Kim and I had been married for almost a year when we realized that the best thing we could do for our marriage was to get ourselves a dishwasher for Christmas. But a few years later we were again living without a dishwasher and taking turns washing the dishes. I came home one evening to discover that Kim had ignored the dishes in the sink. I set into the dishes with righteous indignation as I practiced the “I did your job for you” speech she would get when she returned home. At some point I went scouting through the house for more dishes and discovered that Kim had put away the pile of my clean clothes that I had been avoiding for several days. My conscience started battling with my righteous indignation as I headed back to the sink. I decided to forgive Kim but I was still angry about spending my free time doing her dishes. Now I was preparing for a “I feel frustrated when you don’t do your chore” discussion. (I had mistakenly been taught that you could complain about anything as long as you started with an “I statement.”) At some point I realized this still wasn’t forgiveness. I asked God to honor my choice to forgive and to change my attitude. By the time Kim got home I was able to accept her thanks for doing the dishes without having to fight down any passive aggressive comments.
I would like to say that from that day forward I have always given Kim the gift of forgiveness whenever she offended me in some real or imagined way. Unfortunately, I can’t. The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me though: a good way to give my spouse the gift of forgiveness is to accept that she isn’t perfect and to not make an issue of it each time she makes a mistake. Your spouse will also appreciate this gift, even when he or she doesn’t know you have given it.
Another way to give the gift of forgiveness is to apologize when you have hurt or disappointed your spouse. There are many types of apologies. One way to group them is by the depth of Apology.
THE SIMPLE SORRY. A simple “I’m sorry” may be appropriate sometimes, but at other times it will dig you deeper into a hole. The problem is “I’m sorry” can mean many things. It can mean I’m sorry I got caught, I’m sorry I made you mad, I’m sorry you’re upset, or I’m sorry I did something wrong, to name a few. A simple sorry is vague enough that often it really isn’t accepting responsibility for the cause of the other’s pain. Giving a simple sorry to your spouse when a deeper apology is needed can be like giving your wife kitchen utensils for your anniversary. Not a good idea!
ADMITTING FAULT. Saying “I was wrong” goes deeper because it’s admitting fault and responsibility. If we are really brave we might even venture to name what we did that was wrong. The risky part of this is that what we may be taking responsibility for something other than what our spouse is mad at us for. But even if we take responsibility for the “wrong thing” it’s a start in the direction of resolution and is deeper than the proverbial “What ever I did, I’m sorry.”
REPENTANCE. Early in our marriage Kim and I learned a four-step process of repentance toward our spouse and God. “I have sinned against God and you when I (______). I will do my best not to do it again. Please forgive me.” In this process we take responsibility for our actions, identify what we did that was wrong, pledge to change, and ask for forgiveness. After hurting our spouse deeply, there’s something profound about hearing words of repentance. It melts resentment and soothes hurt.
The depth of apology should match the offense. If I accidentally shut a cupboard door that Kim was about to reach into, a simple sorry is probably all that is necessary. If I snap at her rudely, then admitting fault may be an appropriate gift. If I make a joke at her expense I need to repent.
Give your spouse ample forgiveness. When your husband or wife does something wrong forgive and accept them. And when you do something wrong, ask for forgiveness.
We all have stories of when we have received or extended forgiveness. What’s your story?
- Paths through forgiveness (love-simple.com)