When one is offended in any way by his or her partner, there is the tendency for this offence to be used as an avenue to hurt the offending partner. Many people outrightly refuse to forgive their partners, whereas others try to “stretch” their partners a little by postponing the forgiveness for sometime. Some even go to the extent of scheduling a time to forgive their partners. This causes a lot of strain on many marriages and relationships. Mostly, an unwillingness to forgive causes break-ups and extend pain and hurt in relationships; notwithstanding the seriousness of the offence. How can one couple break-up due to differences over food and another couple stay together even after one has committed adultery? The simple answer is forgiveness.
For us to know how to forgive, let us take a cue from how God forgives us our sins. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “and forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass against us”. This means that our template for forgiving others should be based on how God forgives us. Psalm 103:11-12 states “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (KJV). This shows how limitless God’s willingness to forgive us our sins is. We have to emulate this in our relationships. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive others, Jesus said seventy times seven times (Mt. 18:21-22), elaborating that we should be willing to forgive others, without limit.
When we ask God for forgiveness, He immediately forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1Jhn. 1:9). We should try to immediately forgive our partners when they ask for forgiveness. We should have already forgiven them, even before they ask for forgiveness. Eph. 4:26 admonishes us not to let the sun go down on our anger. Letting your partner plead for a long period before forgiving is not the best. This would make it very difficult for him or her to say sorry to you again for another offence considering how he or she suffered previously before obtaining forgiveness from you. Complaining too much before forgiving is also not the best. When you easily forgive your spouse, it puts him or her in your debt; so that when you also offend him or her, he or she would be obliged to easily forgive you. This way, your relationship would be kept alive. Let us consider how we even find it difficult to approach God (who is ever-willing to forgive our sins) to ask for forgiveness for our sins sometimes. So taking too long to forgive our spouses is unnecessary and unhealthy for the longevity of our relationships, since it discourages one’s willingness to confess or ask for forgiveness.
Forgiving our spouses quickly also increases their love for us and builds a stronger bond in the relationship. We should bear in mind that Mark 11:16 states that God would not forgive our sins if we refuse to forgive others their sins.
It cannot be ruled out that it is extremely painful to forgive some offences, but if we ask God for grace and strength, we will be able to do so.