“Self is our enemy..”
“…forgiveness is essential for a successful relationship”
“Choose to work through your pain as a couple and God will see you through.”
When Self Hinders Your Marriage’s Growth
By: Sheila Colas
As Jane was in the kitchen preparing dinner, her husband John stormed through the door from work, a dark cloud around him. He was tired, hungry and immediately expressed his discontentment with how messy the house was. Jane, already depressed and exhausted, fed off of John’s energy, becoming angry. She felt tired of being unappreciated, tired of working to no avail, and tired of being ignored. Overwhelmed, she started to cry uncontrollably. Throwing the kitchen towel on the ground she ran up to the bedroom, slammed the door and collapsed onto the bed. “This is not what I signed up for when I decided to get married!” she sobbed.
A short while later John slipped into the room and came up behind her, gently laying a hand on her shoulder. With a jerk she rejected it. The message was clear: “Don’t touch me.” John persisted. He knew he was wrong, and this was his way of apologizing. But Jane decided to remain angry about the whole ordeal.
Who do you think is more favorable in God’s eyes in this conflict? In a relationship, forgiveness should not be scarce. In order for a marriage to work it will take lots of hard effort and a forgiving heart. Although John entered the home with a bad attitude, Jane chose to feed off of his energy instead of drawing her strength from Christ. She chose to remain angry and bitter while John realized what he did was wrong. Both parties played a role in the outburst of reactions, but John chose to apologize (in his own way) and forgive.
We often equate forgiveness with something warm and fuzzy when, in reality, forgiveness can be quite painful. Forgiveness is a skill worth learning and improving upon; forgiveness is more of a heart matter than lip service.
There is the other extreme when you say “I forgive you” with your lips when it is far from what you are feeling in your heart. “I am fine with it” and “We all make mistakes” sounds really good when you say it, however, when you are still struggling with hypocrisy inside, you are no better than Jane who decided not to forgive her husband. How can this benefit your marriage? The next time you find yourself telling your spouse not to worry about what he/she has done, ask yourself if you are only giving lip service or if your heart is in line with your words.
Here are my 3 big reasons why forgiveness in a marriage is important:
- It gives you strength
Holding a grudge when you know your spouse has done you wrong feels so good, doesn’t it? It gives you a feeling of control. The problem is, that feeling is deceiving. Holding onto a grudge doesn’t actually give you the upper hand, instead it keeps you trapped in your emotions. It keeps you from moving on. Thus, you remain stagnant in your walk with God and in your relationship with your spouse.
Forgiveness isn’t about letting your spouse trample all over you. It’s about coming to an understanding of terms in an event or an experience. Forgiveness is when you can come to a point where you can let go and find peace. It’s about releasing the anger and resentment that are holding you back and making you miserable.
Forgiving your spouse should not make you feel weak. It actually shows your strength. After all, it takes more strength to forgive. This strength is not of your own—it comes from Christ who calls us to lean on His strength. Hold fast to His promise. Don’t you ever think of forgiveness as a weakness!
- It shows us how much we need to die to self
By failing to accept our spouse’s frailties, we are choosing to be unrealistic in our marriage. When you bombard your marriage with unreasonable demands and unrealistic expectations it will lead to frustration. Frustration will lead to anger, and anger will lead to bitterness and unforgiveness. This will then lead to the death of your spouse in your heart. (And note, I am placing emphasis on the day to day annoyances.)
Unfortunately, dispensing with self-examination, most people blame their spouses for the anger they have toward them. Blaming the other instead of getting to the root of the problem. Our spouse is not our enemy. Satan is. Self is our enemy and Satan is the father of selfishness. We must learn to mortify self or it will mortify us and/or our marital union.
- It will transform your marriage
Studies are revealing how forgiveness is essential for a successful relationship. According to Frank D. Fincham and his team, the granting and acceptance of forgiveness is one of the most significant contributions we can give in a marriage. According to this study it will give you a lifetime of satisfaction and love. I have sinned against God several times,but knowing that I was forgiven drew me closer to Him. How much more will it do for our spouses?
In a marriage connection is key. When we forgive our spouses we are ridding our marriages of the toxic hurt and shame that has been lingering in our relationships for months or years. Resentment often leads to withdrawal and a lack of vulnerability. Bringing down those barriers of toxic hurt and shame are vital in rebuilding your friendship with one another. So, be purposeful and intentional. Remember, forgiveness is not a one time event. It is a whole attitude shift. Practicing forgiveness will make you an overcomer and give you joy and a long lasting relationship.
Sometimes I wonder if living in the 21st century is a blessing? We are living in a fast paced world where divorce is only a phone call away. Things can be easily disposed of and a delete button is only one tap away. The same individuals whom we have vowed to support through thick and thin are hastily being disposed of.
Our modern society has indeed become a disposable society. From disposable diapers and plastics to disposing of marriages and unborn babies. Manufacturers and businesses call this tactic “planned obsolescence”. This is a purposefully implemented strategy that ensures that a product can become out of date or useless within a certain amount of time. I am so glad that we can never dispose of God’s Word. His Word clearly says “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6). This includes your marriages my brothers and sisters.
Choose to work through your pain as a couple and God will see you through. One of my my common yet favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” May we choose to forgive in the same capacity that we were forgiven.