One morning, Deborah Candler woke up to discover her husband of 17 years had emptied the bank account and left her for another woman. “I was broken-hearted, and I was disillusioned,” she told Vision’s Shelley Scowen, “because these are the sorts of things that happen to other people. They don’t happen to you.”
She’d grown up in a Christian family, with parents who loved one another, and loved God. When the unimaginable happened, Deborah fell into a spiral of grief. But at the same time, she had to worry about how to survive, financially, physically and emotionally. “How do I raise two children and start again?”
Now everything she’d worked for had disappeared, Deborah felt the rest of her life would be Plan B. As she describes it, she was living in Stuck-Ville. “I got somewhere, as a result of circumstances and decisions that other people made, and now I have to navigate my way through this in the best way I know possible.”
She also struggled with the labels she pinned on herself. “It was difficult trying to regain my identity now as a single mother. I was desperately sad to think that I was now going to be a statistic. That’s how I saw myself.”
Through the process of her divorce, she started becoming aware of other people like herself, single mothers struggling to raise their children and get their lives back on track.
“Many of them were stuck in the past, and they were stuck in this terrible Plan B mind-set, that I felt I had relegated myself to. And I began to notice that many of them were living with this really bitter spirit.”
Deborah realised she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life constantly mulling over “if onlys” and “what ifs”. She described it as “spiritual BO”, because everyone notices it before you do.
“Everyone gets a hurt heart from time to time,” she explained, “and a hurt heart is normal. A hurt heart is the sum total of lingering memories of wounds incurred from people or circumstances throughout life.”
“But a bitter spirit is really different,” she said. “A bitter spirit is the result of revisiting and replaying the memories over and over, and each time changing the scenario to either incur hurt or avenge on another, or to punish ourselves.”
Deborah decided that she could nurture her hurt heart, but she couldn’t fuel and feed a bitter spirit. “I can’t afford that, because I’m raising two children, and I’ve got some vision about what I’ve always wanted to do in life, and I’m going to jeopardise it myself if I don’t address this now.”
So how do you move beyond a bitter spirit? Deborah says one of the first steps is forgiveness. As neuroscientist and author Dr Caroline Leaf explains, we can cause toxicity in our brains through negative thinking. And the root of negative thinking is often unforgiveness.
First, Deborah says, you have to forgive yourself. But she also argues that you need to forgive God. Some people would argue that makes no sense. “God hasn’t done anything, so why does he need to be forgiven? But unconsciously sometimes we think why didn’t God step in? If God’s God, why did he allow this to happen? And if we’re honest, we’ve probably all asked these questions.”
Deborah Candler has written a book about how she moved on from her personal crisis. She called it “A Fascination with Forward”, but part of its message is about the importance of looking back. Albert Einstein once said that “the significant problems that we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
“In other words,” Deborah said, “you can’t take into the future the same type of thinking that you had before the crisis. It actually will get you the same outcome.”
Deborah Candler spoke more about the slow process of moving forward, and even moving on. Seven years after her divorce, she met the man who was to become her new husband, but he was also a divorcee with children of his own. They knew they’d have to think carefully about how to blend their families. To find out more, listen to her conversation with Vision’s Shelley Scowen below.
To buy Deborah’s book, or learn about her public speaking and seminars, visit her website at deborahcandler.com.
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