Forgive and forget? Ha! I have a bad memory—unless we’re talking about ways my wife has hurt me. I’m pretty good at recalling those. They reside in a list that floats in my head, not far from my mouth. When we argue, all her past offenses suddenly rush to the tip of my tongue. As I’m sure you’d guess, those arguments don’t go well, and they certainly don’t help our relationship flourish.
We’ve all heard “forgive and forget” and likely all have said it to our kids. But if we’re honest, forgetting is hard, if not impossible to do. Forgiveness, which means “to cancel a debt,” is critical, for your relationship with your wife and for your well-being. Here are 5 reasons to forgive your wife, even when you can’t forget.
1. Forgiveness is freedom.
According to Nelson Mandela, “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” Science actually backs this up. According to a Mayo Clinic study called “Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness,” resentment and bitterness are bad for your health. They increase rates of anxiety and depression and weaken your immune system. We think of forgiveness as letting our wives off the hook. But forgiveness is a healing act that sets you free from somebody else’s hurtful actions.
2. Forgiveness is a choice.
Unfortunately, the phrase “forgive and forget” ties these two together in ways that are unrealistic. If we have to wait to forgive until we are capable of forgetting an incident, forgiveness may never happen. While my experiences with my wife are just normal hurts that occur when two different people work to forge a life together, some of you have experienced deep hurt or betrayal. This might not be possible (or even wise) to forget. And yet, you can still choose to release your wife from the offense.
3. Forgiveness does not diminish the offense.
To forgive someone is not to minimize his or her offense. In fact, in order to forgive an offense, we must recognize it as offensive! To forgive also is not the same as saying, “You know what? It’s OK.” In order for us to truly forgive, we must first call these acts what they are or we aren’t really offering forgiveness. This is what makes forgiveness so powerful. You acknowledge the severity of the offense but choose not to hold it over your wife’s head.
4. Forgiveness is not tied to feeling.Forgiveness is a choice not to let your wife’s actions determine yours.
I’ve never felt like forgiving my wife. I’m not that good of a person. You probably aren’t either. But forgiving isn’t about how we feel. Forgiveness is a choice not to let your wife’s actions determine yours. In many cases, we still have to deal with the impact of those actions. Yet if we practice forgiveness—even when we don’t feel like it—we will find that we someday come to a place where forgiving her actually feels like a gift to ourselves.
5. Forgiveness begets forgiveness.
I’ve got a newsflash for you. Just as your wife needs you to practice forgiveness, you need it from her too. And you can’t expect something from your wife that you yourself are unwilling to give. The best way for you to position yourself to receive the forgiveness you undoubtedly need is to be gracious in forgiving her. If you are quick to forgive, she is much more likely to forgive you quickly, too.
Forgiving your wife may feel like losing, as though you’re somehow being taken advantage of. But it’s actually quite the opposite. To forgive your wife is to make a generous investment in your relationship that will pay off big for both of you.
Sound off: Do you agree that forgetting is unnecessary for forgiveness? Why or why not?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Is there anyone who’s hurt you who you need to forgive?”