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. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Tara Schmidl says:

    Yep, we ALL must deal with forgiveness. I mean, who has never wished ti be firgiven? I can’t imagine a single person on earth. 🙂 Thus book sounds very motivating – I would be grateful to read it.

  3. Jennifer McMurray says:

    Praise God for this message you have about forgiveness from your story.
    I love how you talk about the word simple and how it isn’t an easy word.

  4. Ironically enough, this is a topic that resulted in a very long conversation in our church study class lately. Is forgiveness only complete when the HURT is gone? If you forgive and hold no ill will toward the one that wronged you but you still feel hurt because of it, is your forgiveness valid? You can’t say you don’t hurt anymore if you DO. Not sure we even came up with a solid answer, but this post was perfect timing for me.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  5. Sounds like a great book!

  6. I too needed to read this today. I am so angry all the time, at my husband mainly. After reading this I realize I have to forgive him. Not that he has done anything really bad when I think of it, he is a good man. He is just human though, and not the dream super dad I projected before we had kids. He is a good father and husband in so many ways, and I do love him, but I can’t be so angry when he I just human, and makes mistakes. I am human too, and he let’s me be. I have to let go of my anger, forgive him or we will both be so lonely. But how do I do that?

  7. I would love to read more of your story!

  8. Emily McMurtrey says:

    Thanks. I needed to hear this today.

  9. Leslie Wright says:

    Thank you for sharing

  10. I felt like this post was speaking just to me. I have lived with unforgiveness for 20 years now, and I still have not figured out how to change that.

  11. Sounds like a book I need to read.

  12. Thanks for the giveaway!

  13. Wow, what a powerful and brave step in life to write a book on such real issues-happening everyday. I’d love a copy!!

  14. We’re 5 years into this whole marriage thing, but my husband and I still have much to learn. Here’s to hoping for a win! 🙂

  15. What a powerful message! I would love to soak up more of this wisdom and share the book with my counseling clients as well.

  16. My husband and I have been married for 9 years. In the second year of our marriage we had our first son. He had Down Syndrome and passed away after 30 days. We felt with years of miscarriages and infertility. Three years ago we adopted our son Timothy. He has been a blessing and a challenge to older parents

  17. Heather Prouty says:

    I would love to read your story!

  18. I don’t typically feel drawn to read a book on marriage but I truly want to read your story an insight. Your words were like fresh air for our strained marriage. Blessings to you!

  19. Would love to read this with a friend who is going trough a tough time.

  20. Wow! I would love to read this book! I believe so strongly in forgiveness in marriage because I know God does.

  21. I would love to read this book!

  22. Sounds like the book would be a very interesting read. Great post!!

  23. I would love to read this book. The statement “Like most married couples, we began with high hopes, but gradually we settled for ordinary ” is so true of so many in the world today.

  24. Thank you for this post, I too have been through challenges in my marriage and have tried to forgive. I’m not perfect but I try to let go of the hurts and move on like you have done. I would love to read your story and hear how you (as a couple) got through the pain and hurt of an affair.

  25. What a great message!

  26. Unconditional forgiveness is always a challenge for me! I’d love to win this book.

  27. I am interested in this book

  28. would love to know more of the story…I too struggle with forgiving unconditionally…

  29. I’ve been married for almost 3 years and I’m curious what the warning signs are so I can take note of it. Would love to read your book.

  30. I would love to read more about this story. Thanks for the chance.

  31. Would love to read this book!!!

  32. Thank you – your transparency helps many. Simple often takes effort but it’s worth it

  33. Sounds like a very challenging book! I’d love to read it.

  34. What a great reminder/wake up call for anyone who is married! I would be very happy to have a copy of this book!

  35. I was just listening to the Davis’ in a radio interview this afternoon. I would love to read their book!

  36. Forgiveness is not for the one who has wronged you, it is for yourself.

  37. Thank you. A friend and I were just praying about this very issue

  38. I have a hard time forgiving too. I’m not sure how to completely trust. Hoping to win this book to read the story!

  39. Thanks for sharing this. I’d love to learn more.

  40. This couple’s story is one I would love to hear more of. The idea of the little daily annoyances and unforgivenesses piling up is truly something I have been struggling with! It is difficult to know how to work through them.

  41. I would love to win!

  42. Sounds like a good book!

  43. Thank you for the article. Somehow I always thought simple means easy but your message made me realize it’s not so always. I would like to read your book!

  44. I would love to read this book!

  45. Regarding an issue in my marriage, my best friend made a comment about how I seemed to be taking all the blame on myself and not holding my husband accountable for his actions. I told her I knew what he did was wrong, and there were consequences to those actions, but how could I expect him to forthright with me, to try to build trust back, when I have my own issues to deal with as well? For me, it was much easier to forgive him when I realized that I’m imperfect as well. If I’m imperfect and am still given grace by God, and deserve forgiveness from my husband, surely I can do the same for him.

    I don’t always get it right, but I realize that if I look inward and be the change I want to see, it’s easier to forgive and heal. Although it’s not always fun, it’s much easier in the long run than expecting him to. It also gives him strength and courage to do it himself. Not because I nagged, but because he sees how much better it is.

    I look forward to reading Beyond Ordinary. I’m excited about it and I don’t even own it yet. Soon it’ll be on my bookshelf!

  46. Love this!

  47. I would love to win!

  48. Oh, this is so good and so important to hear!

  49. keep forgiving but cant seem to make it stick. sigh.

  50. I would say I forgive people, but I know I do not. Once I am hurt it is there in my heart for ever. I know I am the one who then continues to hurt…but it’s just so hard. A continual work in progress I guess! I have bookmarked this article to go back and retread again. Thank you for such insight.

  51. I would love to read your book! This may be what I need.

  52. Pick me! This is a great reminder about forgiveness. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  53. Forgiveness is an area I had never pursued, until I was forced to. This has been a hard year for our marriage, but God is teaching me so much about forgiveness. When you think about it, we would never be able to truly have a heart like Christ’s, a heart that knows how to forgive, if He protected us from other’s wounds and never gave us the opportunity to learn how to forgive. And one thing I have really learned about forgiveness is this: it is all about Him. I really can’t do this whole forgiveness thing on my own. It is all grace. So thankful He finishes what He starts! (Phil. 1:6) this gives me hope on the hard days.

  54. Forgiveness is hard.

  55. Would love to win a copy! You put the words to my emotions! Felt like I was reading my own heart. There are many obstacles in a marriage. Learning to forgive completely is only accomplished with the help of gods strength.

  56. Forgiveness really is hard! But it is so freeing. It seems like the person most hurt by resentment is yourself.

  57. Your words spoke to my heart. I’m a 22 year old, single mother of two. My husband left almost a year ago. I think we’re beyond repair, but I have a lot of unforgiveness. I would like to read more about the wisdom God has given you.
    Thank you for this post.

  58. Loved reading your post today, and would love even more to be able to read your book. Thank you for being so open in sharing your life with all of us!

  59. Patty Pivirotto says:

    would love to read this book!

  60. “Where resentment lives, intimacy dies.” Wow, that really hit home.

  61. eileen marie says:

    What a beautiful message. I especially like the idea that conditional forgiveness isn’t really forgiveness. I try hard not to harbor grudges, but deep down, I always feel that little pocket of bitterness, long after the transgressor has forgotten, and I really need.to.let.it.GO.

  62. I would love to win this book! My husband and I are going through a really tough time right now. I need to learn how to forgive and “get past the past”.

  63. The message of this book is so important to me! I would love to read it! Thanks for sharing your life and for encouraging me!

  64. Your story hit home. I am unable to forgive my ex-husband and have carried this burden with me for ten years. It weighs heavily on the heart and embitters your every day. I have prayed about it and have truly tried to forgive but to no avail. I am going to try to own the statement you made and that has been a hurdle impossible to overcome; “if I forgive him, it is as if I am admitting defeat, and he has won.” But indeed resentment is like a cancer, poisons your life, your relationships, your outlook on life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  65. Such food for thought for all of life’s relationships. Thank you!

  66. Beautiful words and great wisdom lesson.

    I was abused as a child and thourout my lifetime by my own mother, and have been wondering about forgiveness lately, with that exact same fear that if I forgive her for what she’s done for so long, then the evil in her wins.

    I am seeking the source of forgiveness right now at the bottom of my heart.


  67. I would love to read your book. Thanks for the chance to win!

  68. Christie W. says:

    “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.”

    Me too!
    Our failings to love each other well nearly saw us losing all in much the same manner. Thankful to God for the light that exposes darkness and the ability we have to chose to let His strength guide us toward humility, repentance and redemption – I love your story!

  69. I struggle with this daily in my marriage. I really do need a decluttering of the mind. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  70. What an amazing post. I would love to reach the whole book!

  71. Great post! I would love to read the book! Thanks 🙂

  72. So true. Thanks for the chance to win the book!

  73. What an awesome post on forgiveness!! I need this reminder daily!

  74. I am not good at forgiving. I got better but I still need to go a long way.

  75. “Conditional forgiveness is not really forgiveness. And it can do just as much damage to your heart and relationships as unforgiveness.”

    So much wisdom in those two sentences.

  76. i need this book as i just learned my husband has been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a woman who is now bent on making my life miserable. in a moment of complete realization last week, i understood that i do not want to forgive him and that i want him to feel the suffering and hurt that i have felt. this feels like a different kind of forgiveness because of the intimate betrayal. i know what is right but the process is just beginning and my heart is still wrestling and processing… please tell me that miracles do happen, that our marriage can grow and change…

  77. In my own life, I found it so much easier to embrace forgiveness for others when I learned how to forgive myself. I’ve been amazed that the power of forgiveness in my relationship has been to bring us so much closer than we would have been without the struggle.

    I’d love to read the rest of your story, too!

  78. kat whitesel says:

    I loved hearing you guys speak at my church and would love to have a copy of your book!!

  79. Thank you for sharing this wisdom. I would love to read more.

  80. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with us! Would love to win a copy!

  81. Rachel Papka says:

    I need this book. If it can shed some light on my marriage and the dire situation it is in, I might have a chance at saving it.

  82. “Unforgiveness is a weapon that wounds its user” – That is so true! Appreciate your powerful article.

  83. I am a 35 and have been married for three years (9/4/10) and together for seven. I am meeting with an attorney on Monday to explore my options of separation and/or divorce. It is not what I want but my husband has an alcohol and drug addiction that is destroying everything I love, including him. With the addiction come lies, cheating, and all the unknowns. I’m so sad, hurt, angry and a million other emotions wrapped in this cloud of pain. I listened to the podcast from Focus on the Family this morning (and yesterdays) and it spoke volumes to me. I sat at my desk with tears streaming down my face, thanking God for putting these podcasts and your story in my path. I made lots of notes and have bookmarked the podcasts to listen to again, if I need. I would love to read your book.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  84. Your book really spoke to me when I read it on my Kindle. I would love a hard copy version to mark up and hopefully make it easier to share with my husband.

  85. Would love to read this and pass it on to a newly married couple I know.

  86. Beautiful reminder to keep pursuing the deep part of my heart. Thanks!

  87. Just heard your story on Focus on the Family today…the humility I heard in your voices was a rebuke to me, and I know God has blessed you for it.

  88. A wonderful idea to share this. Would love to read it!

  89. sounds like a great read…

  90. This article really spoke to me. I have passed it on to my best friend. We both need to forgive and as mentioned, move on from ordinary to extraordinary.

  91. I have been following you and Josh for a while now. It has been your story that has given me hope that my marriage can be repaired. Forgiveness is such a hard thing at times, but it is the trust that is the hardest to rebuild. I would love to have your book to read and gain even more insight.

  92. Really great reminder, thanks!

  93. Annette Stonger says:

    Yes, I get exactly what you are saying! I was a victim of betrayal in my first marriage, and I knew that I had to forgive because Christ has forgiven me. It was a choice not a feeling, and something I had to do over and over again (and still do after 14 years). Over the years, I’ve tried to take the high road, and bite my tongue because we had two children together, but it’s not been easy. I am thankful that God has healed and continues to heal your marriage. I feel blessed beyond measure that God allowed me to find someone to love and share my life with again.

  94. Definitely interested in reading this book–thanks!

  95. Forgiveness is something I really struggle with.

  96. Always good to learn from others’ mistakes so hopefully I don’t make the same ones. I’d love to read this book!

  97. kim from Canada says:

    Thank you for this story! Would love to read this book!

  98. Sarah Westphal says:

    Would love this book!

  99. Forgiveness takes both of you to work.

  100. Sounds great!