Visions Anew Institute

Visions Anew Institute
Divorce is Challenging

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "F" Word in Divorce

What do Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, and Tyler Perry all have in common? Does this sound like the start of a bad joke? It’s not. All three of these iconic personalities who transcend historical boundaries of time, culture, and heritage have commented on the importance of one item.

Ben Franklin said, “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness…”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Tyler Perry said, “It's simple: when you haven't forgiven those who've hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.”

Those are pretty powerful words for a powerful force.

I’m fairly confident that I wouldn’t have gotten through my divorce positively without being able to forgive my ex-. Prior to forgiving him, I was angry, bitter, resentful, and full of revenge. Sound familiar? I realized one day that this was no way to live. I don’t want to make this sound like all sunshine and roses, but I was tired of my mental reel playing out my little revenge scenario. It was only hurting me, and my outlook on life, which certainly impacted my kids. When I decided to forgive him, life changed immediately. My whole outlook changed. I felt it. People noticed it.

If someone has ‘crossed’ you, and you have yet to forgive, I would dare to say that you are still angry. You are still mad. You think about it constantly. It keeps you up at night. You can’t seem to let it go. You brood about it. You may turn to vices to help you get through it. You remember every detail of the ‘infraction’ and you relive it and rehash it over and over. All this serves to do is create stress and strife in your life. It affects your health. It affects your emotions. Is it worth it?

Enter the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a selfish act. Think about it. When you choose to forgive someone, it’s a decision that you make, and then you feel better. The other person doesn’t have to give you permission to forgive. The other person doesn’t have to accept your forgiveness. You alone are in control of having the power to decide to forgive. How awesome is that?

People say to me, “I’m not ready to forgive yet because I don’t want that person to get away with it (whatever ‘it’ might be).” There is a popular misconception that if you forgive someone that it means he isn’t going to be held accountable for his actions. That is actually irrelevant. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hold that person accountable. It doesn’t mean that you are going to let that person walk all over you. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for his actions. It does mean that you are choosing to not dwell on it every day and let anger consume your every thought.

I am repeatedly asked, “Please teach me how to forgive.” I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. I want everyone to feel the liberation and peace that comes with forgiveness. Some people like to “own” their anger. They make it a part of their life story and frankly enjoy carrying the burden. I think that’s a crazy load to carry. I tell people that forgiveness will happen if they are open to dropping some of the anger and looking forward to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

The power of forgiveness allows you to feel peace. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still going to face noise, trouble or hard work. It does mean you can be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

Arguably the best-known scholar on forgiveness is Lewis Smedes (1921-2002). Smedes was a professor of Theology and a renowned Christian author who wrote the incredibly popular book, “Forgive and Forget.” He said, “Forgiving is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule.”

I challenge you to focus on forgiveness and do all you can to ‘break nature’s rule!’

Adapted from “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys. The book is available at and on Monique can be reached at

Monique Honaman
Author, The High Road Has Less Traffic
770-855-7225 (m)
Twitter: @highroadthebook

Friday, August 5, 2011

Visions Anew Supports Divorcing Attorneys

By Carla Schiff, Esq. Stern & Edlin PC

“You can’t come to work and just boo hoo” said Debra Chambers, an attorney with Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers LLP, who recently finalized her difficult divorce. In addition to the apprehensions of being a lawyer who is now the client in an unfamiliar area of the law, women lawyers, like everyone else, have to deal with the emotional side when they go through a divorce.

“There’s so much pressure, it’s got to come out somewhere,” said Chambers. Hibernating in her office with the door closed wasn’t enough.

Chambers attended a weekend retreat for women with Visions Anew, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to providing support for individuals, primarily women, going through a divorce. Once arriving at the retreat, entitled “Divorce Survival Weekend,” Chambers had misgivings about being there and would have left but for a snowstorm. She was glad she stayed.

“Rise above.” This was the powerful message delivered by Visions Anew CEO and Founder, Margot Swann. As the weekend progressed, Chambers was able to share her story in a comfortable, nonjudgmental and confidential environment. By the end of the weekend, Chambers was able to let go.

Lynn Sturges, an attorney with The Law Office of Lynn H. Sturges, attended a Visions Anew retreat because of her divorce, also found a “safe outlet to tell [her] story,” as did Deborah Ebel, an attorney with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, who noted, “very few people want to be bothered listening to your tale of woe; even family and friends tune out after a while. . . . Even those of use who consider ourselves ‘tough cookies’ need a place to break down.”

Michelle Araúz, an attorney with SunTrust who also attended a Divorce Survival Weekend, said, “as an attorney you are very good at the business side of things, you have success in your job, success in your life, how could you fail?” Araúz recognizes, “As a female attorney, you just can’t fall apart, you don’t have the luxury to check out.” Araúz knew that with young child, she could not fall apart or check out at home either.

When Araúz drove up to her Visions Anew retreat, she was immediately greeted as she drove up by a Visions Anew alumnus, who carried her bags to her room. For this “self sufficient female attorney, this wasn’t necessary but it really helped to feel taken care of.”

At Visions Anew retreats, retreat alumni cook the meals and work to make new attendees feel at home, showing that there is life after divorce. While some of the programs involve empowering information from legal, financial and therapeutic experts, other programs allow time to share and listen. Some attendees come ready to share, while others come to listen.

Ebel, who came to a retreat with a healthy does of skepticism, was surprised that she found herself actually participating, sharing and even “letting loose” as the retreat ended with Zumba dancing.

There’s no question that going through a divorce is “extremely distracting and overwhelming, “ said Sturges. Indeed, presenteeism—the problem of employees being on the job but not fully productive due to illness, conflicts at home or other stressors, “appears to be a much costlier problem than its productivity –reducing counterpart, absenteeism.” This is known all too well by any attorney with a crucial staff member going through a divorce.

Recognizing that many employees cannot afford to attend a Visions Anew retreat or seminar, Visions Anew has created a unique, panel presentation, cleverly entitled “Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage and Helping a Divorcing Friend,” which educates men and women about various aspects of the divorce process in house. In April, Visions Anew presented a similar program for the 9,000 employees at the Centers for Disease Control.

Visions Anew also encourages employers to incorporate their services into their Employee Assistance Programs by providing a confidential subsidy for employees to attend a seminar or a retreat with the goal of helping to mitigate the presenteeism caused by divorce.