Forgiveness is a good thing, but most of us have difficulty putting it into practice. What exactly is forgiveness? How do you know when you’ve given or received it? These questions are important because your spiritual vitality depends on it.
It might be helpful to define what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not a feeling, though feelings are involved. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me was okay.” If what was done is acceptable then you’re not talking about forgiveness. It’s as if someone said, “If I give you $5, would you forgive me?” That doesn’t make sense. The only platform for forgiveness is when something the offender has done, or has failed to do, has been harmful to you. It doesn’t even matter if it was intended to be harmful. If someone runs over your foot, it hurts whether it was done intentionally or not.
Forgiveness is the decision to give up your right to make someone pay. Think about it in legal terms. If I take your car and wrap it around a tree, I owe you. You have the choice to forgive my debt by saying I don’t have to pay you for the damages. However, once you surrender your right, you cannot come back later and try to make me pay. Forgiveness is your decision. You don’t need anyone’s help, permission, or cooperation to forgive.
It doesn’t mean you’re giving me the keys to your next car. This takes trust. Trust is always built through the cooperation of the person who did you harm. They make the effort to prove they are not only forgiven, but also trustworthy.
To be truly and deeply forgiving in your marriage, you need to be honest with yourself and answer the question, “How do I make my spouse pay?” If you’re going to free yourself from resentment the answer to this question is key. When our boys still lived at home, I was usually the first to leave in the morning. When it snowed I left early enough to clear off everyone’s car windows. However, when I held resentment I’d be sure to leave only enough time to clear off my own windows. It was subtle. No one in the family ever said, “Hey, how come you didn’t clean off my car?” But I knew I was punishing them, and my resentment grew.
You may be deeply hurt. Your spouse may have treated you very badly and your resentment feels justified. But this bitterness prevents you from being the kind, loving, generous, warm person you were created to be. Don’t let anything rob you of the joy and freedom that forgiveness brings. Not when it’s in your power to choose freedom.
How do you make your spouse pay? When you’re ready to forgive, surrender your right to exact revenge. See how much lighter and richer your life can become. It’s not easy, but you’re worth it!
You can do this!