Forgiveness is vital to a relationship

Unhealthy anger inevitably leads to an unwillingness to forgive, and many a relationship has been destroyed because people have refused to forgive each other.
Forgiveness is also a very real issue in marriage. The health of a couple’s relationship can often be determined by the willingness (or unwillingness) of a husband and wife to forgive each other.
I have talked with many couples over the years, and I never stop being amazed at how people hang on to things they did to each other years ago and the overwhelming pettiness of it all.
“She did this…”
“He always forgets…”
“I never do that…”
On and on it goes.
I am not saying that their hurts (or yours) are insignificant and that they should be simply glossed over. All I am arguing for is that at some point in the relationship, someone needs to have the guts to forgive the other person. If this does not happen, then the couple is either headed for the divorce court or they will simply learn to co-exist under the same roof in a permanent state of “Cold War”.
Forgiveness can be a difficult concept to explain.
This was certainly the case for some missionaries who took the Good News about Jesus to the Eskimos. They couldn’t find a word in the Eskimo language which adequately explained what they meant by forgiveness, so they came up with the following:
It literally means “not being able to think about it anymore”.
Does this mean forgiveness is simply forgetting the wrong that was done to me?
Most of us have been told at some point to “forgive and forget” and we are no doubt familiar with the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Personally, I’ve discovered this isn’t true!
I don’t think much about the physical injuries I have incurred over the years, but I certainly remember many unkind things said to me throughout my life.
Perhaps you wrestle with the same thing.
You feel you have forgiven a person for the wrong they did to you, but there are times when the memory of what was done surfaces again, causing you fresh grief.
Because you still remember, does this mean you haven’t forgiven?
Not for a minute.
When the missionaries to the Eskimos came up with their word for forgiveness, what they meant by “not thinking about it anymore” was the hurt or pain done to you no longer holds you. If, and when, it does come to mind, you direct the memory back to God, forgive again and leave it with Him.
Forgiveness has also been described as “repairing the past”.
When we forgive someone, we repair the wrong and the relationship.
This does not mean forgiveness comes cheaply. In marriage for example, there should be a genuine acknowledgement by one party that what they did was hurtful and a sincere commitment by them to change their behaviour. And the other person then freely forgives the guilty person from the heart.
Throughout our marriage, Karen and I have regularly practiced the discipline of forgiving each other.
Simple statements like, “I’m sorry for … I will change …” and “I forgive you” can feel awkward, but they have enabled us to keep short accounts with each other and not allow petty resentments to build up that over time would undermine our relationship.
The person who gives us strength to forgive is Jesus.
He forgives us freely from His heart and “doesn’t think about it anymore” — all we need do is ask.
And in forgiving us, He also “repairs our past” — we are restored to relationship with Him.
The essence of the Cross is forgiveness, and it challenges us to forgive also.
When we forgive, we are no longer held captive by the person who wronged us – “we don’t think about it anymore” and we repair the past.

Filed under: Rob Furlong - Building Better RelationshipsTagged with: , ,