There is a saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” While the first is certainly true, I hope the second is not. To be divine is to be godlike or have the characteristic of or befitting a deity. I’m not sure how many of us would be able to meet that criterion, but I know I fall short. Does that mean I’m not capable of forgiveness? In a word, no.
Forgiveness is a gift we each have the capacity to give, if we choose to. Unfortunately, the hurt, anger, and resentment we feel often gets in our way. One of the biggest obstacles to being able to forgive is the mistaken belief that forgiveness means the behavior was okay. That’s not what it means at all. It simply means that you are taking that act’s power to hurt you away.
Forgive / Forget? Another obstacle to forgiveness is the confusion between forgiving and forgetting. Just because you have forgiven your partner, or your partner has forgiven you, it’s not the same as if it never happened. Forgiveness is a process, not a one time action. You may find you need to forgive, or be forgiven, in stages. This can be hard on both of you, but if you understand that it’s not going to be instantaneous, you can be more patient.
How To. In order to forgive, you have to be clear about what you’re forgiving. It’s necessary to get as deep as possible to really get to the heart of your hurt. This is why forgiveness may take time and why it may not always be a smooth process. This is why it can be so difficult. Most of us want to stay away from that deeper hurt but, if you really want to forgive, you can’t.
Healthy Marriage. Unfortunately, you can’t have a healthy, successful marriage if you are holding onto hurt and resentment. These twin dangers will eat away at the foundation of your love if they are allowed to fester over time. The only way to deal with them is to find a way to forgive the acts that created them.
Choice. It is easier to forgive if you receive an apology, but it can be done without one. This is because the choice to forgive is yours and yours alone. It is a gift you give to yourself, not necessarily to your partner, and it will benefit your relationship. When you forgive, you free up all the energy you’ve been using to feed your hurt and resentment. This negative energy casts a pall over your life and your ability to view your partner in a positive light. Some of this may be deserved, but a lot is a choice you make.
Letting go of the negativity frees your heart to love again and start the process of rebuilding your relationship.
- Week 1: Take this time to identify one action on your part that you know has left your partner feeling hurt or angry.
- Week 2: Write your partner a heartfelt apology, owning your actions. Be specific about what you did that resulted in their pain. Make it clean–meaning don’t try to explain or justify your actions. (This needs to be done but not as part of the apology.)
- Week 3: Identify one action your partner has done that has you feeling hurt or resentful. Be specific about the injury–what it was, how you felt, what it meant to you, and the ongoing damage it is causing. Identify what gets in your way when you think about forgiving your partner. Focus on the costs to you personnally as you actively feel the resentment.
- Week 4: As you feel the resentment, practice confronting it for what it’s costing you. Imagine opening your heart and setting the hurt free. Challenge any attempts to hold onto it but listen to what makes this hard. Be brave and gentle with yourself as you use these clues to go deeper into the hurt. Acknowledge any sign of progress in this positive challenge.
Goal. Forgiveness may seem impossible at first and that’s okay. The goal is to keep working on it. Learning how to both apologize and to accept an apology is part of the process. Getting better at it is a gift to your relationship. Forgiving is an essential part of softening. Softening is necessary if you are wanting to love.
Free Podcast. Be sure to listen to my free podcast which goes into more detail on this Resolution.
Let me know how it’s going. Share your successes and any challenges you might be having.
If you have questions or want to know more about how you can make your marriage great, leave a comment below or contact me through www.AFearlessMarraige.com.