Our first big fight came five months into marriage. We argued over Christmas presents. Gifts that were meant to express our love and appreciation ignited a verbal assault on one another’s heart.
The argument ended with three words: “I hate you.”
Married life wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought it would be.
Looking back now, eighteen years later, I can see that we unknowingly equated simple with easy. We loved each other and we wanted to change the world together…simple enough.
Love seems simple…but it’s complicated.
Sexual intimacy is simple…but it’s very complex.
Marriage sounds simple…but definitely not easy.
Forgiveness is one word whose definition is simple to explain; yet the concept it represents is so hard to live out. There are some great quotes on forgiveness. A lot of Bible verses talk about it.
But how on earth do you forgive, truly forgive, when what forgiveness requires seems like more than you can give?
My husband Justin and I often share the story of our marriage. Like most married couples, we began with high hopes, but gradually we settled for ordinary and failed to recognize the warning signs, until we almost lost all we hold dear.
Today as we travel the country telling our story, Justin’s affair in 2005 gets a lot of attention. But long before he had an affair, I had a forgiveness issue.
Forgiveness sounds simple…but it’s messy.
What I’ve learned about forgiveness is that it isn’t just the big things that cause bitterness. It is the little wounds and daily disappointments that can cause resentment to build in our hearts and complicate our relationships.
When others hurt us, it’s natural to pick up the stones of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. We hold onto them tightly, keeping them close for ammunition the next time we’re wounded. But we fail to recognize that unforgiveness is a weapon that wounds its user.
I used to cling to bitterness. Over time, I allowed resentment to bruise my heart and impair my view of not only my husband, but all of my relationships. Where resentment lives, intimacy dies.
Forgiveness is the healing balm. But forgiveness is not easy.
It’s understandable to live with unforgiveness. We have been wounded. The people who wounded us were wrong. They owe us. It feels fair, even generous, to offer only partial or conditional forgiveness. We will forgive when they make up for what they’ve done.
But this expectation for compensation will always leave a void in your heart—there will be times when they can’t make it up to you. Nothing they say will take away the pain. Nothing they do will erase the memory. Nothing they give will ever restore the hope that was lost.
Conditional forgiveness is not really forgiveness. And it can do just as much damage to your heart and relationships as unforgiveness.
I have found that unforgiveness, in all its forms, causes us to withhold our whole hearts—and not only from the people we haven’t forgiven, but also from God and from those we love. And we cannot be healed and whole, free and fully alive, when we’re holding onto the heavy stones of unforgiveness.
Your past hurts may be holding you back. Perhaps you were abused or overlooked, taken advantage of or lied to. And you may be afraid that if you forgive, you will be admitting defeat. If you forgive, they win.
But forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. In fact, forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart. Forgiveness prevents your past from forfeiting your future. Forgiveness prepares you to move from ordinary to extraordinary.
As I have journeyed through life and sought to live with intention and purpose, the best discovery I’ve made is the power of forgiveness. Like clutter in a closet, bitterness and resentment tend to build up over time. If we desire to live in the freedom and simplicity of heart, it’s important to periodically “de-clutter” our hearts of unforgiveness.
Forgiveness is a process that, if you choose it, will bring freedom to your heart and health to your most important relationships.
Who do you need to forgive?
Trisha and Justin are giving away a copy of Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough to ten Simple Mom readers! Simply leave any comment on this post, and you’ll be entered to win. If you’re reading this via email, please click over to the post and leave a comment on the blog.
This giveaway will end tomorrow night, Friday, September 20, and we’ll announce the winners soon after. I hope you win!