On March 18th Cindy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. I (Steve) was wondering how many times Cindy and I have told each other, “I love you” over the past 45+ years. We are both very expressive and open about our love for each other. Words we say to each other are important (so are six powerful words that I’ll explain in a minute).
I did some quick calculations. If we said, “I love you” to each other just 10 times a day over the past 14,610 days (just 40 years) of our married life that would come to 146,100 times we’ve uttered those three words. To look at that number it looks like a lot. But, when I think of how much I truly love Cindy it doesn’t seem like I’ve even scratched the surface of expressing my love.
Now, you may think that the powerful words we are referring to are, “I Love You.” Well, they are powerful because we should never take our love for each other for granted. But we want to have you think about six different words. We have learned through our 45+ years of marriage that these words carry a lot of power too. And if we want our marriages to thrive we have to be willing to say them when necessary. The first three are the words, “I was wrong.”
Author, Steve Goodier says this:
These are three of life’s most difficult words to say, but they are also three of the most powerful words we can utter. “I was wrong” breaks down barriers between people. It brings estranged people together. And it creates a climate where intimacy and love may flourish. You may be surprised how positively many people respond to the words, “I was wrong!”
Naturally, it is a risk. But to admit when you’re wrong is not to confess that you’re a “bad” person. You’re simply an honest one. Whole and happy lives are built by people who have learned the power of intimacy, in part, through the use of the words ‘I was wrong.'”
The other three words that carry so much power in our marriages that we want you to consider this week are “I forgive you.” These are linked so closely to “I was wrong” that when they are combined they are probably the six most powerful words we will ever use in our marriage.
Bill and Pam Farrell in their book, The 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make: Bringing Out the Best in Your Relationship, offer some insight on these three words.
The most important skill in maintaining unity as a couple is forgiveness. You’ll undoubtedly make mistakes, disappoint one another, and make some poor decisions. No one can deny that these things happen. The only way to keep the relationship growing in the midst of our humanity is to forgive. The Apostle Paul gave us a staggering challenge: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”(Colossians 3:13) We designed six statements to help you work through the process of forgiveness.
1. I forgive (name of person) for (offense that was committed).
2. I admit that what was done [against me] was wrong.
3. But I do not expect (name of person) to make up for what he or she has done.
4. I will not define (name of person) by what he or she has done. Instead, I will define him or her
as someone who needs just as much grace in life as I do.
5. I will not manipulate (name of person) with what he or she has done.
6. And I will not allow what has happened to stop my personal growth.
Additionally, they wrote:
Andy Stanley explains that when we forgive, we list all the things the offending party has done and stamp it with “Debt Paid in Full.” We write on the list of grievances, “You don’t owe me.” It is very hard but very freeing to say to God, “They don’t owe me an explanation. They don’t owe me an apology. They don’t owe me any restoration.” Forgiveness frees you to go forward in life and forward in all your relationships.
Forgiveness is a vertical, private act between you and God. Reconciliation is a horizontal act between people who have been separated by a hurt or grievance. Reconciliation works best when both people have already walked through the six statements of forgiveness listed above. A relationship is more likely to be restored if the offending party says, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. What can I do to make things right again?”
Often “what will make things right again” is an explanation, an apology, and a restitution of some kind that is freely offered. The key in this tangled and emotionally charged process of forgiveness and restoration is that each person forgives the other completely, not because anyone asks but because Christ forgave us. Forgiveness protects your integrity and your heart.
Own Our Issues
Each person should freely own his or her issues. This is not the time to rationalize, blame others, or duck your guilt. Truly repentant people will say, “I am sorry. What I did was wrong. Here’s why it was wrong. Please forgive me. What can I do to help set things right again?” Then they close their mouth and listen intently and from the heart. Forgiveness is all about grace. Loving unconditionally. Love wants the best for the other person, regardless of the cost to you.
Forgiveness costs emotionally, but bitterness and resentment extract even more from your life. Forgiveness is expensive —it cost Christ His life to die for the world’s imperfection. But the payoff is priceless; no amount of money can ever repay that kind of gift of love. When you grasp how much God loves you, extending grace and unconditional love to others becomes a little easier.
Six Powerful Words
Now those six words, “I was wrong” and “I forgive you” when combined in our marriages are six of the most powerful words in the English language to heal a mountain of hurt or pain that has accumulated. Maybe God has spoken to you this week that He wants you to begin the process of healing your marriage through using these six words.
For the last word this week we leave you with two scripture verses to consider in conjunction with this message. James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man [woman] is powerful.” (I was wrong.)
Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (I forgive you.)
We pray God’s richest blessing upon your marriage as you practice forgiveness.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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