“Unless couples CREATE compatibility THROUGHOUT their marriage, the compatibility they had at the time of their wedding will be destroyed.” (Willard Harley) And this includes giving forgiveness in marriage.
Compatibility has to be continually worked on so it isn’t destroyed by the hassles that barge into our lives everyday.
“The rigors of everyday life will take a toll on even the best of marriage relationships. Often the only way to handle the frustration of being hurt by the one you love is to master the process of forgiveness.” (Bill and Pam Farrel)
On that note, we’ll share an article written by Julie Baumgardner. It was part of a series of articles she wrote titled, “On Marriage,” featured in the Chattanooga Free Press. (It is also posted in its entirety on the Smartmarriages.com web site.) Then we’ll then share a few closing thoughts on the subject. This particular article is entitled:
Forgiveness in Marriage
“‘Every time Mark and I would fight we’d always say we were sorry,’ said Mrs. Lori Kuebler. ‘Not that we really meant it. A lot of times I think we would say we forgive, but whatever happened was still in the back of our minds.’ According to relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis, the Kueblers struggle to forgive is something many couples grapple with.
“‘I’ve worked with so many couples who say they want to heal their relationships, but struggle with being able to forgive each other,’ said Ms. Weiner-Davis. ‘When they’re offered tools to help them get past hurtful incidents, they can’t seem to move forward. They refuse to let go of grudges or give up score keeping. They replay these grievances over and over. And they’re so busy rehashing that they don’t take in the information about forgiveness. That is because they’re so intent on being right. Their negative thoughts dominate their thinking.
“‘No matter what they’re doing, the scoreboard’s never too far from the surface. This type of behavior’s extremely destructive to a marriage relationship. Lack of forgiveness casts a shadow over everything. When you view life through the lenses of unforgiveness, your life becomes in essence like a black and white photo instead of living color.’
Forgive and Forget?
“The usual objections Mrs. Weiner-Davis hears about forgiveness are, ‘If I forgive it will send a message that I condone the behavior.’ Or ‘I can’t trust forgive and forget.’
“‘When I talk with couples I emphasize the fact that forgiveness isn’t about condoning or forgetting,’ said Mrs. Weiner-Davis. ‘What separates us from animals is the ability to think. I believe it’s very important that we don’t forget that. We can learn from mistakes. You’ll probably always remember the particular injustice/s that drove you into your corner. But what will happen is that when you forgive, the intense emotions associated with the events begin to fade.’
Struggle with Unforgiveness in Marriage?
“If you struggle with unforgiveness in your marriage relationship Ms. Davis suggests you consider the following:
• “Start out with some self-scrutiny. If you can honestly say that you’ve never made a mistake then hold on to the grudge. No one’s perfect. On the other end of things, some people who are very hard on themselves are hard on those around them. People need to be more loving and compassionate toward themselves and others.
• “For some people, it’s necessary to hear ‘I’m sorry’ from their spouse. If that’s what you need, say so and graciously accept the apology. If you have to ask for the apology that doesn’t mean the apology is second rate.
• “Holding on to a grudges wastes precious time and energy. It’s exhausting to feel resentment day in and day out. It’s bad for your health and hard on your spirit.
Don’t Wait For Forgiveness to Just Happen.
“‘Life’s too short to stand around waiting for forgiveness to just happen,’ said Ms. Weiner-Davis. ‘Decide to forgive and move on and you’ll create a ripple effect of exponential changes in your life.’
“For the Kuebler’s, forgiveness has been the key to making their marriage work. ‘When we separated I was involved in a Bible study at my church called ‘Lord, Change Me’,’ said Mrs. Kuebler. ‘That was when I finally realized I had to swallow my pride. Instead of looking at all of the things Mark needed to do to make our marriage better, I needed to focus on changing me. That was when I came to the conclusion that it was truly time to forgive and move on. If I change — then gradually things in our marriage will change.”
Ripples of Unforgiveness
We hope you really take all of this to heart for the health of your marriage. As someone once said, “If you can’t forgive your husband, forgive the father of your children.” And that’s the cry of our hearts. When we fail to forgive, it affects not only us—but also everyone around us (including our precious children).
It’s like throwing a pebble into a pool of water. Many ripples come out of it. As we’re told in the Bible, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15) The following are additional thoughts that may help you as you come upon the difficult challenge of learning how to continually forgive each other in marriage.
• “The plain truth is that it’s impossible for two human beings to live together for any length of time and not hurt each other. All too often life gets in the way of living. If the struggles of marriage were isolated to the minor irritations that come along with being imperfect, we would probably all have great marriages. But minor irritations can grow into major problems. And major infractions can break your heart.
“Sometimes the mistreatment you’ve experienced from others in your past creates patterns in your own behavior that hinder your current relationship. If any of the following destructive forces have invaded your marriage, only forgiveness will open the door to healing. (Bill and Pam Farrel, “Love, Honor, and Forgive”)
• “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontentment. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.(The Message – Eugene Peterson – Hebrews 12:15)
• “When forgiveness is necessary, don’t wait too long. We must begin to forgive. Because without forgiving, we choke off our own joy. We kill our own soul. People carrying hate and resentment can invest themselves so deeply in that resentment that they gradually define themselves in terms of it. (Lewis B. Smedes, “Forgive and Forget… Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve”)
• If you don’t forgive your spouse, you become stuck in bitterness and don’t grow beyond it. It stunts your growth in other areas of your life. It also drains you of the energy you could invest in other areas of improving your marriage and your relationship with the Lord.
• “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (The Message — Eugene Peterson — Matthew 6:14)
• “Human emotions have often been divided into 3 basic areas: love, fear, and hostility. Love is a feeling that moves us toward a person, place or thing. Fear moves us away from something or someone. Hostility is a feeling against the person, place, or thing. (Dr. Gary Chapman)
• “We should note that a one-time confession of bitterness may not alleviate all hostile feelings. If the bitterness has been there a long time, the feelings that accompany the bitter attitude may die slowly. What do you do when thoughts and feelings of anger return? Acknowledge those thoughts and feelings to God and affirm your commitment to forgive.
An appropriate prayer might be:
“Father, You know my thoughts and feelings. But I thank You that with Your help, I will no longer hold those things against my spouse. Now help me as I move out to be an agent of Your love.”
“Forgiveness will need to be a daily discipline. And you must refuse to harbor resentment. As you practice forgiveness, the angry, bitter thoughts and feelings will occur less and less. Once freed from bitterness, we are challenged to ‘be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Be imitators of God’ (Ephesians 4:32-5:1).
We must not stop with acknowledging our bitterness and accepting God’s forgiveness. We must also forgive our spouses for those things that originally brought anger to the surface. God is not only concerned that we be freed from anger. But He is concerned that we be agents of love and kindness.” (Dr. Gary Chapman, “Hope for the Separated”)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
— ALSO —
The following link will take you to an article that is written by Nicki Koziaz, which is posted at Crosswalk.com. We encourage you to read:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness