The following is an excerpt from Dr. Randall Schroeder’s book, “Simple Habits for Marital Happiness: Practical Skills and Tools That Build a Strong Satisfying Relationship.”
Adam and Eve sinned and placed a wall between all mankind and God. Forgiveness of sins was the only way to break down the barrier between God and mankind. Again and again, the essential importance of forgiveness is mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments. The entire substance of the Christian faith is forgiveness. Hence, Christianity may appropriately be called the good news of forgiveness.
Just as forgiveness is at the center of Christianity, forgiveness is at the heart of a happy marriage.
On a human level, the central tenet of the Christian faith is interpersonal restoration through forgiveness. Jesus said, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15 NLT). Even while being crucified on a cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34 NIV). Forgiveness is always beneficial because it alone can repair relationships—with God, others, and your spouse. Forgiveness is a lifelong essential ingredient for maintaining a gratifying marriage. Forgiveness of sins is truly the greatest blessing for every couple.
If a marriage is broken, only forgiveness can glue the relationship back together. Without forgiveness, you and your spouse will build an ever-growing wall between the two of you. I use three analogies to help couples understand the damage done by unforgiven wrongs, as well as the benefits associated with healing those wounds.
First, think of marital harmony like a lush fairway on a golf course. Apologizing and forgiving is like replacing a divot after a golf shot in the fairway. While playing golf, whenever a divot is made, the polite action is to either replace the divot or place sand with grass seed in the divot. If divots are not repaired, the golf course will turn into all dirt and no one will want to play on that course. However, when divots are repaired, the golf course remains green and lush and is an attractive place to enjoy friendship and God’s creation.
Likewise, just dealing with day-to-day life issues, every so often, marital divots will unfortunately occur. When you do not replace your divots by apologizing and forgiving, the likelihood of a satisfying marriage is diminished because your “marriage golf course” will become more and more barren.
For a second analogy, think about what it would be like to try to wallpaper a room that’s filled with steam—certainly an impossible task. You can try to wallpaper that room until Jesus returns, but the walls will be so damp and moist that the wallpaper will never stick and it will keep sliding down. You will need to open the door and let the steam out of the room, so the walls can dry. Then, you can beautify the room with wallpaper.
Similarly, if your heart or your spouse’s heart is filled with the steam of bitterness and resentment, you can demonstrate all the nice actions in the world, but you will be unable to beautify your marital hearts because of the negative steam. Apologizing and forgiving one another allows the steam of bitterness to leave your heart. Healthy words and actions now have the opportunity to beautify your relationship once again.
Let’s look at the third example. Let’s say that tonight you have spaghetti for supper and you do not wash your plates but instead set them on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow night, you have barbecued chicken. You eat off those same two dirty plates and once again do not wash them. Then, the next night you eat chicken fried steak with cream gravy on those dirty plates, and once again you do not wash them and return the plates to the kitchen counter. By repeatedly eating off dirty plates, eventually with the bacteria buildup, you will contract food poisoning.
A poisoned relationship is what happens when unforgiven wrongs exist in your marriage. Relational bruises and emotional injuries will create “dirty plates.” Yet, apologizing and forgiving washes your dirty plates to prevent the poisoning. By eating off clean plates each day, you take no chances with hurting your relationship.
If your marriage has numerous unrepaired divots, hearts filled with the steam of resentment, and dirty plates, your relationship will probably be stressed and tense. I hope these mental pictures will help you understand why apologizing and forgiving are the glue for every healthy relationship. Definitely, apologizing and forgiving are always the first steps in restoring a broken marriage.
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