How important is forgiveness in marriage? It has been said that “a good marriage is simply the union of two good forgivers.”
The fact is that we fallible humans make mistakes and poor choices, hurting not only ourselves but other people as well. If we do not figure out how to clear away the inevitable debris and toxic air that build up in our relationships they will eventually crush and poison us.
Dr. Robert Enright is widely recognized as the leader in research into forgiveness in relationships. He distills all of his research and experience down into a beautiful sentence:
“Interpersonal forgiveness is a willingness to abandon ones right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love to him or her.”
This statement implies some effort in offering true forgiveness in marriage that goes beyond words and even outward actions, indicating a healing of hearts and souls. This leads to an astonishing result: As we forgive others, the natural byproduct will be growing compassion, generosity, and love! This means that even though we as married couples should never intentionally inflict pain on one another, when we do slip up, opportunities are created to refine ourselves and our marriage as we communicate, explore perspectives and forgive.
At LIFE Marriage Retreats we often work with couples who are filled with resentments and mistrust. As they embrace and practice the principles and skills they are learning, they are able to speak about past hurts and disappointments in safe, healthy, and accountable ways. We worked recently with Jay and Emily, a couple with three children and busy work schedules. Over time they had allowed the busyness of their lives to get between them and spending quality time together; this led to loneliness and emotional disconnect between them, and eventually to feelings of hurt and blame for one another.
It was marvelous to work with Jay and Emily as they resolved their issues. They could feel past resentments melting away as they found their way to frank and honest forgiveness. Margo had shared with them the analogy of a broken bone representing a damaged relationship. When a broken bone is cleaned out and set properly it heals and the old break actually becomes stronger than the surrounding bone. That is the case with Jay and Emily today, their relationship is stronger because they took the time to cleanse and heal it.
They discovered this wonderful truth about forgiveness in marriage: those who forgive are less angry, more hopeful and happy, and less anxious and stressed. They found that forgiveness is a liberating gift they were able to give themselves and one another.