Forgiveness: What It Is and What It Isn’t

“Here you go again…”

“Maybe if you didn’t always…”

“Let’s not forget it was you who…”

These are scripts of unforgiveness that inflamed many an otherwise common argument in my marriage.  The phrases were hot coals left smoldering from past unforgiveness. While small statements, they packed such heat that when thrust into an argument the fire invariably burned and wounded the relationship far more than the initial argument warranted.

There have been times Mark and I have hurt each other deeply in our marriage. Hurt is to be expected in all relationships—we are fallen creatures. What gives relational hurt power is failing to forgive the perpetrator. Mark and I realized we had to forgive past hurts and stop using the scripts that set every argument ablaze.

Had we allowed unforgiveness to persist and bitterness to take root, our marriage could’ve ended long ago. We had a choice and so do you. You have to make the choice not to allow that, and make the only right choice — to forgive. To make that choice you have to learn what I did. I learned that…

Forgiveness is not a feeling.

When I feel justified, angry, or vengeful I want to hold on to it. But you can’t go to the wrong choice of withholding forgiveness even though you feel like it. Even if you’ve been hurt. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. 

Forgiveness does not mean pretending it didn’t happen or hiding from it.

Just because we forgive doesn’t mean that we forget. Many of the hurts still hurt and if they continue to hurt, seek counseling. Forgiveness is not a cure for hurt but it is a step toward healing. Mark and I have trials like all couples. When we do, we try to learn from our mistakes. If the problem persists or we can’t find a resolution, we seek wisdom from others and that has included marriage counseling.  

Forgiveness does not mean condoning or excusing a wrong.

Just because you forgive doesn’t mean you are weak or tolerating the pain the other person is inflicting or saying what they did is okay. You’re choosing not to harbor bitterness.

Forgiveness is not conditional.

We can’t put conditions on our forgiveness — “If you do this, then I’ll forgive you.” That’s not how it works.

Forgiveness is a decision to personally grow.

This can be really hard when we feel like we’re the one who’s being wronged the most. But when we decide to forgive, we are deciding to mature and grow. Relationships are not easy, but if you adhere to the command to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, then you must give what you yourself would desire–forgiveness from your mistakes.

Learning to forgive is important for my marriage but also for my kids. Along with forgiveness, here are the other areas they were watching my actions.

Mark and I had much to say about this topic in our podcast below.

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