Intersect’s Marriage Q&A Series no.2
The second week of I Said What? was all about this part of the wedding vows…
I hereby with these words do promise and covenant to take you as my wife/husband. I commit from this day forward, to pursue peace in times of comfort and hardship, whether in plenty or in want, to remain faithful in a loving Christian marriage, to be understanding and forgiving, and to put your needs above mine as long as we both shall live.
…to pursue peace in times of comfort and hardship. We talked about 6 communication mistakes we often make with our significant others in times of conflict (one of the things meant by “hardship” in our wedding vows). If you missed Sunday’s lesson, listen online to week 2’s teaching and download the notes and Home Work for your notebook:
Now, let’s get to what you came here for!
Q & A
Q: What happens when the person that’s being asked for forgiveness isn’t ready to truly forgive the other? Fake it ’til you make it, or wait and give grace when they are truly ready?
A: (by Michael Koiner) This is a great question because it gets right at the heart of conflict. In fact, it’s the only one I’m going to unpack this week, because it covers so much! Oftentimes conflict arises because we are not on the same page as the other person. So what happens when we’re not on the same page as far as resolution is concerned? It’s my opinion that you cannot truly resolve the conflict when only one party is ready. Remember on Sunday, Tyler and Ariane talked about the first mistake we can easily make is to believe that our only goal is to be heard. That’s one-way communication. If all I care about is making sure that I’ve apologized, that I’m heard, or that I’ve done my part, then true resolution isn’t possible because I’ve shut myself out of the other responsibility of communication: listening to the other person. Proverbs 18:2 would call me a fool.
Another mistake I could make is to assume it’s over when I say “I’m sorry.” The Durhams talked on Sunday about this (mistake #5), saying that the goal is actually forgiveness, not just the speaking of your apology. Colossians 3:13 says that we should forgive as the Lord forgave us. Yikes! How is that possible…especially when we aren’t ready?! One thing to keep in mind was that the Lord forgave us our sins in His timing…and He was ready. So we, too, should be ready to forgive often. This is probably the most difficult part of conflict, especially when it has been extraordinarily hurtful. The Bible calls us to forgive like Christ, which is perfect forgiveness. So that means my heart must be ready before I say the words “I forgive you.” Because if I say those things and don’t mean it, it wasn’t real and the conflict is not resolved. (So don’t “fake it ’til you make it!”) If you aren’t ready to forgive, here’s what I would try to do:
- First, thank them for their sincere apology. You may also want to let them know your heart isn’t quite ready to forgive them properly. This may sound something like, “Thank you for saying that” or, “I appreciate hearing that” and possibly, “I’d like to finish talking about it soon; I have some things to grapple with on my own in the meantime.” Set a reasonable time when you can talk about the conflict again, when you might be ready to forgive fully.
- Remember that your heart can be a very tricky thing, and that your desire to delay forgiveness (hold it over someone a little longer) is actually sinful.
- Read Scripture that convicts your heart: Romans 5:8; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-22; Matthew 18:23-25; Ephesians 4:31-32; Mark 11:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Peter 4:8
- Ask God to clean your heart of bitterness against the other person. Ask Him to replace those feelings with love.
- Examine your motives for approaching the person you are in conflict with. Are you ready? Is your heart pure?
- Meet with that person, and forgive them fully.
If you are on the other side of this, waiting patiently for a response can be very difficult. Allow the other person a reasonable amount of time to deal with their own heart in the matter. What may seem like a long time to you may not be as long from their perspective. Ultimately, if the unfortunate thing happens that the other person is not willing to forgive you, the best advice I can give (if this person is not your spouse) is to “shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5) and move on. You have shared your truth with them, been honest about your heart, but they are not responsive or choose not to receive what you had to say. Don’t hinder yourself any further from doing what God has you on this earth to do by worrying over someone’s forgiveness of you.
If this is your spouse and you have been through all of the above, then you need to bring another person into the conversation. Read and follow the direction of Matthew 18:15-20. In marriage you should always seek a resolution. What God has joined together, nothing should separate (Mark 10:9). Christ Chapel offers free biblical counseling to help out in times like this. Through programs like re|engage and Soul Care, our church wants to keep couples together for their good and for God’s glory! Continue to pray for your spouse, that God would align their heart more and more with His will for their life.
I hope this post was helpful to start you on the way toward real forgiveness in times of conflict. However, it is not meant as a comprehensive guide. To talk more about forgiveness, please seek wise counsel from myself, a trusted friend, or from any of our Christ Chapel staff or Elders.