Here’s an interesting question: How has your spouse consistently shown kindness to you over the years? I know what my answer is.
In fact, it’s the number one way Debbie has been kind to me over the 19 years of our marriage. She has genuinely forgiven me time and time again for my inconsiderate behavior and hurtful comments.
In my last post I made an argument to embrace (in part) Valentine’s Day for one simple reason: it encourages kindness. I referenced a short, simple Bible verse in the book of Ephesians that says, Be kind to one another.
In this post I’d like to unearth another little nugget from that same short, simple verse in Ephesians. The second part of that verse says to forgive each another. In fact, it reads like this:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other
That’s interesting. The author of Ephesians (Paul the Apostle) was thinking about forgiveness as he was writing about kindness. He linked the two closely together…and so should we.
So perhaps the greatest, or at least one of the greatest, expressions of kindness towards another person is the very selfless act of letting go of an offense.
If you’ve been married for any length of time, then you know how necessary this is. Think about it. How many times have you asked for forgiveness, and offered forgiveness, to each other? Probably more times that you can remember. Yep. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of kindness.
Here’s a few simple nuggets of “forgiveness wisdom” we’ve learned the hard way over the years:
1. Forgiveness is a decision. It’s a decision to let go of, or relinquish, your right to punish the person who hurt you. You are forfeiting your right to hold it against them, which runs contrary to our natural tendency – which is to retaliate. When we’ve been hurt, especially by someone we love, we never feel like letting it go.
2. Forgiveness does not excuse the offender. Whether the offense is big or little, we often hesitate to forgive because we think is excuses the behavior. It feels like we’re letting them off the hook; and worse, giving them license to do it again in the future. The truth is, it’s possible to forgive AND create boundaries and accountability for the future.
3. Forgiveness sets your heart free. You’ve probably heard it said that forgiveness releases you from your own prison of bitterness. That’s true. I’d like to add something to it, however: unforgiveness could be blocking you from truly expressing your love to your spouse. I encourage to pray, “Lord, is there any unforgiveness in my heart towards my spouse?” Try not to hurry through it. Take a deep breath, embrace the quietness, and pray it again. “Lord, is there any unforgiveness in my heart towards my spouse?
4. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. In our experience, it takes a little time to process what happened. And in every case, it not only requires the offended person to let it go, it requires the offender to come clean and own up to what they did. A true apology sounds something like this: “I’m sorry for what I did, and I’ll never do it again.” The focus is on changing the behavior. A disingenuous apology sounds something like this: “I’m sorry if what I did made you upset, but….”, and the justification for the behavior usually follows.
5. Forgiveness is very Christ-like. The last part of that verse in Ephesians says,
Just as in Christ God forgave you
Wow. Meditate on that for a minute or two. There’s a lot there. Think of the specific ways God has forgiven us through Jesus. And remember that our marriages are meant to reflect the gospel, which involves offense (sin), guilt, repentance (owning up to the behavior), forgiveness (God’s part), and reconciliation (restored relationship with God).
There’s so much more to say here. Perhaps we’ll pick up this theme on my next post.
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