There are many reasons why forgiveness is important in marriage. In this article, we discuss those reasons and dig deep into why forgiving others is a process and journey.
Before we delve into the practical reasons forgiveness is good for the soul, it may be beneficial to talk about two basic types of forgiveness.
In This Article
- Type of Forgiveness
- Forgiveness Is A Process
- Key Articles In This Forgiveness Series
- Never Too Late To Apologize
- Why you should seek forgiveness today
- Download Our Free Forgiveness Guide
- Final Thoughts On Why Forgiveness Is Important In Marriage
Type of Forgiveness
For the sake of this article it’s important to understand these two types of forgiveness. It’s not easy to categorize a topic like forgiving others, but it will help to get a grasp on these two concepts.
These are terms I use. They may not be found in scientific journals, but I believe they are indicative of how we all experience the act of forgiving.
This is the type of forgiveness that offers a true ‘release’ from all bagage, bondage and resentment. It is emotional in nature. Something the person feels deep inside.
A quick story may help put in perspective:
When I first started my career in ministry, I worked for a man who had troubling (dysfunctional) relationship issues and questionable ethics in business. It took me a year before I saw these things manifest. He was specifically notorious for using people to bet what he wanted. it hurts me even now to remember these things (especially since it was connected to church and ministry).
After 11 months of working with him, I realized he had used me (thrown me under the bus) to make himself look better with key people in the church and community. I was devastated. I felt hurt that someone I looked up to (a model in ministry) would do something so malicious. My hurt turned to anger. Then resentment.
I shared my feelings with a close mentor who gave me good counsel, heard me out, and offered some practical advice. One of the things we discussed was my need to forgive man. We spent long hours talking about the nature of real forgiveness (it’s not about forgetting or being a doormat), how to forgive (making quality decisions), and refusing to get revenge (I was tempted to hurt him in return).
Choosing to forgive was not easy. But I made a decision I would not let his bad behavior and treatment of me contaminate my heart with resentment.
Here’s what I did. Every day, as I walked around the house with my new baby daughter, I would pray for him and make a verbal declaration that I forgave him for what he did to me. I would literally say it out loud. The only humans who heard it was me and my baby daughter (and she had no idea what I was doing).
At first it was hard. After a few weeks (that’s right, I did this for weeks) I no longer felt angry at him. My heart was healing.
After a month or so (yep, I didn’t let up), I noticed something. It was easier and easier to truly want God to bless him. Not only did I forgive him, I actually wanted him to get better, find healing, and change so he could experience life as it was meant to be (good).
Then one day something happened that set me completely free. As I was walking around my kitchen area, holding my daughter, I said the words I had said for months, ‘I choose to forgive, and I bless this man.’ That’s when it happened. Something inside of me broke. I began to cry. I wept for this man. Not because he had hurt me, but because I didn’t want HIM to experience pain. I wanted him to be free. My heart felt genuine love for this man.
This is what I call ’emotional forgiveness.’ I felt it. Deep inside. It was pure and real.
It took time for this to transpire, but because I chose to forgive him, I finally experienced an emotional release. This type forgiveness is where hate, anger, and resentment are replaced with love and acceptance.
It may begin small, but in time you feel this type of forgiveness. But it begins with a decision.
Volition simply means will or choice. It is power of choosing or determining. While emotional forgiveness is more, well, emotional, volitional forgiveness comes from a choice to let things go.
It is not less important than the first kind, it’s just different.
As I walked through the process of forgiving the man who hurt me, it began with a simple decision to let go. I knew if I held on to my hurt, it would ruin my life, not his. In fact, at that point, he didn’t care I was hurting. But I knew my anger would interfere with the life I wanted for myself. So I made a decision to let go.
This type forgiveness is based on a strong conviction and firm decision to refuse to let the other persons action determine your response.
While some people may see this type of forgiveness as ‘less powerful’ than an emotional release, it is not. In some ways, it is the path to an emotional release. But even if you never feel the way I did that day I experienced love for the one who hurt me, it doesn’t mean your choice is less significant.
In certain situations, It is even beneficial to remember the pain associated with your wound so it doesn’t happen again and again. This is a tricky path to walk, but forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is the choice to let the person and pain go so you can be healed.
It is important to know these two types of forgiveness as we proceed with understanding why the act of forgiving is so necessary. Do not think it is all about your emotions. It is not. Emotions are helpful and healthy when kept in proper perspective. They are indicators of something going on inside of us. So pay attention to them, but do not allow them to control you and your choices.
Forgiveness Is A Process
We all know the virtues, health, and psychological advantages of having a forgiving heart. We all want to forgive and be forgiven at some point in life.
Forgiving is a healing process, and as we all know it, it takes some time to heal up and each healing process is usually directly linked to the nature of the harm inflicted upon us. Some small wounds heal fast while the deeper ones take time. There is no instant forgiveness just as there is no instant healing. Some time is required for one to fully get over some past wrong.
Why then is it hard to forgive instantly and forget all about it?
The Process of Forgiveness Often Happens Gradually
Well, the process of forgiveness is subtle and it happens gradually. It is easy to keep hurtful and vengeful thoughts. We as humans have this in-built sense of justice within us. Sometimes we even have this penchant for wild justice, where the world revolves around the “eye for an eye” doctrine. It is the instinct in us, this vengeful spirit.
When we choose to forgive, this is the first hurdle we have to maneuver. If we continue carrying out our wild instinct of vengeful justice, we will not be able to start the process of forgiving. This is usually the most difficult part, for it entails us fighting with ourselves.
Right Motives Matter When It Comes To Forgiveness
Secondly, after quelling the vindictive instinct in us, we have to understand the real reason why we are forgiving. If our reasons stem from all the wrong motives, there won’t be any forgiveness that may result. It might mean internally processing the whole scenario in our minds, steadily trying to focus on how we can learn to live with what has happened to us and how we can arrive at forgiveness. It is a very painful process that can make us cry and weep.
We have to fully understand what the process of forgiveness means. Sometimes we feel as if the other person does not fully deserve our forgiveness and so we cling on to that boiling rage inside us. We have to look at all the advantages it gives us not to nurture a grudge. Forgiving heals us more that it heals the one who did us wrong.it helps us to live a life without anger, rage, and accompanying high blood pressures. Psychologically, it helps us move on from feeling like a victim and so we can move on with our lives.
Realizing that forgiveness does not diminish the wrongs done against you and that it does not mean you are denying what happens is another step altogether. Neither does it mean the person is off the hook for what they did and that they are free to walk all over you again. And It denfinitely does not indicate personal weakness.
It takes a lot of courage to break those chains that link you to the past wrongs. You have to keep the lessons and forget the act altogether. You might never really get to be friends again with the offender, but it means you are no longer keeping the resentments.
Some say they forgive but they keep those resentments, feeling that they are somehow justified to keep a grudge. It is actually self destructive to hold on to resentment.
“There are no justified resentments.”Dr. Wayne Dyer
Keeping resentments means that we still have not yet completed the process of forgiveness. These resentments usually linger for a long time, and sometimes some trigger words or memories might spring back all the hurt in our minds long after we think that we have completely moved on.
Be Committed and Earnest
After we have realized why we want to forgive, we have to make it a very conscious effort to commit ourselves to fully wiping the slate clean. It is a very much conscious choice to forgive. You have to commit to it very mindfully. It might mean that we have to make it like a challenge, giving ourselves targets.
We also have to reset the boundaries with the person who has hurt us. Above everything, you need to learn to protect yourself from being hurt in the same manner again. Make sure you redefine the limits of your association with the other party. This might be a challenge if the betrayal came from someone who was very close to you or a family member. You really cannot avoid other people completely.
There are many steps towards forgiving others. Each step takes its own time to fully get past. The process of forgiveness can take as much time as it can depending on what has been done to us.
Like any process, it takes a lot of energy and gradual mindfulness to completely be over something. Even years after we have moved on, some trigger words might set us off just like the way some medical scars get itchy or painful in certain weather conditions.
Do not despair when forgiveness does not come instantaneously. If you are the one who has wounded another person, do not expect to be forgiven in a jiffy even after your heartfelt apology. Remember that forgiveness is a process.
Key Articles In This Forgiveness Series
To help you navigate this crucial issue, these articles were written to help answer to important questions and aspects of forgiveness.
Is it practical to forgive and forget? In this article you will discover:
- 4 Reasons to Forgive Your Spouse
- A Practical Blueprint on How to Forgive
- How to Ask for Forgiveness if You are the Offender
Discover the role of forgiveness in your relationship and how to build bridges in your marriage instead of walls.
Forgiveness needs to be a cornerstone of every healthy marriage. It’s not always easy, but it matters. In this article you will learn:
- 5 Reasons Forgiveness is Important
- 6 Specific Scenario’s Where Forgiveness Is Needed
Forgiving others is not easy. This guide will help you understand why it’s necessary and how you can release others who hurt you.
Here are five videos that will help you discover how to let go of offenses.
- Caroline Myss
- Casey and Megan Caston
- Jimmy Evans
- Sarah Montana (TED Talk)
- Dal Dhaliwal
These experts give practical advice on the art and power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is something you offer. It is not a right the other person possesses; it is a gift from you to others. Here are 7 Benefits you receive.
- Break Chains
- Empower Yourself
- Take Responsibility
- Position Yourself
- Regain Perspective
- Stop Poisoning Yourself
- Life is a Reflection
Learning when to forgive and how to forgive is important. Realizing the benefits of letting go can help you move forward in your marriage
- Forgiveness Makes Sure You Keep Short Accounts With Your Spouse
- Forgiveness Helps Us Affirm Our Trust, Love, and Acceptance Of Our Spouse
- Forgiveness Creates Emotional Healing In Our Lives
- Share this Image On Your Site
- Offering Forgiveness Is An Acknowledgement That Your Spouse Is Human
- Forgiving Our Spouse Breaks Shame and Guilt
- Our Heart Needs Forgiveness
- Forgiveness Helps You Stay Positive
Never Too Late To Apologize
“It is too late to apologize!” I am sure that everyone has heard that refrain before. Some even uttered it themselves to someone who hurt them and some use it as an excuse not to confront those people to whom they have done wrong. In the end, the hurt party says those words to justify their feeling of resentments while the one who inflicted harm use the same statement to as an excuse walk around wearing their guilt on their sleeves. In the end, everyone is miserable. Misery loves company, they all say.
However, it is never too late to apologize. And it is never too late to get rid of the resentments or guilt that links us back with the obdurate past. Some feel that after a long time has passed and the other party is not aware of what wrong we have done, it means that they should hide and keep the secret forever so not as to induce “senseless harm” harm on them.
It should be understood that the truth is never harmful to anyone. So let us look at the principles of apology and why it never too late to be responsible and ask for forgiveness.
You first have to understand the reason why you are apologizing.
An apology is a sincere expression of one’s regret over whatever wrong they have done. Most people have the wrong approach to an apology. They do it either grudgingly or just to relieve themselves of the guilt they feel or they apologize because they simply have been caught in whatever act they are guilty of. But, for an apology to truly work, it has to be heartfelt and has to come from deep within.
An apology should be detached from whatever consequence you have to face in the end. You have to honestly acknowledge that a wrong was done, and you have to take responsibility. And you have to apologize not simply because you want to “fix things” but simply because you accept the fact that your act was wrong. This means that you even have to apologize for things that you did and never got caught. This you feel might harm the wronged party but you still have to apologize even if the act was done many years ago.
Are you able to be humble and sincere when you apologize?
Never rush to an apology because you simply want to alleviate your sense of guilt. If you are apologizing for all the wrong reasons, you better stop and give yourself time to get to a more sincere frame of mind.
Remember that the person on whom wrong has been done is hurting inside and when we rush into a feigned apology, we are actually infringing more psychological harm. We might send across a message that the person is not worthy of our sincerity and humility. Sometimes it is necessary to wait for the right moment and frame of mind to repair the wrong.
Own Your Mistakes
Often the person you have done wrong might be expecting you to own up to what you have done. You not confronting them with an honest act of apology will only make them hurt more. Some you claim may not know the wrong you have down might be living in a constant loop of doubt and suspicion. You owning up and apologizing will make them have the closure they were waiting for. In this manner, apologizing does not only relieve you of the guilt, it actually heals the agitation that the wronged one has.
Always Have An Open Heart
Lastly, if you are the wronged party, if you have been hurt, never bluff off people who come to apologize even after a long time. You must realize how much guilt they have been living with and how much courage and humility it took them to come out and apologize. Learn to see the genuine reflection of regret in their actions and accept the apology for what it really is without giving them a hard time.
It might be hard at first to get over the hurt and rage that is roaring inside you but try as much as you can to know how much responsible the other party has been. It does not necessarily mean that you have to let yourself be vulnerable to them. Remember that forgiving them is not an act of weakness, it is rather an act of courage.
In the end, no matter which side of the wrong we are on, it is never too late to apologize or to accept an apology. If you have been harboring some guilt because you feel that it is now too late, own up now and sincerely show regret for the things you have done. Do not expect instant forgiveness but simply take the step towards righting a wrong.
An apology is only the first act, you have to make an effort to turn over a new leaf. If you were wronged, know that it is also never too late to accept an honest and sincere apology. There is no such thing as too late when it comes to apologies.
Why you should seek forgiveness today
I’m sure you have been hurt by someone who didn’t apologize. Or maybe they attempted an apology but you felt worse afterward. Their apology didn’t help the situation. Or maybe you sensed they said, ‘I’m sorry’ so you wouldn’t bring it up anymore. Either way, the apology failed.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this, you know how it feels. This is all the more reason to be quick (and sincere) when you do something that hurts someone else. Especially your spouse.
Since you know how difficult it is get rid of negative emotions, it helps to reach out to the person who is hurt and let them know you are sorry.
The Selfish Nature of People
Let’s face it, most people are selfish. We want people to apologize to us, but we often have a hard time giving others an apology.
For that reason, you cannot let offenses ruin your relationship. Don’t leave forgiveness to chance; be quick to apologize and admit you are wrong.
This isn’t always easy. We have to go against our nature (or that part of us that wants to always be right) and ask for forgiveness. We have to decide we will do what is right instead of letting our pride get in the way.
I’ve seen couples try to sweep things under the rug and ignore the issue, hoping it will just go away. It seldom does. Offenses can build up over time. This causes those small wounds to get bigger. Learn to address the problem head on. Then admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Do Not Seek Revenge
We can even take this a step further. Not only are we selfish at times, we often have thoughts of revenge and retaliation.
If you hurt me, I will hurt you back.
Not long ago I met with a couple who were having deep marital issues. They had been married a long time (40 plus years). Their issues were deep. They had built their marriage on retaliation.
When they were newly married, the husband had an affair. The wife said she forgave him, but slept with a co-worker to get even.
This lead him to pick up a girl at a bar and sleep with her.
The cycle was perpetual. One offense led to the other person doing something to get even.
This situation was devasting. It was a tangled mess that will take time to undo.
Most couples do not experience this to that degree. Yet they practice the art of revenge on a smaller level. One partner says something that hurts the other. This leads to a snarky comment by the offended party. Before you know it, an unnecessary battle is underway. One that could have been avoided by recognizing the pattern and breaking the cycle.
To have the kind of marriage that grows better over time, you must break the cycle of getting even. Healthy couples are quick to admit their faults, seek forgiveness, and move on.
We’ve said it before, but the key is to learn how to build bridges instead of walls. Walls keep people out. Bridges give one another access in the relationship.
As long as couples allow pride, arrogance, apathy, and judgement rule their relationship, they will continue to struggle. The way out is forgiveness.
Ally Bohlsen, from Step Ahead Life Coaching, says:
“I cannot recall the number of times I have watched an individual weep after a realization that they should have apologized sooner to their significant other. Sadly most of these individuals have been women because for some reasons women have been raised to feel more entitled to receiving apologies than their male counterparts.
In many cases, this has led to divisions in relationships where women stubbornly held onto their ego at the expense of a happy relationship. It is usually an ugly scenario when they finally get to this realization”
There are valuable lessons we can learn from this. It’s easy for love to grow cold and dwindle if we don’t keep short accounts with our loved ones. This means we do not allow offenses to stack up in our relationship.
Healthy couples are those who know how to talk about things (even painful things) without accusing one another, and without them turning into a bigger issues.
Have you ever tried to address something that hurt you, only to find the tables turned and you become the ‘bad guy’ in the situation? Healthy couples do not allow this to happen.
When you truly care for someone, you do not want them to feel rejection or pain. You feel emotionally secure when you are confident your spouse will listen and will not leave you to deal with your hurt by yourself.
Do Not Let Things Build Up To A Boiling Point
To keep things from piling up, be quick to seek forgiveness. If you sense your spouse is upset, hurt, or having a difficult time, address it with love and compassion.
Someone wisely said, ‘Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today!’ This applies to marriage forgives as well as tasks and projects.
If you wait too long, all you do is add more emotional distance between you and your spouse. Today is the day to clear the air and begin the process of healing.
How To Apologize The Right Way
One you know you need to apologize, you need to make sure you have the right attitude. Here are a quick checklist that will help you evaluate your apology.
Sincerity. An apology that is not done out of sincerity is worthless. This is one of the most important aspects of healing the relationship – you must mean it.
Genuine. This means it must be from the heart. Not just a meaningless collection of words to get your spouse off your back. A genuine apology is one that is heat-felt.
Timely. Simply put, it has to be at the right time. If you let things go too long, it erodes the authenticity and sincerity of the apology. The best rule is to make things right the minute you realize they are wrong. This keeps your relationship clear of offenses.
Accurate. Generalizations are not effective. If you said something wrong, admit WHAT you said and apologize. It’s not enough to say, ‘I know you are mad and I wish you weren’t.’ That is not an apology. It’s a wish. You send the signal that their feelings are not worthy of your attention.
Honesty: Mean it. This is perhaps the most important dynamic. When you really mean what you say, your actions back it up. Saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ yet not changing your behavior is insincere. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
The bottom line is to care enough about your spouse that you want them to experience joy, peace, and love in their life. You can help by making sure you issue apologies when you do things that hurt them.
Forgiveness is necessary because we all do things at times to wound the people we love. Even though it is unintentional, we need to make sure we keep the record clean by offering make things right when we do things that damage our relationship.
Download Our Free Forgiveness Guide
Since forgiveness is one of the major issues impacting marriage happiness, we’ve put together a practical guide to help you practice the art of letting go and building bridges in your marriage.
Final Thoughts On Why Forgiveness Is Important In Marriage
‘We are only human’ is not an excuse to hurt one another and live reckless lives. It is, however, a reminder that we often take offense at things with our spouse that we shouldn’t be sensitive about. And we also do things unintentionally that hurt the people we love. Because of this, we should remember why forgiveness is important in marriage. We all need it. And we need to give it.
This is the main article in our series on marriage forgiveness. See the links above to read other articles in this short series.
In this article we discussed several issues related to marriage forgiveness. Hopefully it set the stage for you to read the other installments.
Here is a quick review of what we covered in this article:
- Type of Forgiveness
- Forgiveness Is A Process
- Key Articles In This Forgiveness Series
- Never Too Late To Apologize
- Why you should seek forgiveness today
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If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.
Magic Relationship Words by Susie and Otto Collins