Friday, November 05, 2010

Lasting Marriage: Forgiveness

Hi friends! I'm continuing on the theme from my last post - staying together happily in marriage. This post focuses on the next point - which is forgiveness.

The Bible says: "Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you." (Colossians 3:13). This is not a suggestion, but a command, the same way the Bible commands us: "Love each other as I have loved you."(John 13:34). Love and forgiveness go hand-in-hand - because without forgiveness, minor offences become grudges; grudges breed resentment, and resentment breeds hate.

How many of us have ended friendships and relationships because we could not forgive an offence committed by the other party? How many of us know how it feels when we offend someone and in spite of our remorse, they choose not to forgive us but instead end our friendship? I'm sure we have all had similar experiences. But for a married couple to stay together, unforgiveness is not an option. In fact forgiveness should be so much a part of your marriage, that it becomes a habit.

(Before I continue, I must stress here that I'm referring to a marriage where both partners are working towards the good of the relationship, and not engaging in destructive habits like infidelity, pornography or alcohol and substance abuse. In those situations, the course of action to take may be slightly different, as constantly forgiving the other party might not lead them to take positive action to change their behaviour. For a marriage to survive deep-rooted issues such as these, a lot of work has to be done by both parties to repair, rebuild and restore the relationship).

It's been said that no normal, reasonable person goes into marriage with the intention to destroy it and divorce shortly afterwards. The vast majority of us get into marriage with joy and hope and expectations of happiness. Similarly, no reasonable husband or wife wakes up in the morning and decides: I'm going to hurt my spouse today. I don't think anyone deliberately sets out to hurt their friends or spouses. I wrote and earlier post on Mr and Mrs Imperfect, in which I discussed that no matter how kind, loving, caring and generous your partner is, they are still not perfect - none of us are. Each of us still has faults, weaknesses and potentially annoying habits. Sometimes we act selfishly, sometimes we don't pay enough attention to their needs, and we unintentionally hurt our spouse. So when the Bible says "make allowance for each other's faults" it means you should be willing to forgive and overlook offences because you know you are just as fallible, and just as likely to hurt the other person.

"To err is human; to forgive is divine."

So what are the things that stop us from giving forgiveness a chance in our relationships?

Anger - When we've been offended, it's natural to feel negative emotions like anger. But it's how we deal wit the angry feelings that determine if we are right or wrong. The Bible says "“In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Ephesians 4:26). This is because anger gives a foothold to the devil. Anger can cause us to do or say things we would regret later on, things that can completely destroy the love and intimacy in our relationships.

Revenge - The desire to retaliate can also stop us from forgiving. It's easy to go down the slippery slope of "He hurt me, so I must hurt him back" when we've been offended. But seeking revenge is never a way to resolve a hurt, it only makes things worse. It creates a destructive pattern and a vicious cycle of two people constantly scheming to get back at each other, which would ultimately mean the relationship is doomed.

Fear - Sometimes, fear holds us back from forgiving the other person because it feels like we are giving them so much power to hurt us again. Or fear makes us harden our hearts as a defense mechanism so that we will not be vulnerable. But the Bible says that "There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear." (1 John 4:18). If we are going to take a chance on love, we must be willing to remove the fear of getting hurt, and trust that the other person will not take advantage of the fact that we are willing to forgive them.

Guilt - On the other hand, unforgiveness yields guilt because it is essentially a disobedient act. We know that holding a grudge is not something we should be doing, and in the event that we hurt the other person, we expect them to forgive us too. So when we don't forgive, we carry around not only the hurt and pain, but also a burden of guilt.

So how can we learn to forgive and let go of these negative emotions? Especially in a situation where you feel the other person has offended you, but they might not even know it! How do you forgive when the other person is not repentant? Forgiveness is not easy, and we definitely need God's grace. We need to think of how much God in His infinite mercy has forgiven us our sins, so we too can extend grace and forgiveness to other people. Forgiveness is a choice that we make even when we don't feel like doing it - we should go ahead and do it anyway. We often find that the positive feelings catch up with our actions later.

I think God made forgiveness a command for many reasons. If it was optional,many of us would not do it, and we would hold grudges and keep getting on each other's nerves - leading to a breakdown of trust, intimacy and openness in our relationships. But if we learn and practice forgiveness, it will relieve us of burdens and open the door for healing to begin. Forgiveness helps us to resolves issues and gives us a fresh page to start over - and that is an essential ingredient for a long lasting happy marriage!


I'll discuss Quality Time in my next post. Stay blessed and favoured!

FG

(Image: womenonthefence.com)

18 comments:

Folake Taylor, MD. said...

Thanks for this beautiful post. We cannot stress this enough. The course of my life changed when I realized that forgiveness is for me and not the other person. It keeps me on the straight and narrow and keeps me connected to God. Bitterness and unforgiveness place a wedge between me and God. May God help us all. I try to practice this daily in my marriage. Though not always easy, it is a commandment. And for those dealing with the dealbreaker situations, may God help them with what comes next.

braids said...

Wow, though not yet married this is great info for when the tme comes and can be put into practise even now in my singleness.

Gospel Girl said...

Great post yet again FG. It is imperative that we forgive not only because that's what God requires but because holding onto a grudge/offense is like swallowing bitter poison and hoping that the other person will suffer.

Mola said...

Hmmm! this is a greeeeeeaaaaaaaat Post, forgiveness is deep and I must confess its hard wen the person is showing no remorse, it hurts and rightfully so like u said the fear of giving them to much power.
I love it and certainly learned from this, though not married yet but it would take me a long way....

koinonia said...

Someone said something once about how forgiveness can be likened to releasing a prisoner from jail only to realise that prisoner was you.

Over the years i've learnt that Unforgiveness is a whole lot harder than forgiveness because it just totally wears me out - The anger, guilt, burden, malice takes a toll on me.

Seshe James said...

This is a good post... Forgiveness is important.. Will come bk for more..

Please follow me
www.sesheajames.blogspot.com

2cute4u said...

I was here

Anonymous said...

This post is so true, how can we have marriage without forgiveness?

Remi said...

Forgiveness is paramount. Without it our father won't forgive us.

In marriage, forgiveness causes the relationship to keep being productive and moving forward.

Thanks for sharing. Great post :-)
I love the way u write.

x Remi - www.adayingodswill.com

Anonymous said...

i miss ur blog

thisisthediaryofanotmadblackwoman said...

If you think deeply, one will realize that forgiveness is easier than holding on to grudges. It burdens your heart. It can be more annoying when the other person doesn't even realize he/she has hurt you.
Nice thoughts.

In the midst of her said...

Wonderful article. At times, unrealistic expectations are the reasons conflicts start and require forgiveness. I wrote about that on my blog. Pls check it out http://inthemidstofher.blogspot.com/2010/12/not-married-to-jesus.html

tholu said...

Thanks for this post. I am having a serious crack in my relationship with my fiancee now that is more or less has been over stretched than normal. She kept on saying that she has forgiven me but she would not continue the relationship. It was a text message that I sent to her out of annoyance that was the root of the 'bo haha'. I have begged her, persuaded her and did all sorts to make her reason again. I still wonder at the word 'FORGIVENESS'.

damantigui said...

I like the post,
My story

There’s a young woman whose path often cross with mine at the bus stop, while we are waiting. She is sweet and her soft-spoken never fails to greet me. Sometimes we talk about the weather, when the day is too cold to speak about other things, but I never dared to ask her name, although I long for knowing it.

I sense it’d be a musical name and delicate songs will have it in their lyrics, and if ever my shyness would be cornered or curiosity would subjugate me, I would hear an unusual name that would please me.

I know she feels safe by my side, because she always come smiling where I am and there she remains silent until the time to leave arrives. And I suspect part of her calm resides in my apparent indifference on conversations invaded with questions.

I am glad when she’s close and I like to watch her when she seems not to notice. And I love her stillness and her absent happiness that invited me to crave for her reserved friendship. And that’s maybe why, because her quiet charm is haunting me, I guess I never desireth her name.

Such is her charm as she now is, that I could not bear that, because of me, she could one day change.

Anonymous said...

Great post! The difficulty with forgiving someone is so hard, but there seems to be peace. I really enjoy your insight on this. I’d love to read more on this topic.

I recently stumbled upon another blog like I stumbled upon yours and I really appreciated their insihgt. I thought you might enjoy it: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/forgiveness/

I’d love to see more like it. Thanks!

-Becky

Alex Wilde - El Experimento said...

Living together in one roof with a totally different person is not an easy task. Spending a lifetime with your partner/husband/wife means a lot forgiveness. Love is to forgive!

Indeed a splendid post!

Cheers!
Alex

Change Relationship said...

I agree that forgiveness will give us peace and help us to move on. Your post is very informative. Thanks for sharing.

Holly McDorman (Hope L. Brock) said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I thank you for the thoughts. I have started to follow your blog, and connected you to my blog roll. I can not wait to read more. Good luck with motherhood.

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