Posted: Jun 25 2018
How Can I Forgive?
Sometimes the hurts, the offenses, the words that shouldn’t have been spoken, the disappointments and the misunderstandings just seem to pile up. Day after day, week after week, year after year we do our best to overlook, forgive, and let go of the things that chip away at the closeness, connection and respect in our marriage. Sometimes it’s the big things that leave a gouge in the relationship, but more frequently it’s the thousands of little things that end up eroding the once shiny and polished finish to expose what’s raw and painful underneath.
We can get to a place where any and everything that is said or done feels like an irritation and the pain and disconnect in the marriage seems impossible to overcome. How will we ever find our way back to that love we want and used to have?
Right now, there are probably people reading this who wonder:
I meant ‘until death do us part’, but how am I ever going to survive this marriage?
Should I stay just for the sake of the children?
Why should I stay in a relationship that I’m getting nothing out of?
How can I forgive or forget the things that have been said or done?
We easily remember the negatives or the things we don’t like, and too often forget the positives and the good things about this person we’re married to. While the list of the “cons” about our spouse gets longer and longer, the list of the “pros” seems to evaporate until it becomes basically non-existent. We need to do the exact opposite. There is a parable circulating on the internet that demonstrates the point:
Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
Life is life. It’s hard and it’s filled with fallible humans--fallen beings who act so imperfectly at times. (Ourselves included!) We’ll never make it through years of a relationship as close as marriage without suffering a whole host of hurts. But lest we forget, (and we do) we also reap many wonderful blessings. We need to learn to write the hurts and offenses in sand and the blessings and good things in stone. I know…it’s easier said than done.
Oftentimes, we make it difficult because we keep focusing on the arguments, the harsh words, and the real or perceived hurts. We run them over and over in our minds and will even rehearse them time and time again with whatever audience we can find. Our friends, a sibling, parent, co-worker or any ear will do as we ‘vent’ the litany of the past offenses or latest transgressions. Even if we stop talking about it, we think on it continuously…all the while claiming, “I’m trying to let it go!”
In my Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar, I explain what forgiveness is:
Forgiveness is when you say, "I forgive you, I will never use it against you in the future. I will never speak of it again to you or to anyone else." Forgiveness has more to do with your tongue than your head or your heart. If you're still talking it through, you haven't forgiven, you need to hush…you need to let it go. That's forgiveness.
Perhaps you have a difficult time with the “hush” part, or maybe you don’t constantly talk about it, but you can’t get it out of your mind. (NOTE: I’m not referring to the need to discuss problems or transgressions. What I mean is the repeated rehearsing of what someone has done and constantly reminding them or yourself of the incident.)
Scripture gives us the key when it comes to forgiveness and letting things go from our minds. Romans 12:12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Philippians 4:8 says to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. So, when we get stuck and keep replaying the situation, keep thinking of what we should have said, ruminating over the pain of what happened and nurturing the wound, we are only feeding the beast. Another sure way to fail at getting over something is trying NOT think about it. Let me explain…
You and your spouse get into a spat over something…let’s make it simple like the gas tank in the car was left on empty—again—after one of you made the request (for the umpteenth time) that the last one driving is to be sure there is more than a quarter of a tank. The quarrel ensued and all sorts of things not even connected to the car came flying out. Both of you ended up fuming for the rest of the day and flopped into bed angry. While lying as close to your respective edges of the bed as the laws of balance and gravity will allow, what’s going on in your head as you try to get past the skirmish? You know you have to let it go. You know you are obligated to forgive. You know must move forward. Thoughts of: Stop thinking about it. Let it go. Move on. Forgive and forget. Rumble around your brain. Maybe you are even able to hum in your best Elsa voice, “Let it go! Let it go!”….but it stays!
Remember the key: Renew your mind. Think on what is right and pure, noble and lovely, admirable and praiseworthy. Start listing the GOOD things you have shared, the valuable traits and qualities of your mate. Recollect times when he/she filled you with much more joyful thoughts and feelings. Your mind cannot be occupied by both negative and positive at the same time. Renew it with the lovely things. Meditate on the goodness of God, the life you have in Christ, the gratitude you have for the forgiveness you’ve received from God and from others.
You may be thinking: Yeah, Mark! That’s all fine and well and good for inconsequential things like gas tanks, toilet seats and toothpaste tubes! But I have some REAL hurts! The answer is the same. If long lists of very painful actions and words are what you are trying to overcome, struggling to let go of, and attempting to forgive, that key is still the key. When someone does something wrong, we can’t forget everything they’ve done that is right. But we do.
Choose to remember. Choose to stay in the marriage. Choose to reconnect rather than disconnect even further. Choose to work at collecting all the things your husband or wife has done right…not the things they’ve done wrong. Try it. Practice it. You may be surprised. Trust God to do a new thing in your heart, mind and marriage. Have the hope that He is a good God and that you’ll be given the strength and power to change your thinking toward your mate. Let the winds of forgiveness erase the hurtful thoughts and feelings. Start etching in stone the good things so they will always be with you, never to be blown away.