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What I Learned About Forgiveness When Religious People Rejected Me

I knew my marriage was over the day my husband found my intimate text messages with another man. But it had begun unraveling long before that —and a painful betrayal was still to come.

How did we get here? I thought I had found the perfect man —that I was marrying my best friend and that we would grow old together. Looking back, I see all the red flags I ignored: our toxic codependency. The bullying. The neglect. I felt unheard and undesired. Who I was as a person was never enough.

Jolés I should have just sat him down and told him the truth: This isn’t working. We’re hurting each other. But I was too wrapped up in other people’s opinions. So, I kept acting like we were the perfect church-going couple, all the while secretly looking for affirmation in an emotional affair. I knew it was wrong and that none of my husband’s mistakes justified being unfaithful. But I did it anyway. Things went downhill fast after my husband found the texts, and the following year I finally had to accept that my marriage couldn’t be fixed. We decided together to get a divorce.

It felt like the end of everything. Could there possibly be a way through the nightmare? With peace so far out of reach, it felt like condemnation, shame, and bitterness would finally break me.

I felt

1. People don't get to decide what is unforgivable.

I was picking up the pieces from my failed marriage, trying to find my footing in a whole new world as a divorcee, when the second bomb dropped. My pastor called me while I was working at a photoshoot. I’ll never forget his words, “Because you refuse to reconcile with your husband, your church membership has been revoked.”

My jaw dropped. There, in the middle of the set, I sobbed in anger and disbelief. I thought I was at rock bottom before, but this was a new low. These were the people who were supposed to love me through my hardest times. How could they disown me right when I needed them most? And if God’s people had rejected me, didn’t that mean that God had rejected me, too?

My childhood tendency to let people push me around had carried over into adulthood. A big part of me couldn’t help accepting what people said about me as truth. And the message I heard from these legalistic religious leaders was clear: I was beyond forgiveness. Afraid of facing even more judgment, I pushed away my church friends and family, canceling plans and ignoring phone calls.

But they didn't let me go. Friends like Chrissy and Kayla and Tymarcus refused to give up on me. They lovingly wore down my defenses and listened as I talked and cried and even screamed. I resisted their support, but they kept showing up. In their unwavering loyalty I saw the grace I felt so unworthy of. There will always be people who condemn and abandon the hurting. But I started to wonder if maybe the best picture of God’s love isn’t what a pastor who doesn’t even know me told me over the phone one time. Maybe God’s love looks more like the regular folks who prayed over me even when I didn’t want it and stuck with me through it all. Maybe his love and forgiveness are too big to be limited by human opinions.

2. God offers forgiveness freely, but I have to accept it.

“Ask God for forgiveness,” a friend urged me. She knew I didn’t want to —that I was scared he would say no. Still, she insisted. “Just give it one more shot.”

Knowing something isn’t always the same as believing it. My friends reminded me that God loves his children unconditionally and that every one of us falls short of perfection. He knew about my unfaithfulness before I was even born, and he still loved me. Divorce is not unforgivable.

But if I believed all that, why was I awake at midnight, stomach aching from stress, feeling like used goods? Some part of me still wanted to deserve it, to be good enough to earn it, and I knew that I wasn’t. I was ashamed of the part I played in my marriage ending and thought God had to be disappointed in me. After all, the Bible says that he hates divorce. How could he hate divorce and still love me?

I hadn’t been to church in almost two years. I could not have felt farther from God. But that night in my room by myself, tears streaming down my face, I begged him,”Lord, please forgive me. And please show me how to forgive myself, because I don’t know how.”

Peace rushed over me, and a weight was lifted. I realized that God had forgiven me long ago; this incredible relief came from finally accepting it for myself. I had to let go of guilt and shame and rest in the reality of his forgiveness. I could stop carrying the weight of my sins, my divorce, my anger, and my emotional affair, knowing that they were all paid for. The journey was far from over, but that night was a turning point. I can never be good enough —but thanks to him, I don’t have to be.

3. Because I have been forgiven, I need to forgive.

Like a virus, anger has a way of lying dormant and resurging after you think you have already beaten it. My bitterness toward my ex-husband and my church persisted even after I thought I had let it go. The anger felt justified after how badly I had been treated. How was I supposed to just let go of all the pain that they caused me? It felt good to try to give some of the pain back. And if I’m honest, that anger still lurks, waiting for me to give it space in my heart again.

But when I look back with clear eyes, I see that the people who hurt me have emotional scars from their pasts the same as me. My ex brought his childhood wounds into the marriage just like I did. I felt betrayed when my perfect man turned out to be broken and flawed, but there is no such thing as a “perfect man.” No one is perfect, and imperfect people will never be able to love perfectly.

At some point, I also had to face the question: If God has forgiven me, how can I still cling to this bitterness? The unconditional love that was big enough to cover my mistakes and erase the scarlet letter of my sin is big enough to cover theirs as well. I received grace, so I have to give it as well. With his help, I’m starting to take that step.

There is no going forward without forgiveness. I started a new life pursuing my dream career as an actress and model in Los Angeles. I found my way back to church, even finding healing at a church ministry for divorcees, and realized that most Christians are not like the ones who rejected me. Anger will only hold me back.

Forgiving doesn’t mean excusing what people did to me or never feeling angry. It means trusting God for justice instead of needing to get it for myself. I am still working through deep hurt, and bitterness is a hard and constant battle. But I am not fighting it on my own. God’s love is making my heart more gracious, patient, and forgiving day by day.

Divorce feels like the end of everything. But if I can come out of it loved and whole and healed, you can, too. You don’t have to jump through religious hoops or go to God in your Sunday best. Just let him meet you where you are, and he’ll show up in ways you never imagined. Have courage. Your life is not over —in fact, it’s just beginning.

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