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Marriage #6 – The Power of Forgiveness

In any relationship you get plenty of opportunities to hurt each other and in a marriage relationship you get them all the time. Now I do not meet many people who get married with the intention of hurting the person that they claim to love. But I do meet plenty of people in their marriage relationship WHO have hurt each other. In fact I might be even bold enough to say that all relationships have hurt each other.

So far in our marriage series we have addressed the need to build our marriages on a strong foundation; to learn to listen and learn to speak the love language that your spouse talks. Last week we looked at the need to deal with conflict. And yet if a marriage is going to survive we must be able to recover from tough times and repair hurts that we have caused.

Remember this: hurts destroy trust, forgiveness restores trust and trust is a vital ingredient to the survival of any relationship. Trust in a marriage is like a sheet of glass – it can be broken with one act of adultery, an accumulation of white lies, deception, critical comments or unkindness. Intimate relationships are built on trust and openness. With intimate relationships we can be open, honest, share our deepest feelings, expose our deepest hurts, our fears, joys, sorrows, thoughts and dreams. We can allow our spouse into our inner world and let them know us more fully. But when we hurt each other we damage trust and become less open. When hurt we close up, keep our spouse at a distance in order to try and protect ourselves from further hurt.

Since space is limited I want to turn our attention to how we can repair hurts in our relationships.

Looking at the ways we have hurt each other can be a painful and messy job but when you have the courage to face the real issues the results will bring lasting change. You can do this by talking about the hurt, being prepared to say sorry and choosing to forgive.

How many times in your relationship have you been hurt but pretended that nothing happened. Unresolved hurts in a marriage are like trying to hold a beach ball under the water. You can hold it there for a while but the minute you drop your guard it comes shooting to the surface again. You must tell your spouse when they hurt you. Now the way you do this is important; you must do it gently and talk about how you felt. For example, “When you … I felt …”. Do not use absolutes like, “You always …”, “you never …”. Remember you are talking to the person you love and who loves you and they are probably not trying to hurt you, they are just like a rhino, thick skinned and short sighted.

Be prepared to say sorry. ‘SORRY’ is a pretty hard word to say and mean in a marriage but it is a vital word to use if you are going to have a healthy marriage. Sadly in society we often do not take responsibility for our mistakes and so ‘SORRY’ is not often said in a heart felt way. It is never easy to listen to how we have been responsible for hurting others but we must try to see things from their point of view. To be effective an apology must be unconditional. It also needs to be said in the right tone of voice and to display the right body language. Genuine apologies are powerful in marriage because they remove the need to always be on the defensive, seeking to get our own back in the endless hurts of a ‘tit-for-tat’ battle. When we apologise we go from being warring factions to being on the same side, choosing to forgive. Forgiveness is one of those topics that confuses many people. Let me mention a couple of things about forgiveness. It is not earned; it is costly. We have to sacrifice our pride, our self pity and our desire for justice and for revenge.

Forgiveness cannot be demanded from our spouse nor can we demand they earn it from us. Forgiveness might need to happen more than once. The bible says a lot about forgiveness and if you want to know more please ask me. Forgiveness does not mean you condone your spouse’s behaviour nor does it mean you allow them to continue to violate their marriage vows. The Christian message is this: we can come to God, genuinely confessing our failures and he forgives us as a free gift. Jesus has died in our place, taking the consequences for all we have ever done, said or thought that was wrong. God forgives us freely even when he knows we will let him down again. And he does all this because he loves us. I think whilst Jesus offers us a gift of forgiveness that is free for us to accept, he also gives us the perfect pattern for forgiveness in our own relationships.

Forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. It is us choosing not to hold the past against the other. Forgiveness sets you free. A lady who had watched her sister die at the hand of the Nazi’s wrote this when she met her guard face to face after the war and forgave him. She said, “at that moment, when I was able to forgive, my hatred disappeared. What a liberation! Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred”.