How to Forgive in Marriage
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the lord forgave you. - Colossians 3:13
Many marriages are gradually eroded and eventually destroyed because one person is unable to forgive.
A person who continually brings up something hurtful his spouse did or said in the past that was hurtful . . . continues to punish the other person and erects a wall of indifference and coldness.
If we know Jesus Christ as Savior, we have experienced God’s forgiveness. Because we are in Christ, we have the capacity to forgive ourselves and thus are enabled to forgive others.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. God constructed you in such a way that your brain resembles a giant computer. Whatever has happened to you is stored in your memory.
The remembrance will always be with you. There are, however, two different ways of remembering. One is to recall the offense or hurt in such a way that it continues to affect you and your relationship with another.
It continues to eat away and bother you so that the hurt remains. Another way of remembering, however, simply says, “Yes, that happened. I know it did, but it no longer affects me.
It’s a fact of history, yet it has no emotional significance or effect. It is there, but we are progressing onward at this time and I am not hindered nor is our relationship hurt by that event.”
This is, in a sense, forgetting. The fact remains, but it no longer entangles you in its tentacles of control.
Forgiveness is not pretending. You cannot ignore the fact that an event occurred. Wishing it never happened will not make it go away. What has been done is done. Becoming a martyr and pretending ignorance of the event does not help the relationship.
In fact, your lack of confrontation and reconciliation may encourage the other person to continue or repeat the same act or behavior.
Forgiveness is not a feeling.
It is a clear and logical action on your part. It is not a soothing, comforting, overwhelming emotional response that erases the fact from your memory forever.
Forgiveness takes place when love accepts—deliberately—the hurts and abrasions of life and drops all charges against the other person. Forgiveness is accepting the other when both of you know he or she has done something unacceptable.
Forgiveness is smiling silent love to your partner when the justifications for keeping an insult or injury alive are on the tip of your tongue, yet you swallow them. Not because you have to, to keep peace, but because you want to, to make peace.
Forgiveness is not acceptance given “on condition” that the other become acceptable. Forgiveness is given freely. Out of the keen awareness that the forgiver also has a need of constant forgiveness, daily.
Forgiveness exercises God’s strength to love and receives the other person without any assurance of complete restitution and making of amends.
Forgiveness is a relationship between equals who recognize their need of each other, share and share alike. Each needs the other’s forgiveness. Each needs the other’s acceptance.
Each needs the other. And so, before God, each drops all charges, refuses all self-justification, and forgives. And forgives. Seventy times seven. As Jesus said.
H. Norman Wright is a licensed Family Counselor and child therapist and has taught in the Grad. Department of Biola University. He is the author of more than seventy books