I always feel a bit under-qualified when it comes to talking about forgiveness. Compared to my husband, who forgave those who abused him as a child, it would look from the outside that I have no one to forgive. At least not that kind of big stuff.
It was when I met Joe and got married though that the issue of forgiveness became front and center. And not because there was any kind of abuse in our marriage or that he had betrayed me in any way. He was a good man.
But he wasn’t perfect and he still struggled.
He could hurt me with his words and actions, and I did the same to him. Even in our love for each other, selfishness could take over and get the best of us. Anger, stubbornness, withdrawal.
I WILL FORGIVE YOU, BUT…
1. I’ll make you pay just a teeny tiny bit.
I’ll keep it low, you know, in the back of my mind, maybe saying “I forgive you” when I really didn’t. Well if that’s how you’re going to treat me, then I’ll just…. I’ll have to figure out a way to make you pay- not make you pay, that sounds so mean and I’m not mean- but just make you feel it a bit. Just withhold a little of my affection and love. So you know that you’re the one who wronged me. That’s all. Then I’ll let it go.
That’s still unforgiveness. It’s the definition of un-forgiveness: you will pay for how you have hurt me. No matter how big or small that payment is.
If you’re assuming that he has to “make it up to you” in some way, you haven’t forgiven.
2. I need to explain exactly what you did/said to me, why it bothered me, why you’re wrong, and then tell you all again one more time, ad nauseum.
This is an area we ladies struggle with. My “but” is always but I need to explain to you more before I forgive you. I go on, and on, and on. I’m guilty! But we have to ask ourselves: are we going on and on for our sake, as process it, or are we going on and on to just make sure our husbands feel a bit more guilty? Processing those hurts with a posture of forgiveness actually helps us heal more quickly. Because we can focus on the hurt or the offense, and not on the scorecard and repayment.
When there is a hurt that needs to be discussed, we discuss it. I certainly explain to Joe how I feel and vice versa. Talk it through. But if I have said my peace, and he has apologized, and I say I have forgiven him, then I can’t stay and simmer in how awful he is.
3. I will need to remind you later what you did to me as a way to let you know not to do it again.
Throwing back past mistakes is not true forgiveness. It’s reminding the other person that the score is uneven. Forgiveness is saying the debt is wiped so there is no score. We know that when God forgives us our sins are as far as the east is from the west. As humans in our flesh, that’s really hard to do!! But as we bring our weakness to God, He helps us to believe the best about our spouse and not dwell on their failures.
4. I’m still upset, I’m still hurt, and you just have to understand that.
It’s okay if you’re still hurt. When I’m still upset inside, I try my best to treat Joe as if he didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I try to go out of my way to treat to him extra well so that he knows he’s been forgiven. I want him to know he doesn’t owe me.
But I don’t just do this for his sake or because I’m some super -wife. I do it for myself otherwise un-forgiveness will get a foothold in my heart. Feelings follow behavior. So as I start to treat him more lovingly, I start to feel less upset and more loving towards him as well. It’s living out the forgiveness.
So maybe this all sounds a bit radical. Like, I really just have to say it’s okay? Forgiveness is not saying it’s okay. It’s not saying wrong behavior is not wrong. If there is no sin or wrong behavior, there is no need for forgiveness. When Christ died for our sin and forgave us, He wasn’t saying our sin is okay. He’s saying we don’t have to take the punishment for that sin. He doesn’t use our sin as a reason to withhold His love. Offering that kind of forgiveness is the best way to show Christ’s love to our spouse!
Which “BUT” is keeping you from truly forgiving your spouse?
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13