Simple but not easy

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?


beyondordinarycover_smallTrisha 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!

top photo source

Trisha is an author, speaker, blogger and co-founder of RefineUs Ministries. Sharing her own story of ministry, marriage, loss and redemption, she longs to ignite a movement to build healthy marriages and families. She is the co-author of her first book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Trisha and her husband Justin make their home in Nashville, with their three boys, Micah, Elijah and Isaiah.

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  1. Powerful message!! I think many of us struggle with forgiveness and it can poison all our relationships! I would love to read more!

  2. Thank you for this post! So excited to read your book!- Jenna

  3. Great post. I would love to read this book!

  4. I am on a pastoral care team for missionaries. I am going to order several of these to take to our retreats/conferences we do annually for our folks on the field.
    When we consider what Jesus did on the cross how can we withhold forgiveness? Nothing is unforgivable. MAY TAKE SOME WORKING THROUGH BUT we can’t afford to hang on to it.

  5. Still struggling with the concept of forgiving when my husband continues to hurt me. I could really use a book like this. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. Thanks for sharing some of your story. I would love to read more! My husband & I often say we don’t want “just a good marriage” … we want extraordinary. But knowing how to get there is definitely not easy!

  7. sounds like I need to learn forgivness in a whole new sense

  8. Thank you for the challenging article and the opportunity!

  9. I would love to read the rest of this book. I read the intro and I need your book.

  10. Like so many others here, I woke up and found this in my email. This has been the hardest week of my life. I struggle every day to keep my head above water. Without going into details, I feel like this was put here for me to read today. It is indeed the little things that sometimes cut you the deepest. I believe in God. I believe that with God, we can get through anything. That includes the deep, dark holes in marriage that you never expect you will live through.

  11. Such a tough lesson to learn. I think we’re all works in progress….

  12. Id like to enter the giveaway!

  13. This book sounds like a winner!

  14. I have a similar story. You are not alone!

  15. I love the cluttered closet metaphor. You’ve got to be on it if you want it clean. I want to ruthlessly root out Unforgiveness! Would love to read the book.

  16. We’re only 3 months into our marriage and we’ve already learnt pretty quick that it’s not easy at all! Somehow we though that just having those love feelings for each other would be enough! Little did we know how complicated and hard it really is! But we’re certainly glad we chose each other for this hard but worth it experience!! Would love to read your book: there’s always time to make a marriage better and stronger!

  17. I would love to read more about their journey. I will be purchasing this book even if I’m not chosen to win it.

  18. Thanks for sharing! We all need the power of encouraging and inspiring stories for the hard things of life.

  19. I am dealing with forgiveness…or lack of, right now. I’d love to read your story.

  20. This was a lovely post on a topic that I often struggle with. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Love this post! Forgiveness is an area I am still growing in daily after hurt and betrayal from “friends”. Forgiveness truly is about my heart condition, but it can be so hard especially when an apology from the other person never comes. I have been wanting to get your book for awhile. Love all your posts!

  22. I love my husband and our marriage, but I can easily fall into the trap of our marriage being “good enough.” I’d love to do some reading on the topic!

  23. Understanding that forgiving does not mean forgetting or condoning is perhaps the greatest challenge I face today. Letting go of hurt and anger sounds so simple and yet to put these simple ideas into daily practice seems immensely difficult. I look forward to reading your book.

  24. What a great post! I read this at a time when I really needed to hear this. Sounds like an amazing book!

  25. Great post, thank you! I am currently in a situation myself requiring forgiveness. Would love to read more in the book!

  26. Would love to read the story, and find out how you’ve recovered. I needed to read this today for so many reasons.

  27. It amazes how your posts seem to speak directly to me and what I am experiencing at the time. Thank you for your inspiring story, I am struggling with forgiveness and I you have helped me see that by holding onto the resentment I am actually preventing the relationship from moving forward. It’s not all ‘their’ fault. I have no idea how to let go of the resentment but I have to.. somehow.

    Thank you for all you do.

  28. I would love to read this book and then share it with my friends!

  29. Thank you for your beautiful words and thank you for helping me to see that by holding onto resentment you prevent the relationship from moving forward. I hope I can somehow learn to forgive so I can get on with enjoying my relationship.

  30. My marriage ended in divorce because neither one of us was able to forgive; and it is still difficult to forgive all the past wrongdoings and the current ones, as well, while we still parent our children together. I have to consciously forgive this man every day of my life so I can be a better parent to my kids. Forgiving the past is so much easier now that the hurtful things now have a much sharper sting.

  31. I would love to read this book. I am recently remarried and so grateful for this “re-do.” I’m gathering all the tools I can in order to this marriage well. Thank you!

  32. What a great post on what it truly means to forgive. Would love to read their book.

  33. Thank you for this beautiful message. I definitely need to work on this….

  34. I would love to read your book if this post is a reflection on the life lessons you have learned through the years. Marriage is work and those who don’t keep working at it either end up without marriages or in unhappy ones.

  35. Resentment is certainly toxic to any relationship, but I wonder about what comes after forgiveness (whether for the little annoying things or the big trust-destroying things)? Pretending it never happened (and thereby facilitating a rinse-and-repeat situation)? Setting up boundaries? What kind of boundaries? Forgiving those who hurt you was emphasized in a big way all through my childhood and young adult years, and it now seems that I’m spending the rest of my life trying to figure out the next step after that. In so many situations that I observed growing up, forgiveness was essentially a pass for bullies. I’d like to think it’s more than that, but what?

  36. What a great message. My parents struggled with an “ordinary” marriage that led to an affair (and then another), until God finally turned their marriage into the one they had been praying for. I’d love to read your book and see your take on all this as my husband and I work to keep our marriage from the same pitfalls our parents experience.

  37. Would love to read their story, and maybe glean some hope for my own situation.

  38. Thank you so much for this article, 4 days after our 10th anniversary I found out that my husband had cheated on me, on top of many issues that we were already going through. Is has been 4 months that he’s trying to get my forgiveness and because I love him and I want my family together, I have been trying to forgive him; what I read is exactly what I have been feeling. It was very much needed. Thank you!

  39. I would love to have a copy of this book. I have printed this post and will keep it in my planner as a reminder. I am constantly working on forgiving and not becoming bitter towards my husband. I have bitter, unforgiving parents, so it is hard not to fall into the habits that I learned from them for so long. It is a constant effort to not fall into that trap

  40. Thank you for that good reminder. It’s a lesson I’ve been working on for a while now; sometimes it takes a daily choice to forgive! I pray for all those whose marriages and relationships are filled with hurt, bitterness, and unforgiveness.

  41. I love reading your inspirational insights each day. I even have your post On Gratitude hanging on my wall at work to remind myself each day to be grateful of what I have around me and in my life.
    Thank you so very much!

  42. I have a similar story and I would love to read theirs. It’s not something I talk about with anyone so reading about it would be a good thing for me.

  43. Hi,
    This goes right to my heart and made me cry. 2 years ago my husband told me he was in love with someone else. After trying many right and wrong things, I moved out a year ago. We still ‘saw’ each other until recently. And I have now decided to end it and get a divorce because forgiveness was a one way street and our couple could not find a way back together. So I am sad today and it helps to read about other people who went through this. It gives hope.

  44. Great article and I’d love to read this book!… side note, you do not look old enough to be married 18 years, (and I mean that in the most positive way possible) but I’ll take your word for it!! 🙂

  45. I would love a copy of your book. I appreciate your transparency. I have learned a lot from you already! THANK YOU!!!

  46. Shanna Brown says:

    Thank you for this feed post today, it really touched me in that I have had a similar experience. I love her with all of my heart and being, but have found it so difficult to really forgive and move on. I want to grow and become closer than ever before. I just don’t know how. Thank you for the opportunity.

  47. What an insightful post! I would love to win a copy of the book.

  48. Sounds like a great book!

  49. This sounds like a great book with Godly wisdom about marriage. I’d love to win it!

  50. This was great to read! I have a few people I need to forgive, this was a good reminder of that! Thanks

  51. WOW! Amazing, truly healing words! To see that you have both chosen the high road path to togetherness is so inspiring, and I’m sure that sharing your stories and insights, together, to others is life changing for you AS WELL AS all those you touch. Thank you for all that you give to the rest of us 🙂

  52. Thank for sharing your story, I look forward to reading your book!

  53. I would love to have this book to read. Sometimes total forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do. I’m always open to anything that would help me with this process.

  54. Revealing reading for me in my own marriage. Would love a copy of the book!

  55. Walking this out in our marriage, could use some encouragement by hearingore of your story.

  56. I think this would be a great read.

  57. Thanks for sharing your story. I would love to read more….

  58. sounds like a great book! beautiful post. thanks.

  59. After an unexpected discovery meant more than a little bit of turbulence for our marriage a couple of weeks ago, I would love to read the rest of this book.

  60. Would love to add this book to my collection!! Thanks for the chance.

  61. looks like a great read!

  62. Would love to give this book to my son who is marrying the love of his life one month from today. Thanks for sharing your insight and wisdom!

  63. I would love to read this book! It sounds like a great read.

  64. I’d love to read this book!

  65. Wow…I was just listening to this couple talk on the radio a few minutes ago on Focus on the Family! (I’m sure not a coincidence – a God-thing…) But I was disappointed that they had to cut off their story and I guess the rest is on tomorrow, so I’m going to try and listen then. I would love to read their book – sounds like it could be encouraging to lots of married couples, especially for some of us who feel like we might be in a “dry spell in our relationship” after several years of marriage…

  66. I would love to read more about forgiveness. It is a topic that I’ve been exploring for a while.

  67. Thank you for allowing us strangers into such an intimate part of your life. Humbled and encouraged to read this. I can so relate to the pain that bitterness in my heart inflicts not only on those I love but to me as well.. I plan to share this with some family members struggling with bitterness in their relationships.

  68. Nereida vazquez says:

    Struggling these days with the very concept of forgiveness. How do you forgive someone that has hurt you and yet they do not seek forgiveness from you?

  69. Kristin Thomas says:

    I would love a copy of this book. Forgiveness is an area I struggle with and would really like to work on it. I, too, have had similar hiccups with my husband and I thought I had forgiven him, but I am not sure I have fully. Thank you for this post.

  70. Kristin Thomas says:

    I would love a copy of this book. I have had a similar situation and thought I had forgiven my hubby, but I am not sure I have forgiven him fully. Thank you for this post. I needed it today. (I tried to comment before and it didn’t seem to work so I am trying it again. If there are 2 comments from me I am sorry)

  71. My husband and I have always agreed that infidelity was a deal breaker. I would be interested in reading how a Christian couple has overcome such an obstacle.

  72. This is a great post. I’d be honored to receive a copy of your book.

  73. Such beautiful thoughts spoken from the heart. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  74. What an extremely relevant post to the chaos that is going on in my life right now. I found out three weeks ago that my husband had been having a physical & emotional affair. I am still struggling daily with working my way through this reality that is now our lives. I love him and am doing my best for forgive him. This was a gentle, yet wonderful, reminder that true forgiveness is the only way I am going to heal from this whether or not we remain together. “And you may be afraid that if you forgive, you will be admitting defeat. If you forgive, they win.” This quote struck me the most…I am very much struggling with feeling this way. As though if I forgive him for the horrible decisions he made and the hurt he has caused myself and our family, that I am in some way saying it was okay what he did. That he can do all of that and still be with me and still be a part of our family. I need to let go of those feelings for myself and certainly for my marriage if it is to survive.

  75. Great post- really gets you thinking. I would love to read the book.

  76. Lawana Gray says:

    Would love to read the book. Love the openness.

  77. I am in need of encouragement because my story is quite similar. Betrayal is a tough one. Would love to read your book!

  78. I would love to read their story, too! I love it when people are open enough to share their struggles in order to help others. It’s a beautiful vulnerability.

  79. You’ve given me something to chew on today. Thanks.

  80. I have to say how timely this is for me. I left my husband in march because I felt that years of his alcoholism had been more than I could take anymore. We spent a month apart and it that time I confided in another and in doing so have caused damage to my marriage I never thought possible. We sit at a crossroads, my husband wondering if I’m committed or if I’m just going to leave again when life gets hard. I’m going to share this article with him and perhaps we can both find a way to work on true forgiveness. Thank you for sharing!

  81. Great post! Very timely.

  82. Hi Trisha & Justin,

    Thank you for your nice blog message on Simple Mom. I’ve been crazy-busy organizing my office today and so I had my computer “speak” your story to me. Even dealing with the computer’s voice, I still could feel the emotion from your words. At times, I felt like it was hard to swallow. I believe too, that it’s mostly the little daily let-downs and disappointments that we dwell on that leads to a crushed intimate relationship. We’ve been married for 16 years and it’s been awhile since we’ve felt a true connection. We work so hard at getting this back daily! We will not give up; we understand that sometimes we must “keep on swimming”. (reference Finding Nemo – ha). I’d love to read your book. Thanks!

  83. I struggle with forgiveness, it seems to touch my soul and I have such a hard time.

  84. Would love to have this book! The timing of this post could not have been any better!!

  85. Jennifer S. says:

    Such a beautiful and compelling explanation of why forgiveness is so very important and how our own lives are stunted and poisoned when we fail to forgive fully and unconditionally. It is easier said than done however. I would love to read your book.

  86. What a powerful story!!!

  87. Great post and would love the book it seems like it would be helpful for any couple. Who I need to forgive is my mother it has been a few years since our last argument but, the things that were said still have salt in the wound.

  88. Juli vrotney says:

    I would like to read this book….it would be very helpful in my marriage.

  89. Great post! I think the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned was that forgiveness is NOT excusing the behavior but is simply (or not so simply) a promise not to hold the behavior over the persons head. I could never really grasp forgiveness until I understood this difference. Now I realize that forgiveness (like you said) is a gift to myself. It frees me from hurt and anger.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  90. This book sounds like something I need to read.

  91. This is just what I needed to read today. My husband and I are struggling, well beyond struggling. Your book is something I’d love to have as a resource.

  92. Thanks so much for your story and advice. How completely true. I’d appreciate reading your book.

  93. My hubby and I just celebrated four months of marriage yesterday. I’d love to read this book! We want a marriage that lasts our lifetime and is better than good. 🙂

  94. Thank you for the chance to win this book!

  95. Robyn Wiebe says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I needed to hear it today. I hope I win this book, I think it would be good to read it together… Marriage is hard! No matter how long we have been married, and it seems to go through a rough patch…or a blah patch after every baby 🙁 We all need God and help from others sometimes to get back to where we should be and move beyond to Extraordinary 🙂

  96. Holding on to negativity has always resulted in such pain for me. Lost friendships, disappointing behavior from myself, strained relationships within my family. Letting it go, being self-sufficient in myself and God to not NEED apologies, compliments or restitution. With God’s grace, and not sweating the small stuff (virtually everything), I am much more content, relaxed and competent.

  97. I’d love to win this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  98. In spite of being on the other side of some serious marital problems and having realized how very important forgiveness is, in the rush of the everyday, I think I had kind of forgotten. Thanks for a much needed reminder!

  99. Thank you. I Needed this today and would love to read the book

  100. Looks like a good read!