I Wish I Knew…6

…Forgiveness is NOT a feeling

It makes sense that after writing about apologies, forgiveness is next to be discussed. The two go hand in hand. And is as hard to do as apologizing. Here’s what the author, Gary Chapman, advises forgiveness IS:

  • Forgiveness removes the barrier and lifts the penalty…which means we choose to never hold that failure against that person again.
  • Forgiveness removes the barrier and opens possibility for the relationship to be restored and grow again.
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision….decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice.

…and what forgiveness is NOT:

  • Forgiveness does not destroy memory. Especially when it comes to emotional hurts, certain hair triggers can bring on a flood of memories relating to the hurt. It doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven…it just means you’re human and have feelings. I’ve made a conscious decision that whomever I have forgiven in faith, I will choose to not let the memory of the past offense impact how I respond to them today.
  • Forgiveness does not remove all consequences of wrongdoing. Hurt and damage is still done and could need paying for….but you’ve released them from your desire to see them punished by you.
  • Forgiveness does not rebuild trust automatically. Loss of trust is a natural consequence…and that needs to be rebuilt starting with a genuine apology followed by a continuous demonstration of a change in behavior. With an attitude of openness and a consistent pattern of honesty, trust can be rebuilt again.
  • Forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation….it brings the possibility of reconciliation if both parties are willing. If you come wanting to restore the relationship but the other person does not, release them to God and release your hurt and anger to Him. Don’t let their unwillingness to reconcile destroy your life. And of course, sometimes you should not be reconciled because the other person will continue to harm you…they need to address and be healed from their problems first.

At the end of the day, forgiveness is the only healthy response to being hurt. Even if the offender never apologizes or seeks forgiveness from you. You may have heard these quotes or quotes like these:

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the offender dies instead.
Unforgiveness is like holding burning coals that you’d like to throw at the offender.
Forgiveness is releasing the prisoner from your cage, only to realize you have just set yourself free.
Forgiving someone isn’t for their benefit…it’s for YOUR benefit.

Speaking more personally to my first year of marriage…learning to forgive is CRITICAL to building a healthy marriage. We’ve only had “little” offenses to forgive each other on this first year, but I’m not going to kid myself that “little” hurts are all that’ll ever touch our marriage. I can also see how a bunch of unforgiven “little” offenses, swept under the rug, can one day blow up when that cherry hits the top. Genuine forgiveness is the only thing that will keep roots of bitterness from forming and choking your marriage. It’s the only thing that will tear down walls of hurt that will otherwise isolate individuals in a marriage. Forgiveness must be continuous.  I’ve fought negative thoughts that I won’t forgive unless he apologizes first because I know that if I want to be forgiven by God for my shortcomings, I MUST forgive. Whether or not the other person apologizes is between them and God. Extending forgiveness is ultimately something between God and myself…when I’m finally able to apologize to Him for my hard-heart, pride and self-righteousness and receive His forgiveness, then forgiving my spouse (or anyone else) will be a natural by-product of that. If I at all think that the other person is undeserving of forgiveness, I’m already in a position of needing forgiveness. Interesting how that works.


4 responses

  1. Speaking from personal experience, forgiveness has been one of…no scratch that. I would say its been the HARDEST part of our marriage. At least for me. I don’t like swallowing my pride (even with salt, it dosen’t taste good!), I have so much built up anger from other places in my life it overflows into my marriage and its a bad place for an outlet…but it happens. When I am mad the last thing in my head is forgiving. The first thing in my head is usually “holding burning coals that you’d like to throw at the offender”.

    Its terrible and I know it. I’m also the worst at apologizing in our relationship. By far C is wayyyyy better at it. Although, he fights meaner too.

    Good post…but man is it ever rough to live it!

    • Sometimes in the heat of it I try to repeat to myself “This will make me a better person! This will make me more CHristlike!” Still really hard nevertheless. But your comment reminds me of something my Pastor once said…that marriage is like a crucible. The heat of being so close is something that brings out the impurities in each other. Love and forgiveness is something that removes the impurities. And so we become better for it. 🙂 An additional great reminder for self. ha ha. So thanks for sharing!

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