From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 14 – How to forgive people in practical terms – some advice on what to do and how to go about it
Possibly one of the stupidest lines ever spoken in a film was in ‘Love Story’ where one character says “Love is never needing to say you’re sorry”. On thecontrary, love means regularly having to say you’re sorry. However, the reverse side of the coin is that love also means endlessly needing to accept such apologies and being willing to grant forgiveness to one’s spouse. If not, then marriage cannot survive.
Perhaps the main reason why so many marriages today end in divorce is because of a chronic, ongoing failure to forgive. It eventually creates a vast reservoir of bitterness, which has been made from a multitude of small incidents of rudeness or thoughtfulness, each of which could, and should, have been dealt with at the time.
The two relationships in which one gets to know another person’s sins and weaknesses in the closest detail are those of husband and wife and employer and employee. In both you get to see the other person as they really are. That is mainly by virtue of spending so much time with them, but also because you get to see them at times of great stress and pressure.
If we want our marriage to work we have to learn how to repent and apologize and also how to do so early and often, so as to prevent and/or minimize the harm that is caused by unforgiveness and bitterness. However, it is equally important to learn how to receive apologies and be a good ’forgiver’ and a ‘non grudge-holder’. It is grievous to see how many married couples there are where one, or both, of them is holding onto a catalogue of complaints and will not accept apologies or let go of past grievances.
They may have a long list of grudges, resentments and bitterness, some of which relate to events or words from years, or even decades earlier. We would gain enormously from making a conscious decision to let those long lists of grievances go now, however belatedly. We should write them off and then ask God to help us not to take them back.