Couples who make it to their 20, 30, 40-year anniversaries are impressive, but most people have no clue the amount of repentance and forgiveness it took for the couple to make it that far.
Many people believe they know what forgiveness is but really, they only believe the portion of forgiveness that they are comfortable with. Forgiveness comes in 2 parts; the first part is easier than the second. Let me define it like this;
‘To truly forgive someone you first have to pardon them of the offence they caused you, then you have to behave as if it never happened.’
Now I know what you are thinking, you are thinking, “that’s stupid, I can’t even forget the pain my grade 6 teacher caused me with her ruler Mr. Correction much less how my coworker betrayed me last week. If I do that they are going to keep on doing the thing that offends me repeatedly.
There has to be a way where I can forgive without acting like I’m cool with the person who hurt me.” If your thought process is in any way similar to that statement, then you are holding on to resentment out of fear of being offended in a similar way again.
Reconciliation is impossible without true forgiveness; it is not something that has to happen instantly but the process must move in that direction.
The destructive power of resentment
If we hold on to resentment it will turn our hearts cold toward a person, we may want to have a happy relationship with and this will influence how we treat them. Let me illustrate what this looks like.
I had a friend once her name was Patrice, she is no longer with us may she rest in peace. Patrice was married to Gregory and they both had a son together. Patrice had an entrepreneurial spirit and so would be open to exploring various business ventures. She once went behind her husband’s back and invested money into a business idea that they didn’t budget for.
The money she invested was money they needed to pay the bills and buy groceries but she was so confident she would be able to replace the money in no time she figured Gregory would never notice.
Unfortunately, the business deal didn’t work out the way she intended and when bill and grocery time came there was no money. Gregory was angry about the situation and her dishonesty. They had to borrow money to cover the bills and food that month. Though he pardoned his wife’s dishonesty for which she was truly sorry, he now kept closer tabs on all the family's money.
At first, Patrice understood but soon it started to become overbearing. She couldn’t spend a dollar out of any of the accounts without him knowing and whenever he confronted her on spending habits, he would repeatedly bring up the bad investment she made that cost the family dearly.
Patrice, now frustrated by her husband’s contempt, wondered why Gregory couldn’t forgive her and move past the mistake she made so long ago and I wondered the same thing so I confronted him about it. The conversation went like this.
Gregory: “I know how impulsive Patrice can be and so it is my duty to protect the finances from her lack of self-control.
Me: “Has she made the same mistake more than once?
Gregory: “No, because she knows I am keeping close tabs on our money”.
Me: Do you think she is sincerely sorry?
Gregory: “Yes, I mean, it seems that way to me, she has been very transparent with her spending ever since.”
Me: “So why won’t you forgive her?
Gregory: “I have forgiven her I’m just being cautious”.
Me: “Well bro, she doesn’t feel forgiven because the mistake of her past haunts her through your cautious behavior toward her and the constant bringing up of the incident in your arguments about money. It is causing her to resent you and is pushing her further and further away, she feels she will never regain your trust and is starting to think the marriage has run its course. Do you want her to be more comfortable with you and confident in your marriage?”
Gregory: “Yes, I would love to restore what we once had.”
Me: “Great, well then you can start communicating that to her and trusting her some more. Negotiate with her a monthly spending limit that will act as a boundary within which she has the freedom to spend or save up for something specific. By doing this she will feel forgiven by you.”
Gregory took my advice and though Patrice put up resistance to the boundaries at first, we explained why they were important and that he was giving himself the same boundaries. Their relationship started flourishing and they had another baby on the way when she passed. Unforgiveness would have caused the downfall of their marriage and even deeper regret in Gregory’s heart but grace, structure and fairness made the relationship improve.
Are you harboring resentment against your spouse for a hurtful thing he/she may have said out of anger? Or maybe he or she refuses to give you the attention you need to feel loved and appreciated.
Our natural tendency is to fight fire with fire, however, we must always on a regular basis ask ourselves “what is more important to me, my marriage or my pride?” “My spouse’s opinion or the opinions of my friends?” The one we value more is the one we will continually choose.
Your choices send a clear message to your spouse, either I value you and really want us to work out, or I value other things and other people above you and don’t believe we can work together. Our behavior also communicates whether we have truly forgiven them or not.
Darren Salmon is a young man from Kingston, Jamaica where he read for his Bachelor of Science degree in BioTechnology at the University of West Indies. He became a follower of Jesus when he was 10 and has since developed a ministry of Christian Poetry for which he has gained a godly reputation. Darren is husband to the lovely Mrs. Kimberley Salmon (previously Morgan), another talented young writer with Christian Today. Darren is a joint 1st place recipient of the Tronson award for international young writers with Christian Today for the year 2019. To read Darren’s previous articles visit his weebly site at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/darren-salmon.html