The Power of Foregiveness

Written by Carl & Yolanda Bennett
coupleholdinghands_500Forgiveness. It is such a hard thing to do, but it can be so liberating to the soul. What makes it difficult for most of us is the way we define it. We think of forgiveness as meaning that we should say all is forgotten and things will go back to what they were. The Biblical definition of forgiveness is very hard for most of us to swallow.

Being able to forgive and to let go of past hurts is a critical tool for a marriage relationship. Additionally, being able to forgive is a way to keep yourself healthy both emotionally and physically. Every marriage Relationships needs forgiveness. No relationship, especially a marriage relationship, can be sustained over a long period of time without forgiveness. Even though you may find it difficult to forgive, being able to forgive is crucial in marriage. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has grumpy days. Many people say things they do not mean now and then. Everyone needs to forgive and to be forgiven.

Why do we Find it so hard to forgive? One reason is that we don't really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we really don't. Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook, scot-free and they get to go about their merry way while we unfairly suffer from their actions. While God commands us to forgive others, He never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.

The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn't. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive by letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries in your relationship.

What is Forgiveness?
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
  • Forgiveness is allowing God the right to take care of the justice. By refusing to punish or get revenge, we are telling God we trust Him to take care of matters.
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive; the reality about forgiveness is that it probably is not going to happen immediately after the offense. That's okay.
  • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive. Forgiveness is the initial act of the process of healing and restoration.
What is not Forgiveness?
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur. We don't have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to lack of respect or any form of abuse.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, "What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me." Nor is it playing the martyr, meaning we are enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
  • Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
  • Forgiveness is not based on others' actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
  • If they don't repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. If you may have to memorize and repeat this next statement over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It's normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it's what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, "Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is."
Some may still be asking How can you forget the unforgettable? How can you forgive the unforgivable? What is really required is that we make the decision to move forward and let go of the hurts. We don't have to condone what's been done. What is wrong is still wrong. What we do have to do is allow ourselves to release all the negative emotions associated with that person. As long as we hold onto the pain, we are choosing to allow that person's past actions to continue to hurt us.

How do you Forgive?
  • Be open
  • Make the decision to forgive your spouse
  • When images of the betrayal or hurt flash in your mind, think of a calming place or do something to distract yourself from dwelling on those thoughts
  • Don't throw an error or mistake back in your spouse's face at a later date. Don't use it as ammunition in an argument
  • Don't seek revenge or retribution. It will only extend the pain
  • Accept that you may never know the reason for the transgression
  • Remember that forgiveness doesn't mean you condone the hurtful behavior
  • Be patient with yourself. Being able to forgive your spouse takes time. Don't try to hurry the process
  • If you continue to be unable to forgive, or you find yourself dwelling on the betrayal or hurt, please seek professional counseling to help you let go and forgive
We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it's not true forgiveness — it's a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, "I want to forgive you, but right now I'm struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it."