Saturday, January 3, 2009

Forgiveness: The Tool for Repairing Any Relationship

One of the most common misconceptions about forgiveness is that it necessarily means forgetting. How many times have we heard someone say, “Forgive and forget!” This is next to impossible – barring serious brain injury, of course. We are not wired to completely forget painful events in our past.

Some people might think this kind of memory is God’s cruel joke, just to torment us for our sins. On the contrary, it is a blessing that allows us to remember and learn from past experiences that were hurtful.

We don’t believe it is possible to totally forget a hurt, but we also don’t believe it’s always a good thin to do so anyway. When we try to stuff away our hurts, we are only prolonging the inevitable. When we do that, we are simply waiting for the explosion to occur. Like a volcano, the intense pressure from past hurts builds up inside us, looking for release until it finally erupts. And when it does, it is extremely damaging to family and friends.

William Meninger once wrote these words about forgiveness: “Forgiveness, then, is not forgetting. It is not condoning or absolving. Neither is it pretending nor something done for the sake of the offender. It is not a thing we just do by a brutal fact of the will. It does not entail a loss of identity, of specialness, or of face. It does not release the offenders from obligations they may or may not recognize. An understanding of these things will go a long way towards helping people enter into the forgiveness process.”

Forgiveness is not a onetime event but a process. Unfortunately, many Christian men don’t understand this. If you’ve done something extremely hurtful to your wife and seeking her forgiveness, then you can’t expect the healing to take place immediately. Your loved one may not get over the hurt right away. It may take time.

In fact, and this can be painful to consider – depending on the severity of the hurt, your loved one may never fully recover from the pain. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will suffer day after day for your wrongdoing or the wrongs done to you, but it does mean that the pain may show up from time to time, even years after the offense, usually when some events sparks the memory. The pain isn’t as severe as when it first happened, but it still hurts.

We think this is one way God helps us to keep humble, it’s hard to be overconfident about our emotional or spiritual maturity when we remember how things used to be. We somehow believe that once we say those magic words, “I forgive you,” all pain and hurt just disappear. But it doesn’t always work that way. Often we must go through a process before we can completely heal from the hurt and forgive our loved one for the hurt he or she caused.

By humbly seeking forgiveness and acknowledging every aspect of wrongdoing on your part, you are taking care of your own responsibilities. God does not hold us responsible for our spouse’s sin, only our own.

Men's Relational Toolbox is a manual for building relationships, mostly relationships with women – girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters, coworkers, bosses, committee members. This will provide you with tool tips for making your relationships effective and successful. For more book summaries, please visit

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