I’m a divorce Lawyer. At times I feel as if I’ve heard and seen it all. But ten years ago, a woman walked into my office with a whole new agenda, and neither my life nor my practice has been the same since.
Her name was Barbara, and as she was shown to my office, wearing a rather “plain Jane” outfit, I guessed her to be about nineteen and fairly innocent.
I was wrong. She was thirty-two, with four children between the ages of three and nine. I’ve heard many brutal stories, but the physical, mental and sexual abuse that Barbara had suffered at the hands of her husband made me sick to my stomach.
Yet she finished a description of her circumstances by saying, “Mr. Concolino, you know, it isn’t all his fault. My children and I have remained in this situation by my choice; I take responsibility for that. I’ve known the end to my suffering would come only when I decided I’d suffered enough, and I’ve made that decision. I’m breaking the cycle.”
I’d been practicing law for fifteen years at that point, and I’ve got to admit that in my head, I was getting great pleasure from thoughts of nailing that guy to the wall.
“Do you believe in forgiveness, Mr. Concolino?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said. “I believe what goes around comes around, and if we try to do the right thing, good comes back to us. The clients of mine who have withheld forgiveness have withheld it only from themselves.”
Those words were so common for me that they practically spoke themselves. And yet, if anyone had cause to be full of rage, Barbara did.
“I believe in forgiveness, too,” she said quietly. “I believe that if I hold on to anger at my husband it will only fuel the fire of conflict, and my children are the ones who will get burned.”
She gave a tremulous smile. “The problem is, kids are very smart. They can tell if I haven’t truly forgiven their dad … if I am just saying words. So I have to really release my anger.
“And here is where I need a favor from you.”
I leaned forward across my desk.