Whole Forgiveness: Asking for and Giving Forgiveness
1) Acknowledge the hurt:
- Admit to yourself that you were hurt
- Acknowledge to your spouse that the offence hurt.
2) Release your spouse:
- Releasing your spouse means choosing not to punish him/her, not to seek revenge and not to demand payback.
(This will take time. Questions must be asked and answered and emotions must be experienced and expressed honestly).
3) Get rid of resentment:
- Resentment feeds anger and undermines healing.
4) Make forgiveness a gift of love:
- This means giving your spouse a second chance, not because he/she deserves it but because you choose to extend this gift.
What Forgiveness is NOT: 6 Myths about Forgiveness
Myth #1: When I forgive I must also forget.
- If you forget, you will not forgive at all. You need to forgive because you have not forgotten what someone did.
Myth #2: The hurt is too great; it is impossible for me to forgive.
- Remember that forgiveness is a choice that you make to release the offense and the offender.
Myth #3: I don’t feel like forgiving so my forgiveness can’t be genuine.
- If you wait to forgive until you feel like it you may never forgive. Your decision to forgive does not deny your feelings. It’s okay to admit you’re hurt.
Myth #4: I can’t forgive until my spouse asks for it.
- Your spouse’s unwillingness may make the process more difficult but you can follow through with your part of the process while remaining open to discussion on the issues.
Myth #5: In order to forgive, I must pretend that nothing bad happened.
- Do not minimize or deny the offense. Forgiveness requires that you face the reality that something bad happened and you were hurt by it.
Myth #6: I must forgive right away, or it doesn’t count.
- Forgiveness is an act of the will and it may take time to reach the point where you are able to grant it. Granting forgiveness is a process – you need to deal with your anger and talk through the conflict and offense with your spouse.
Six Elements of Whole Forgiveness
Asking for forgiveness – these four steps are to be taken by the offender:
1) I was wrong – confront the offense for what it is, e.g. “What I did to you is wrong”. Or “I have done wrong and need to talk to you about what I did to offend you”.
2) I’m sorry – an apology has more impact when it is specific. “I’m sorry for …”, and then be specific about what you are sorry about. When you are specific you communicate to the offended person that you truly understand how mush you hurt him/her. Specificity places the focus on your action and how it affected the other person. And the more details you can give the better.
3) I don’t ever want to hurt you like this again –
• First, acknowledge the pain you caused. Your spouse needs to know that you feel some of the pain your offense caused him/her.
• Second, express repentance by declaring your intention to change. What can I do to make it right? An offer to make things right equalizes the balance of justice. Admitting wrong behaviour and expressing sorrow without showing a desire to change leaves forgiveness incomplete.
4) Will you forgive me? – This key question brings the process of forgiveness to a head. This request puts you in a vulnerable position. In asking this question you opening the door for whole forgiveness. If you omit any of these four elements in requesting forgiveness, you run the risk of leaving the conflict unresolved.
5) I forgive you and close the loop on this issue – When you say “I forgive you”, you must let go of the offense once and for all and set your spouse free. When you do, there is closure. Both you and your spouse experience emotional relief. The pressure is off, the pain begins to subside and healing starts.
6) I forgive you for… – When you say “I forgive you”, you must let go of the offense once and for all and set your spouse free. When you do, there is closure. Both you and your spouse experience emotional relief. The pressure is off, the pain begins to subside and healing starts.
The desired result of this sometimes difficult and painful process is to reconcile as husband and wife. You want to get back to where you were before the offense occurred so you can resume moving forward in your relationship. You want to leave the hurt and anger in the dust and press on with building your marriage. Reconciliation can happen only when whole forgiveness happens – forgiveness requested, forgiveness granted.
Note however, that forgiveness brings reconciliation but not restoration. Restoration requires rebuilding trust in the relationship.
Adapted from: Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage by Gary and Barbara Rosberg. Tyndale House Publisher, Inc. Illinois 2004
The Five Languages of Apology, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, Northfield Publishing, Illinois, 2006