Forgiveness is never easy, but it’s the vital first step toward healing. A woman once wrote to tell “Dear Abby” that her husband of two years had had an affair with a young widow, who then carried his child. The wife wanted to die; she also wanted to kill her husband and the widow. But she knew those weren’t the answers she needed. Instead she prayed to God, and the Lord gave her the strength to forgive both the husband and the widow.
The baby was born in the home of the husband and wife and raised as their own. He turned out to be their only child. In fifty years, wife and husband never discussed the incident again. “But,” the wife wrote, “I’ve read the love and gratitude in his eyes a thousand times.”
By praying for God’s help, this woman received peace, a loving marriage, and a child she otherwise wouldn’t have had. The next time anger and resentment rise up in your throat, get on your knees and ask the Lord for the healing work He wants to do in your heart. We believe He will hear and answer that prayer.
Just as we must act on Scripture’s instruction to forgive, we should also consider the great cost of failing to do so. Withholding forgiveness brings on bitterness, which Neal T. Anderson says is like “battery acid in the soul.” It leads to anger, resentment, depression, health problems, isolation, struggles with addictions, and more. It continues to haunt the person until he or she comes to terms with it. People who hang on to bitterness cause more pain to themselves than to the targets of their wrath.
A second cost is equally distressing. Jesus told a parable of an unmerciful servant who, after his master forgave him a large debt, demanded payment of a small debt from another servant. The master had the first servant thrown into jail and tortured. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you,” Jesus said, “unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
For couples who want to follow God’s way for marriage and who hope for His best in their relationship, forgiveness is not just a suggestion. It is a spiritual commandment!
C S. Lewis pointed out that “forgiving does not mean excusing . . . if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive.” Dr. Arch Hart, a Christian psychologist says, “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Forgiving is a decision, not an emotion.
In our marriages we’ll often need to choose to have a right attitude before our wounded heart has healed. Even when we can’t control how we feel, we can determine how we act and what we do with our pain.
In the middle of your highway to forgiveness there may be a giant roadblock called pride. You know in your heart that you offended your wife with that comment about her body, or her intelligence, or her family. You realize you hurt your husband with that remark about his selfishness or his waste of money. But something is keeping you from admitting wrong and seeking forgiveness. Even though you know you’re guilty, you can’t get the words out of your mouth. At best you can mumble, “I’m sorry,” but you don’t really want to know if your partner heard you.
Pride is terribly destructive to human relationships. It may be the sin that God hates most, because there are more than one hundred references to it in Scripture. Proverbs 6:17–19 describes seven things that God finds detestable, and the first one on the list is “a proud look.” If you or your mate have a haughty attitude that prevents you from seeking forgiveness and reconciling, it will damage your marriage. We encourage you to swallow your pride and talk to your spouse. Once you’ve done that, why not clear one more roadblock and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for your prideful heart?
From Dr. Dobson’s book, Night Light For Couples