Freedom from Guilt
Rule #9: I love you enough to forgive and forget all wrongs. The healing of all conflicts really lies with the asking for and the offering of forgiveness. We can in love see the sinful side of each other and continue to love. This is only possible because we forgive and forget. (Forgetting is defined as “not bringing the problem up again.”)
We are commanded by Jesus Christ to forgive each other (Matthew 6:14-15). There is no place where forgiving and forgetting is more important than in the marriage relationship. Unfortunately, seldom is it practiced as much as it should be. There is no one who will ever know more of your faults and failures than your spouse. For someone who cannot forgive, being married is like being in a torture chamber. No one tells the truth without failing. No one fulfills every promise. No one lives up to the highest standards of behavior and yet we must continue to love and live with each other.
True Forgiveness Means Forgetting the Wrong
There have been many people who explain to me that they have terrible trouble forgetting the failures of their spouse. The offense was so painful and terrible that there is no way they can ever forget. I remind them of our command to forgive if we ever want forgiveness for our own transgressions. Forgiving someone else does not give us permission to sin against them, but forgiving is required before we can be forgiven ourselves. They will tell me, “But anything I might have done is nothing compared to what they did to me.” You see, they have not really forgiven. They are still keeping score of the offenses and the offsetting offenses of their own. Forgiving is not keeping “score”. If you are having problems forgetting, you must at least promise to never bring the forgiven issue up again. It must not be a poison that continues to weaken the marriage.
The Forgiver is Released just as truly as the Forgiven
We all know the power of cancer within our bodies. Just a few cells of cancer can multiply and spread until the entire body is threatened. Anger, resentment, and bitterness over past violations are a cancer of your spirit and personality. Left alone and untreated, those emotions will eat away your joy, your trust in your marriage partner and your hope and dreams for the future. When we make the effort to forgive those injuries, we begin the process of releasing ourselves from those consequences. When we try to hold onto those wounds, believing that we must remember those hurts in order to protect ourselves from future injuries, all we end up doing is becoming the person responsible for injuring ourselves by our refusal to forgive and forget.
The Promised Land always lays on the Far Side of the Wilderness
I have told so many couples the same thing, “I have never seen a problem, an injury or a transgression in any marriage that was so impossibly large that it could not be forgiven and overcome.” Most of those couples who are facing those issues have difficulty believing me. Those who have, who have made the effort to learn from the event; to forgive, to forget and to put their trust in the person they promised to love, have found joy returns on the other side of the problems. I won’t cover up the reality that a few have failed even after true forgiveness and healing. But the vast majority of those who endure the very harsh reality of the wilderness of hurt and sorrow, will find a deeper relationship on the other side. Those who give up without going through the challenge of forgiving and forgetting, simply make the unhappiness permanent and unrecoverable.
I believe that the promise of a stronger marriage on the other side is worth the effort required to make it possible.