Forgiveness is probably the most important aspect of any successful and long-lasting relationship, especially marriage. But what does it really mean to forgive?
I often see people waiting until enough time has passed or until the other person has worked to make up for the wrong in order to forgive. In other words, they wait until forgiving feels easier to swallow. But forgiveness is a lot more than a feeling.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22
The Difference Between Forgiveness as a Feeling and Forgiveness as an Attitude
Forgiveness based on emotions and can be fleeting. When you forgive someone because you feel like it, the forgiveness can easily be taken away if you experience negative emotions again. This means that if you forgive your spouse because you feel like it, you might change your mind if they do something to upset you again.
On the other hand, deciding to have an attitude of forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of the hurt and pain caused by your partner’s actions. It’s a choice to no longer hold onto the past, the hurt, the division, and move forward from the pain. When you have an attitude of forgiveness, you choose to forgive your spouse regardless of how you feel. As Christians, we’re motivated to do this becaue we’ve also been forgiven of much.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13
How to Develop an Attitude of Forgiveness
Developing an attitude of forgiveness can take some time and effort, but it’s worth it. Here are a few tips to help you develop an attitude of forgiveness in your marriage.
1. Don’t wait for an apology
Many people believe that they can’t forgive their partner until they apologize. But waiting for an apology can keep you stuck in a cycle of hurt and resentment. Instead, choose to forgive your partner even if they don’t apologize. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the issue, but it does mean that you can choose to let go of the hurt and pain that you’re holding onto.
2. Focus on the positive
It’s easy to focus on the negative, especially when you’ve been hurt. But focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship can help you develop an attitude of forgiveness and thankfulness. View the situation from your spouse’s perspective and consider how you would like to be treated if the roles were reversed. This can help you understand why they did what they did, and it can make it easier for you to forgive them.
3. Practice empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When you practice empathy, you’re able to see things from your partner’s perspective. This can help you understand why they did what they did, and it can make it easier for you to forgive them.
4. Let go of the past
Holding onto the past can keep you stuck in a cycle of hurt and pain. Instead, choose to let go of the past and focus on the present. This doesn’t mean you should forget what happened, but it does mean that you can choose to move forward from the hurt and pain.
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” – John 20: 22-23
Forgiveness is an attitude, not a feeling. It’s a conscious decision to let go of the hurt and pain caused by your partner’s actions. Developing an attitude of forgiveness can take some time and effort, but it’s worth it. By choosing to forgive your partner, even when you don’t feel like it, you can create a stronger and more loving relationship.
Remember, forgiveness is not about forgetting what happened or excusing bad behavior. It’s about making a choice to move forward from the pain and hurt and to focus on the present and the future.