears out so I wouldn’t break down in front of Kandi. But no tears came. All I felt was anger. I prayed for the words to say, the words that had been storming around in my mind since the day of the murder. I whispered out loud the pleas of my heart. “Heavenly Father, I know that I need to forgive this woman who has wronged me, and yet . . . my entire body is shaking because of all the hate I feel for her. Because of her, Emmett stepped out on me. Because of her, Father, I was made a widow. Because of her, I have had many sleepless nights, sometimes because of the taps on my shoulder from my children paralyzed by their own fears. Because of this woman, I have felt immeasurable pain and heartache; and because of her . . . Emmett got shot. And today she is here before me, and she needs to be held accountable for all the pain I hold in my heart. This is my chance. This is a gift I’ve been given to let her know of all the wrongs she has done to my family and me. Please give me the words to say and the power to address everything she needs to hear. Please let me have this chance to put her in her place. I need this moment to help me heal. I have craved it every day. She needs to hear the words that have built mountains inside of my heart. Please let me have this moment today.”
In the silence of my bathroom stall, I didn’t receive the peace I thought would come about my proposed plan of action. The only feeling that came to my heart was, “Ashlee BE STILL. She didn’t care then, and anything you say now won’t change a thing. She will not be affected by your pain.”
I almost stomped my foot in rebellion. “No . . . please. I need this! I need to scream and slam things on the table. I need to tell everyone in this restaurant of the heartache she has caused my family. Please. I am going to go out there, and I need to let this out, so I can let it go.”
I had made up my mind, and regardless of the impressions I’d received . . . I knew I would regret it if I just walked away from her.
So, I marched myself out of the stall. I was not going to let this chance pass me by. This woman had to hear from me about the mess she had made, and I wasn’t about to spare anyone’s feelings, including Shawn’s.
I walked over to her table and our eyes locked. Her friends began to laugh. Kandi had a look of fear on her face, but there was also a defiant look of “you can’t hurt me!” She didn’t say a word. We just continued to stare at each other.
Chills covered me; Shawn said he could see my heart beating in every vein of my body. I have never felt so much fear, sadness, anger, hatred, and pure disgust in my entire life as I felt as I stared at the woman who had not only slept with my husband, but whose husband had shot bullets into the head and heart of my children’s father.
Just staring. A minute went by. Shaking, staring. Just as I felt in the bathroom, I realized that this woman didn’t care about me. I felt hopeless as I stared into her eyes and saw nothing in return. Still staring . . . waiting for the words I thought she might say; hoping to release all the pain I held . . . waiting for her words.
I threw my hands up in the air, and without a word I turned back toward my table. Shawn—patiently waiting and hoping that I would finally take a breath—had our food all boxed up and ready to go. He grabbed the bags and motioned for me to follow him. I did not take my eyes off of Kandi the entire way out of the restaurant. I walked away with all those words I had scripted out in my mind still stored in my heart.
Forgiveness was in walking away.
All the words in the world weren’t going to change the past. My forcing her to see my pain was not going to release it from inside of me. I was just going to add one more thing to the list of things I still had to overcome. The last thing I needed was to add something I needed to repent of to my list.
Regret. I knew I had done the right thing, but where were all those words supposed to go? For the next two hours, Shawn drove us around as I screamed out everything I had wanted to say at the top of my lungs. Everything that woman deserved to hear . . . but which wasn’t worth my spouting off in hatred.
Forgiveness for me was walking away. Forgiveness wasn’t going to come to me by making a scene in a restaurant full of people. And though in that moment, it is what I wanted to do almost more than anything, I would have regretted it.
Forgiveness doesn’t come to our hearts through angry words, but it would start to come to me as my Heavenly Father blessed my heart with peace for doing the right thing in that moment when I wanted to carry out my own will.Forgiveness doesn’t come to our hearts through angry words, but it would start to come to me as my Heavenly Father blessed my heart with peace for doing the right thing in that moment when I wanted to carry out my own will. It came through trusting that God had the power to heal my soul. It wasn’t Kandi’s words that would help me find peace; it wasn’t the screaming and yelling I craved to do that would help me let it go. God had the gift to bless me with power from the Heavens in a vulnerable moment when I felt like crumbling and screaming and making sure that woman knew what was in my heart.
I grew a little taller that day, knowing that I had the power . . . not her. She would no longer control my thoughts. I was going to live with a purpose . . . and that was no longer going to be spent searching the town for her. The power I had been giving her had only brought me more heartache. She didn’t own any part of me. That power was going to be for me. That energy was going to be used for good.
Being able to forgive doesn’t come just from hearing the words “I’m sorry.” Kandi Hall will probably never say those words to me. It is not through her actions that I can forgive her for the pain she has caused in my life.
Being able to forgive is a gift from God that we can only receive from Him.
As we seek to follow His counsel and rely on His timing, we can feel peace no matter how or by whom we have been wronged. Forgiving is a process and not something we check off a list. We will find a need for its power over and over again. It is not a magic pill or a one-time event. But each time we do it in our Heavenly Father’s timing, we will gain a testimony of its power and feel its healing in every aspect of our lives.
I never knew how much strength I really had inside of me until that moment I walked away. I saw myself as a warrior laying down my weapons of war. I have never lacked knowing exactly what to say when confronted or put on the spot. My weakness has always been knowing when the heck to shut my mouth.
You have mountains to climb in your pain, but also waters to tread in your river of learning to forgive. We all do. If you are barely keeping your head above water, and waiting for the other person to throw you a life raft . . . stop. There is a life raft already keeping you afloat. You do not need anyone else to help you find peace. Jesus Christ’s atonement is as real for the sinner as it is for the abused. It is our life raft. Whether or not the person who has wronged you ever comes to you with an open heart to ask for forgiveness, you CAN let it go. You do not need their life raft to keep your head above water, and you do not need their “I am sorry” to heal your heart.
In the New Testament (John 8) we read the story about the woman taken in adultery who is brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. The Savior says to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Jesus doesn’t look up, but continues drawing in the sand. As the accusers all depart, the woman is left alone on the ground waiting for Jesus to condemn her. He finally turns to her and says, “Where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” The woman looks to him and replies, “No man, Lord.” Then Jesus simply says to her, “Go . . . and sin no more.”
We are all sinners waiting for Christ to forgive us for our sins so that we can let go of them and become better people. And yet, we have also at times been among the accusers, waiting for permission to cast the first stone, unable to forgive those who have wronged us. However, many of us are waiting for someone to come and show us how to let go of our fear, and to trust, love and forgive the sinner. In this parable, Christ didn’t say go and harbor all of your pain and never forget that you messed up. Furthermore, He didn’t send off the accusers with the idea that they should throw stones at this woman every time they saw her. He didn’t ask them to stand above her. He simply reminded them that they, like her, were also imperfect.
That day at the restaurant, the words I had planned to speak would not have been kind, and all my eyes could see was hatred . . . but I chose to walk away.
As we go about this life, sometimes we will be the woman taken in sin. We will be the one waiting with tears in our eyes for someone to still be able to see our worth. We will mess up, and at one time or another, we may lose sight of our goals. Our mistakes may even make waves in the lives of others, or they may just cause us to struggle without impacting anyone.
We will snap at our partners. We will get frustrated with our two-year-olds. We may fight with our fathers, or sneak behind our mothers’ backs. We will say unkind words, we will think degrading thoughts. We may even lie, steal and cheat at times to get what we want.
Whatever it is in your past that has humbled you to your knees, look to the Savior’s encouraging words for hope that even you, in spite of your imperfections, can change the course of your life. “Go and sin no more.” Even if you tripped over your shoes today, tomorrow is a new day. Take one step forward and be a little bit better tomorrow. Today, you may have slid down the mountain of your life, but tomorrow, you can still try to keep working your way up to the top.
It may be words that help you forgive those who have wronged you, or it may be silence that reminds you that you have the power to forgive. Even in the moments when you don’t want to stand tall . . . do it anyway. Sometimes standing tall takes courage, and other times it only takes humility. Walk away.
Questions to Ponder:
- How can walking away empower you and help you to forgive?
- How can seeing our own weakness and mistakes help us to forgive?
- How seeking and listening to inspiration help to quell anger and foster forgiveness?