How You and Your Spouse Can Be Quick to Forgive in Your Marriage

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How You and Your Spouse Can Be Quick to Forgive in Your Marriage

No one welcomes unsolicited advice, especially when the subject of critique happens to be about “things” in our marriage. Although I've come to accept that most people mean well, their sweet sentiments and quick quips just don't go down easily for my husband and me.

However, two “nuggets” of wise counsel given early in our engagement have continued to resonate with us both:

  1. Criticize in private.
  2. Forgive in haste.

Wrapping up our pre-marriage counseling, the pastor ended on those two points, then prayed and concluded our sessions. He knew that I habitually neglected to reign in my tongue, so I would need to ask for forgiveness quickly and often.

Since then, I have come to realize that his advice was invaluable, that seeking and giving forgiveness quickly is of utmost importance, not just for public blunders but for private offenses as well. Practicing timely forgiveness is not easy — it’s work. But the benefits of reconciliation far outweigh the costs of my pride and a breach in my relationship with my husband.

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<strong>Remember: God has forgiven us.</strong>

Remember: God has forgiven us.

Yes, I know, this is the pat Sunday school answer to everyone struggling to offer forgiveness at any time. Nonetheless, once we recognize our own sinful nature and the cost that sinless Jesus paid to forgive us and make right our relationship with God, how can we not be compelled to forgive others? Completely innocent, Jesus took the penalty for me and pardoned all my offenses, remembering them no more, something that only a perfect Savior can do. By God’s grace, through faith in Christ, I will not suffer the consequences of my sin — death and eternal separation from God. Moreover, Christ did this for me while I was His enemy (Romans 5:10). Now,  I have been in a full-blown battle with my husband plenty of times, but I would never consider him an "enemy."  If I cannot forgive my husband's actions — which pale in comparison to my offenses towards God — my heart needs a major examination (Matthew 6:14-15).

Don't wait to forget before you forgive.

"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26)

This verse is often taken out of context when addressing the subject of conflict. Paul writes in previous verses that anger by itself isn’t a sin, but uncontrolled, harbored anger can quickly escalate to wrongdoing. Paul is not insisting that all situations be totally resolved before actual sundown, but he is urging us to deal with volatile situations in a timely manner. If we don't appropriately address our anger, it will lead to bitterness, resentment, and an increased desire to seek revenge. Forgiving doesn't always equal forgetting. We must aim to reconcile and rely on the Holy Spirit's power working inside of us to move on and eventually let go of wrongs done against us.

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Leave the judging to God.

Typically, when I hesitate to offer forgiveness, it is because I have an improper desire for justice. My self-righteous nature wants my spouse to pay the price for his actions against me, to suffer consequences that I believe he deserves. Only after “adequate” restitution will I extend the olive branch. So occupied by the “spec” in my husband's eye, I completely ignore the “plank” in my own (Matthew 7:1-5). I am not implying that we should merely overlook all wrongs against us, but we must recognize that more often than not, we are not without blame ourselves. We can't control everything that happens to us, but we can control our responses. God calls us to forgive in all situations, no matter the grievances. We are responsible for extending grace and mercy and leaving judgment to the only One who is righteous and just.

Remind yourself daily: You and your spouse are on the same team.

We must stop automatically assuming that our spouses are out to get us. I used to take most every comment my husband made as a personal attack. Shoes on the floor — he must think I am his maid. Didn't finish his meal — he thinks I am a horrible cook. This is one of the many weapons Satan, the Accuser, uses to drive wedges between husbands and wives. For the most part, our spouse's actions are not premeditated; men do not keep a running list of things they can do to set us off. I often jump to negative conclusions or assume the worst of my husband's intentions, viewing him as a rival working against me. Instead, God sees him as a sinner, a human with faults, and like me, in need of mercy and grace. Unity and harmony in marriage result from looking at our husbands as God intended, as helpmates instead of rivals.

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

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Forgive frequently and swiftly.

As fallen beings, we sin every single day. We sin against God, ourselves, and each other. Relationships are messy, and the closer the ties, the more frequent the opportunity for conflict. It usually isn’t difficult for me to soon forgive, but when my husband repeats the same offense, I am quick to remind him. It is important that once we decide to forgive and sincerely try to forget, we do not dwell on the incident or bring it up again to blame or find fault. Doing so will only hinder reconciliation in our relationships. We need the Lord’s forgiveness not just for our salvation but daily because we repeatedly sin against Him, and this impedes our fellowship with Him. How thankful I am that God does not keep a record of all my sin to hold against me (Psalm 103:12). Don't allow pride, anger or disappointment to keep you from offering forgiveness. 

Being quick to forgive offenses in your marriage doesn't mean that the wounds or hurts will immediately disappear, but the act of forgiveness does help to heal them. Neither does it mean that it won't take time to rebuild your relationship with your spouse. Nor does it guarantee that the offense won't happen again or that everything will magically return to marital bliss. Sincere forgiveness is a one-way action; it isn't contingent on both wounded partners forgiving the other, although that is surely God's will. If only one spouse offers forgiveness, the vital step toward reconciliation and restoration in God's intended relationship between husband and wife has been taken. So, hold close to the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

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Laura Bailey headshotLaura Bailey is deeply burdened for Christian women who, like herself, juggle marriage, motherhood, careers, church, and community. She candidly shares her daily struggles and lessons learned to encourage them to live fully and abundantly in Christ. She and her husband live in Gaffney, South Carolina with their three young girls. Connect with Laura on her blog, www.LauraRBailey.com or on Facebook and Instagram: @LauraBaileyWrites