Let’s update an old nursery rhyme:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown . . .
And Jill never let him forget how clumsy he was!
Poor Jack! He needed a wife who would comfort him, but instead he got pounded. Who knows why? Maybe his accident (and the resulting trip to the emergency room) interrupted an appointment at the beauty salon. Maybe his clumsiness had always embarrassed her. Who knows?
Every husband needs a forgiving wife, every wife a forgiving husband. The reason is obvious: we need forgiving because we make mistakes. That would explain two interesting facts in the Bible:
- Fact one: God’s Word urges us to pursue perfection, to grow and mature in grace, and to become like Jesus.
- Fact two: The Bible also teaches us to forgive one another. On the road of life we step on many toes, so we need to forgive and to receive forgiveness.
Knowing how much we need forgiving, you would think we would quickly forgive those who hurt us or let us down. It doesn’t work that way. We humans minimize many of our own errors and maximize the errors of others. We like to keep our offender roasting awhile before we turn off the fire of our anger and indignation. Many of us would never think of refusing forgiveness, but we surely don’t mind making the offender uncomfortable first.
Then there are other issues. How do I know when I have forgiven? How am I supposed to feel after I have forgiven? Have I forgiven if I still remember the offense or still feel pain? What needs forgiving? It’s enough to confuse a philosopher, let alone simple people like us.
Now let’s add the marriage relationship to those points. We know each other well and we often repeat our mistakes. So, how often am I to forgive my spouse for the same thing? Fifty times? One hundred? For many of us, one hundred isn’t even close to the number of times we have repeated some errors. I’m not talking about the little irritations like squeezing the tooth paste tube in the wrong way. In our ongoing attempts to love each other, we have repeatedly hurt each other.
Through our many years of marriage and ministry, Diane and I have developed some sound principles about forgiving. Lewis Smedes’ excellent book, The Art of Forgiving, has helped me focus and clarify those principles.
In this article, we’ll consider a few important facts of forgiveness. Please continue to read the next article for much more on what forgiveness is and what it is not.
Forgiveness and Feelings
“I do not feel like forgiving him,” the lady complained. I understand. When a friend or spouse has hurt us deeply, who feels like forgiving? Here’s some good news for you: you can forgive before you feel like doing it. You just have to decide to do it. That’s right. Forgiveness is a decision.
Many of us wait for the magical moment to forgive, when our emotions are right. Sometimes that moment never comes.
When an intimate friend hurts us, the pain can last a long time. But the moment we decide to forgive, the pain will start to decrease. Until we take that step, until we decide, we are like someone with an infected splinter. The infection spreads, becoming more dangerous, even deadly! Every part of our marriage feels the effects of unforgiveness.
I remember a young man who attended school with our sons. I saw him in the school clinic one day with a knee swollen to the size of a grapefruit. He had pricked his knee on a thorn. It was a small thing, hardly noticeable . . . at first. Eventually, the doctor had to lance his knee with a scalpel and drain the infection. Once he did, pain decreased and healing began.
Forgiveness is like that. Until we forgive, infection intensifies, but when we forgive, healing happens.
That is our first lesson on forgiveness. You can decide to forgive. Will you do that today? Yes, there are many other issues to consider, but your best, first step is simply to choose to forgive. If the painful feelings hang around, just keep affirming that you have forgiven.
You might even think about writing it down somewhere, maybe even send yourself an email:
Today, at 9:27 in the morning, I decided to forgive ______________. I will not turn back from this decision no matter how I feel.
All the best to you as you forgive and find the freedom it brings.
To learn more about forgiveness from the Christian perspective, please be sure to read the next article: Forgiveness- What It Is and What It Is Not