Warning: 3 mistakes that hinder complete forgiveness

Posted May 18

It's interesting that those we love the most have the ability to hurt us the most. If you’ve been hurt emotionally by your spouse, you understand a pain that cuts directly to your heart. That type of pain is not easy to just “get over.” Even so, in order for any marriage to thrive, there must be steps taken toward complete forgiveness.

Let’s talk about that idea for just a few minutes today: complete forgiveness. What does that mean? All too often, we tend to say we forgive our spouse for something that was said or that was done to hurt our feelings. How many times do we really let those things go? Speaking the words, “I forgive you” is the easy part. However, have you been guilty of the following:

•Bringing up past arguments?

•Holding onto resentment in your heart?

•Denying your spouse your love, affection, or even sex because of past wrongs?

In order for your marriage to be all that God intends it to be, it’s vital to learn to forgive each other. Before you can do that, you have to come to the understanding that we’re all imperfect people who live in an imperfect world.

We all make mistakes and say things we shouldn’t say. God has grace for us; therefore we must have grace for each other. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul is explicit about God’s directions regarding forgiving each other. He says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Is forgiving each other easy? Not usually. Is it necessary? Yes, it is.

Do you ever wonder if you will know if your spouse is showing true sorrow for hurting you? You can tell if your spouse accepts full responsibility for their actions and is determined to change by:

  1. Feeling the damage they've done without trying to minimize, justify or blame.
  2. Responding with total honesty when they're confronted with their behavior.
  3. Asking for forgiveness for the hurt they caused.
  4. Changing 180 degrees and are accountable to you for your destructive choices.
  5. Focusing their attention on you and understanding that it takes time to rebuild and restore love and trust.
  6. Being unwilling to compromise putting forth the effort to reestablish their relationship with you regardless of the cost.
Remember, there is nothing you can do to bring your spouse to repentance (change of mind). Your responsibility is to forgive and leave the outcome to God. Forgiveness is an ongoing process, which requires that you choose to forgive and pray for your spouse when the offense crosses your mind.

“A broken and contrite heart God will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

The good news is God wants to help you! Through His love and grace in your life, He can lead you to a place of complete forgiveness. He wants your marriage to be whole, and He wants you blessed above and beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). His plans are perfect. All you need to do is seek after Him.

Carol Erb, Ph.D is a board certified Christian counselor and marriage coach. She specializes in helping Christian women who have been sexually betrayed in marriage. Visit Carol at


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