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Forgive for a Hope-Filled Future For Your Love


There are certain times of a love life when two people do not see eye to eye.  Perhaps Valentine’s Day or an anniversary was not celebrated or perhaps, it was disappointing; Arguments led to unkind or unguarded words you now regret or that pierced your heart with pain; Or there was a breach of trust caused by addictions, anger, or infidelity. When transgressions are made- large or small-the best and proven path to peace in your relationship is forgiveness. All great relationships are made up of two committed forgivers.

Christ calls us to forgive:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:32)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13)

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ “ (Matt 18:21-22)

In our ministry, we teach a pattern of forgiveness modeled on Christ and his ultimate act of forgiveness on the cross. To give “forgiveness handles” that you can grasp in a practical way, we’ve come up with six statements that provide a working definition.

  1. I forgive [name the person] for [name the offense]. It’s important to specifically name the offense. Vagueness in dealing with forgiveness only leads to doubts about whether forgiveness has truly been achieved. The greatest example of forgiveness in the world is the forgiveness Jesus Christ offers us. He’s granted each of us who trust him freedom from guilt. This is indeed good news! But the good news starts with a very tough reality:

     “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Too often we skip this step. Maybe it’s because you think your hurt feelings are your problem. Maybe you’re upset by what your spouse did, but you think he or she had the right to do whatever brings happiness. Maybe you’re afraid to bring up pains from the past. Or maybe you just didn’t know how. If you’re looking for a clear path of freedom, you need to be specific.

  1. I admit that what happened was wrong. Paul increases the seriousness of forgiveness in Romans 6:23 when he writes,  “The wages of sin is death.”     Paul understands forgiveness to be a life-or-death issue that begins with the honest confession of something done wrong. In our politically correct world, we often feel uncomfortable saying something is wrong. We may feel like we’re being critical or judgmental. But if nothing wrong is done, there is nothing to forgive. And if the goal is forgiveness with the hope of restored intimacy, we aren’t being a critic or a judge—we’re taking fearless steps of love.
  2. I do not expect [name of person] to make up for what he or she has done. This is a courageous statement of reality. Your spouse can’t make up for the mistake that has been committed. The hurt of the action will continue to pain you and the memory of the irritation will linger. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can undo what was done. Once an offense is committed, it cannot be uncommitted, so you need to let your spouse off the hook. If your spouse has hurt you, what you can do is forgive and give the opportunity for repentance. If you were the guilty party, even if you apologize, it doesn’t make up for the problem. Even if you make some sort of restitution for what you did, it doesn’t make up for it. You can’t make up for mistakes but you can start over.

The real tragedy in not forgiving shows up here. If you persist in waiting until your spouse makes up for the mistake, the pain of the mistake will control your life. Every time you are reminded of the event, pain will shoot through your heart. Every time you try to trust, pain will trip you up. The person you were once so much in love with will become unattractive in your eyes and consistently irritate your heart.

  1. I will not use the offense to define who my spouse is. When you define your spouse by the negative impact he or she has had on your life, you make him or her bigger than life. You certainly make him or her bigger than you because you’ve given him or her the ability to determine the state of your life.

When it comes to forgiving yourself for the things you’ve done, this step is vital. When you define yourself by the things you’ve done wrong, you encourage a process of decay. If you think you deserve an unhealthy life, you’ll live out an unhealthy life. If you think you deserve to be punished, you’ll live out a self-destructive life. If you think you’re a failure, you’ll avoid the path of success. If, on the other hand, you define yourself as the object of God’s grace and an adopted child who is in line for God’s favor, you’ll pursue healthy avenues of growth and development.

  1. I will not manipulate my spouse with this offense. Manipulation is an attempt to emotionally blackmail another person. It is an attempt to protect yourself from the influence another person has on you. There is something in the human spirit that believes you can control another through manipulation. The tragedy is that every act of manipulation confirms that the one who hurt you still has control of your life. Your very approach to life shows that you are still afraid of what this person might do to you, so you try to get to others before they get to you. You run in an endless circle of self-protection, never enjoying the freedom of truly living.

Jesus doesn’t constantly bring up our past sins to force us to do his will. Rather, he calls us to walk with him as new creatures who have been set free from the past, including our mistakes. We’re encouraged to live as saints rather than as recovering sinners. This doesn’t mean God ignores the influences of our past. He has committed himself to helping us grow through our past and reach up to a new life. We too would be wise to look forward to the life ahead of us rather than constantly try to overcome the past.

  1. I will not allow what has happened to stop my personal growth. This is probably the most important. Too often we allow the sinful offenses of others to dictate the course of our lives. It’s almost as though we think we’re punishing the ones who hurt us by refusing to pull our lives together. Or we’re emotionally committed to keeping things the way they have historically been in our families. If our ancestors were bitter, we’re bitter. If our ancestors were prone to depression, we’re prone to depression. This applies to everything from alcoholism and anger to lack of confidence and timidity.

Forgiveness is protection for our relationship. Forgiveness gives us the ability to stay in love for a lifetime. forgiveness set us free to life the “future and hope” God promises.

Pam and Bill Farrel are two committed forgivers too. They are also authors of 60 books including ones that feature principles of forgiveness like bestselling  Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (which this blog is adapted from) Love, Honor and Forgive; 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman; The Marriage Meet Up: Devotional Planner for Couples Who Want More Passion, Purpose and Productivity; and Discovering Joy In Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience (coauthored with Jean E Jones and Karla Dornacher)   More from the Farrels at 

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