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Married People Must Learn to Forgive

by Norman Bales

Clergy/Leaders' Mail-list No. 321
Some wisdom from Norman Bales on a very important subject...

It is impossible to remain married for any length of time without committing some kind of offense against your spouse. It is also impossible to maintain a satisfactory level of civility in a marriage relationship without forgiving those offenses.

About ten years ago, Ann underwent surgery to have her toes straightened. The surgeon implanted steel pins in her toes and they protruded about an inch and a half. It makes my toes hurt just to think about it. She had to be very careful when she walked around or else she would learn a new meaning of the phrase "stubbing your toe." During the time the pins were inserted, we took a long automobile trip. Ann sat in the back seat and elevated her legs by stretching them out over the front seat.

When we stopped to eat, a fresh snow had fallen, so she preferred not to get out of the car. I stopped at a fast food restaurant and brought her food back to the her. I'm not very good at doing things delicately. Ann says I go about most tasks in life as if I were on the attack. I must have been in my attack mode that evening because I brushed the pins sticking out from her toes in my attempt to set the food down on the front seat of the car. I'll skip over the next few moments of conversation, but to say that she was offended would grossly understate her reaction. I don't think I ranked high on her list of favorite people at that particular moment.

Of course, I said, "I'm sorry," but an apology doesn't stop the pain. An apology didn't smooth over my carelessness. It didn't justify my "bull-in-the-china- closet" entry into the car. On the other hand, I couldn't undo my action. There was no way to put that incident into rewind. You might as well try to unscramble an egg.

So how to do married couples work through such offenses? The apostle Paul shows us the way. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, just as in Christ, God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32). The offending party needs to understand that it may take a little time for an offended spouse to get rid of the anger. I rather suspect that Ann's anger lasted longer than the pain, but not much longer. The offended party must relinquish the right to feel wronged. From that point on, everybody starts out with a new slate. If Ann had said, "Don't ever bring me another hamburger in the car," our relationship would have been damaged. Instead she decided to put the offense in the past, turn over a new page and go on. That's the only way a satisfying marriage can work.

What Others Say About Forgiveness

Benjamin Franklin: "Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; forgiving one sets you above him."

"Forgiveness is an act of the will not an act of emotion; take care of the will and emotion will follow." - a guest on the 700 Club

David Augsburger: "Forgiving requires the grace to accept the other as an equal partner in the search for reconciliation."

Dick Innes: "Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past."

Charles Floyd: "Only the stupid believe that their being unforgiving hurts the other fellow."

"Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me." - unknown author

Matt Condon: "Walk around in a state of grace, in a fog of forgiveness, with your heart so laden with mercy that you're borne down by the weight and you have no choice but to give it away."

Terry D. Hargrave: "Healing by forgiveness, like any type of healing in therapy, is most often work that is slow and that is accomplished over a period of time."

Phillip Yancey: "Forgiveness is no sweet, platonic ideal to be dispensed to the world like perfume sprayed from a fragrance bottle. It is achingly difficult. Long after you have forgiven, the wound lives on in memory. Above all, forgiveness is an unnatural act."

Willard Tate: "A lack of forgiveness is the only thing that will ultimately separate a husband and wife and destroy a marriage."


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