Forgiveness is the highest act of love
Forgiveness means pardon without punishment
In all marriages, partners hurt each other. Some hurts inflict deep wounds and heartache that you think you will never recover from. Other hurts are those daily attacks and insults that stockpile and end up eroding your sense of emotional safety and trust and force partners to put up protective barriers or strike back.
My husband and I have made some serious mistakes in our marriage so I know what I’m talking about. I suppose that’s why I’m grateful for forgiveness. To give and receive forgiveness is the highest act of love.
The art of forgiveness allows the offending partner to be pardoned, absolved and set free without punishment.
In marriage ‘punishment’ usually takes the form of recrimination, sniping and hurling reminders of the past offence during an argument. To extend forgiveness is to give up this form of torment.
But there are rewards for the forgiver too. Forgiveness allows the hurt partner to be freed from carrying the pain, anger and bitterness and obsessing, which is debilitating and soul-destroying.
We make a conscious decision to forgive and it doesn’t mean the pain evaporates instantly. If the hurt is deep, forgiveness is just the beginning of a healing process. Just as physical injuries take time to heal, so do emotional injuries. The desensitising of the wound can take months or years.
I know a couple in their 60s who survived his adultery. It took two years for the wife to recover from the trauma of feeling her whole world had collapsed. However, now they travel Australia in their retirement, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes, cherishing each other.
Time itself does not perform the healing. A passage of time allows the mind to process the trauma and move through shock and disbelief, grief, rage, insecurity, guilt, shame and blame.
However healing is an active, conscious process, which can only occur when you allow yourself to feel, not repress these emotions. People who don’t heal traumatic hurts through forgiveness can carry festering wounds for a lifetime.
There’s another impulse, which resides in the human psyche; the desire for revenge, to hit back at the person who has hurt you. Victims of crime and victims of infidelity in marriage often experience violent revenge fantasies.
Christians say that Jesus gave a radical teaching on retaliation, which goes completely against our base impulse, when he preached turning the other cheek and refusing to retaliate when hurt.
Jesus taught that forgiveness is an on-going process. He instructed us to forgive repeatedly, 70 times seven. You can take this to mean forgiving the same offence over and over, which is necessary in the case of a traumatic violation. It also means forgiving the multitude of offences that come our way every day, from family members, friends, colleagues and strangers.
As we know, Jesus was big on forgiveness. It was his core teaching. He gave humanity the great gift of forgiveness and when we receive divine forgiveness for ourselves, forgiving other becomes mandatory. If we are walking in God’s grace, forgiveness flows from a spirit of humility and awareness of our own failings.
If there’s one thing our hatred-filled, war-torn world could use right now is forgiveness. But let’s start on a small scale. If you have been deeply hurt by your wife or husband, the one person you trusted with your heart, forgiveness will be the most challenging gift you’ll ever give. But the rewards are great. Forgiveness is the key to emotional healing and the restoration of trust, love and happiness.