As we enter a new year, many of us no doubt have made resolutions such as “work on my marriage” or “be a nicer person” or “grow closer to the Lord.” But do we have a strategy to fulfill these resolutions? How do we plan to meet such goals? One often overlooked – but critical issue – is the concept of forgiveness. With God’s help, this powerful act can help us accomplish all of the above – and more. In my next several blogs, I want to focus on forgiveness – the ultimate strategy for halting the crazy cycles in our relationships.
There Are Plenty of “Reasons” Not to Forgive
Have you ever been offended by your spouse? Have you ever struggled with forgiving your spouse? Perhaps it was a simple decoding issue, or perhaps it was a serious transgression. Whatever it was, undoubtedly somebody’s air hose was pinched, and the Crazy Cycle started to turn. Perhaps the struggle went on for a few minutes or hours, or it might have lasted for several days, weeks, or years. What goes on in our minds when we struggle to forgive each other? From personal experience, I believe the following thoughts possess us. We tell ourselves “I won’t forgive” for all kinds of reasons, including these:
• “I don’t deserve to be treated this way!” (Translated: “I am a good person and this is unfair.”)
• “I refuse to be treated this way anymore!” (Translated: “I must protect myself from being the fool and victim again.”)
• “My spouse must pay. He or she will not get off the hook!” (Translated: “I will punish my spouse for how I have been treated.”)
• “I have a right to feel this way.” (Translated: “I can justify myself and prove that I am right and my spouse is wrong. Even Jesus was righteously indignant at times.”)
• “God has let me down. Part of this is His fault.” (Translated: “I have a right to be mad at God for allowing this. He needs to make amends by doing something good.”)
Can you relate to any of these excuses? Most of us can! Yet we know that Jesus taught His followers to “forgive seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). Refusing to forgive someone will disrupt your fellowship with the Lord. In effect, the Lord is saying, “You cannot fellowship with Me and experience My cleansing power until you forgive the person who has wronged you.” This is why people who are bitter and unforgiving do not experience the presence, peace, and power of God. The heavens seem as brass, and God seems far away.
Could this be you in your marriage? Is unforgiveness towards your spouse driving a wedge between you and God? As we begin a new year, will you prayerfully search your heart for any bitterness or unforgiveness that you need to release to the Lord? I can think of no better way to begin 2011!
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.