– On your wedding day, you and your spouse were convinced that you loved each other so much you could overlook almost any imperfections. I did. It became a different story once you had to live with each other’s imperfections day after day. In this video, my husband and I will share how forgiveness is a six-step process. We have all been in the wrong at some point in our marriage. Maybe we spent money on something that we had agreed we weren’t going to buy. Maybe we shared something personal with our parents that our spouse asked us not to share. And maybe we didn’t exactly tell the truth when our spouse asked us why we are late. Or maybe it’s something much bigger than that that needs to be forgiven.
– If there’s one thing we’ve learned in marriage, it’s that confession and forgiveness are powerful tools to leverage in a thriving marriage. So let’s first talk about confession and then we’ll unpack forgiveness.
– Confession can be one thing to talk about but it’s an entirely another thing to do. There’s a big reason why it’s so difficult to confess to our spouse when we’re wrong when we say something or do something to hurt our spouse. This big reason could be viewed as the enemy of confession. This enemy fights back against confession. This enemy says things like, “Sure, I may have done that. But what he did was so much worse.” Or, “We’re doing good now so if I bring this up, she’ll just get mad.” Or maybe, “What’s the big deal? I can think of others that have done much worse.” Does any of those sound familiar? This enemy that fights against confession is our pride. And it takes a brave act of humility to confess something we’ve said or done that has hurt our spouse. And it takes a bold step to choose to put our pride aside and seek to make things right with our spouse.
– Marriage problems are never one-sided. We each have a role to play. And when we don’t address our problems, they only get worse. That’s why couples need to learn to make it a practice of confessing and forgiving. These are tools that stop the hurt from building up like a blocked artery. Think of it like a stent. This is placed between two spouses that allow love to flow again.
– So let’s talk about what it looks like to practically confess. Consider this a guide to confession. When you’re in the wrong and need to confess to your spouse, here are four things to remember. Step one, don’t procrastinate. I think we can all come up with excuses to put off having conversations we know we need to have.
– And step two, is to accept responsibility. It’s important to take responsibility for our role in any conflict, even if that role is small at times. So in moments of tension, ask yourself, “What is my role in the tension or hurt in our marriage?” Confessing is not saying I’m sorry because you’re upset. Own up to what you did to upset them. Confessing is owning your responsibility. And be specific. I was wrong because. Step three, show empathy. Empathy took me a long time to understand. If our spouse is hurt by us, acknowledge their pain whether we agree with it or not. And make sure not to make excuses or defend yourself or put a positive spin on the situation.
– And step four, speak clearly. When you apologize, don’t just say you’re sorry. Instead, be specific. Say I was wrong when I did such and such to you. With those tips for confession in mind, let’s shift and talk about forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we want to be extended to us but is really hard to extend to our spouse. There’s this feeling that if I forgive then I’ll let them off the hook. They don’t have to pay for their behavior. When our pastor, Andy Stanley, shared his insights about forgiveness, he said, “We make the assumption that forgiveness is for the benefit of the offender. We look through a lens that forgiveness means we are doing the offender a favor.” And that’s where you might get stuck. That’s definitely where I can get stuck. There’s a lot of confusion about forgiveness. So before we talk about what it is, let’s talk about what it isn’t.
– Now, forgiveness is not forgetting. Sure, some hurts or frustrations from our spouse will be forgiven and forgotten, but forgiveness does not cause amnesia. So don’t let your inability to forget an offense keep you from forgiving it. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you still feel angry or hurt or confused, that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. The path to emotional healing is to forgive now and heal later. Choose to forgive out of obedience, and your feelings should follow.
– Yeah, forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook or condoning sin. Asking for change or restitution is not inappropriate, but it’s also not required in order for you to forgive. You can forgive regardless of the actions and attitudes of others.
– Now, forgiveness is not pretending you weren’t hurt. Small offenses should and can be overlooked because love covers a multitude of sins. But pretending the hurt didn’t happen isn’t the same thing as forgiving.
– As we transition to talk about what forgiveness really is, there’s one verse that helps to put forgiveness into perspective. Colossians 3:13 teaches us how God has already modeled forgiveness for us: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This verse takes forgiveness to a whole new level. As followers of Jesus, we are instructed to forgive, but the end of this short verse gives us the reason why we are to forgive. Forgive as God forgave us. When we recognize that God has not withheld His forgiveness of us, why wouldn’t we extend forgiveness to our spouse? With this verse in mind, let’s talk about what forgiveness is.
– Now, forgiveness is canceling a debt and the extension of grace. It’s also a pardon for a crime or release of an obligation. Now, when we trust in Jesus as our Savior, grace is extended and we are released from the obligation of the debt of our sin. Receiving forgiveness from God is amazing, and it’s also amazing when a husband and wife decide to give each other the gift of forgiveness.
– Perhaps you grew up in a family where no one apologized, no one forgave each other. If it wasn’t modeled for you, then forgiveness inside your marriage is going to take a lot of practice. Unfortunately, for Russ, my way of ending a fight was to shut down and never bring the topic up again, much less forgive. It was Russ modeling forgiveness for years before I extended the same kind of kindness. I knew all about forgiveness as a Christian but it was one thing to know about it and another to put it into practice. Full disclosure. I was so used to holding onto someone doing me wrong, that it felt difficult to let it go. And I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “not forgiving is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick.” Now, here’s the thing. If you’ve always viewed forgiveness from a distance, you’ll never experience the true freedom that it brings.
– In marriage, you’re going to have many opportunities to forgive. Our spouse will do or say something hurtful. They’ll break a promise. They’ll lash out in anger, or maybe even hurt you intentionally. They may come to you to ask for forgiveness. How do you respond? What should you do? When you’ve been hurt by your spouse, here’s a six-step process that can help lead to forgiveness. Step one, don’t procrastinate. Forgiveness, like confession, should be done now. Step two, determine specifically what happened and pinpoint the words or behavior, or tone of voice that caused the offense. Step three, identify how you’ve been hurt and be specific. And then step four, give your spouse the opportunity to ask for forgiveness. And if they don’t, remember, the offense is between God and them. So extend grace and model well for them. Step five, grant forgiveness. And remember Colossians 3:13. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Now, who are we to hold out on forgiving our spouse? Again, this is not a free pass on abusive behavior.
– And that’s good to note that even though forgiveness is always a good idea because it exists for the benefit of the person who has been hurt, there are times when boundaries are necessary to ensure safety and facilitate the restoration of a relationship. For example, forgiving an addicted or abusive spouse is only a step in the process toward healing. Additional steps need to be taken in such cases before the addicted or abused spouse can be considered safe. There’s a difference between forgiveness, which is a tool for healing and restoration and subjecting oneself to repeated abuse by not seeking safety and counsel.
– And the last step is to receive forgiveness. This exercise is about reconciliation. So trust in their forgiveness. It’s a huge step toward increasing your level of emotional intimacy.
– You might be thinking at this point, “But the next time I think about the incident, I get angry again.” And of course, that’s normal. It was never suggested that forgiveness means forgetting. I’ve had a situation in my life outside of my marriage where I was really hurt, and I had to pray for forgiveness almost daily for a couple of years. A powerful message Andy Stanley said one time is to practice forgiveness out of obedience and it eventually will reach your heart. Sometimes we wanna start with the heart and our brain just can’t comprehend the idea of extending that kind of grace. So we get stuck and don’t forgive at all. And we do realize that some are able to immediately forgive, but it can be quite a process for those who have experienced a bigger offense like infidelity.
– So the next time your spouse asks for your forgiveness, how will you respond? Choosing forgiveness isn’t a one-time decision. It’s a deliberate choice each time an opportunity arises. But do you know what happens over time as you and your spouse make that deliberate choice to forgive? It gets easier to forgive, and it gets easier to let things go.
– It also gets easier to confess and move forward together. As individuals, we feel free. We’re not carrying around hurts or frustrations towards our spouse. And as a couple, we are connected because we’ve chosen not to allow a lack of confession or forgiveness to drive us away from each other. Now, we will most definitely need God’s help to both confess and forgive in marriage, but the peace He brings is so worth it.
– Emotional safety is the key to the forgiveness process. As a refresher, go back and watch session two. It’s a video about how to be emotionally safe. And wives, if you’d like to have an emotionally safe conversation with your husband about previous grievances but are not sure how I have a private workshop you might be interested in. If you’d like to discuss this, check out the page Communicate Clearly Course™ and schedule a concierge call. Remember, to have an extraordinary marriage, be intentional.