Monday, 10 January 2011

Forgiveness - Part II

Obstacles to Forgiveness in Marriage

In his book Marriage Matters, Winston Smith acknowledges that practicing forgiveness in marriage is difficult because the more intimate you are with someone, the more power he or she has to wound you deeply.

Forgiveness means taking the issue off the table. Sometimes spouses rush through the process to get it over with. The offended spouse may rush to grant forgiveness, short-circuiting the offending spouse’s need to confess fully. Sometimes he or she feels pushed to forgive prematurely, in effect closing up a wound that’s still filled with debris.

If you feel as though important aspects of the incident have not been discussed, explain to your spouse that you fully intend to forgive them but that you need more time to process the confession and the events leading up to it.

If you are the offending partner make sure you’ve taken adequate time to let your spouse verbalize their hurt and then take the time to put into your own words how your sin has affected your spouse, and then genuinely express heartfelt sorrow for it.

Another prominent obstacle to forgiveness is the belief that the offending spouse will inevitably commit the same sin again. The more complete the confession, the easier it is to have faith that, even if it happens again, God will continue to effect change and growth. Secondly, when forgiveness is blocked by the fear of a repeat offense, it can be especially important to talk in detail about steps to take to prevent it from happening next time.

There are elements to forgiveness that may seem to be elements of biblical love but are really veiled ways of serving ourselves because our response is shaped by desires and fears instead of love. We must understand the difference between forgiving and enabling and when it is necessary to set consequences. Addictions and certain damaging behaviors must be dealt with in a loving but restrictive way. For example an addiction to pornography needs forgiveness however certain consequences should be implemented such as using a filter on the computer. The consequences shouldn’t be punitive such as locking them out of the bedroom for six months which is in reality an act of revenge.

In the case of physical abuse most likely one of you will have to leave the house. Treatment should be sought. Unfortunately our motives may always be a mixed bag, but the prominent motive in the consequences we impose ought to be love not fear or anger. We must ask ourselves “what is the goal in adding or removing a consequence?” “Will the consequence be likely to encourage our spouse to change?” Or, “will it provide some sort of protection so that the relationship can heal?”

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