Category: Forgiveness

Q&A: Is it Possible to be Forgiven?

Q: Gary, my spouse is having a hard time forgiving me after years for hurtful depression from me. Is it possible to be forgiven?

Gary: Forgiveness is always a possibility, but so is resentment. The biblical pattern, though, is always to forgive. When people express to us an apology for a pain they caused us, we must be ready to forgive. That’s the model of God, and that’s to be our model. On the other hand, we can’t demand forgiveness. We can’t make our spouse forgive us. You can say, “Honey, I understand and I see how difficult it may be for you to forgive me with all the pain I’ve caused you through the years, but I hope you do forgive me because I want to have a good life with you in the future.”

What do You Consider to be a Sincere Apology?

What do you consider to be a sincere apology? What does the person need to say or do that will make it possible for you to forgive them? I have discovered that there are five ways that people typically apologize. I call them the five languages of apology.

  1. Expressing regret. “I’m sorry for what I did.”
  2. Accepting responsibility. “I was wrong.”
  3. Making restitution. “What can I do to make things right?”
  4. Genuine repentance. “I don’t want to ever do that again.”
  5. Requesting forgiveness. “Will you please forgive me?”

Which of these is most important to you? That is your primary apology language. Why not share this information with your family and friends so they will know how to apologize to you.

When is the Last Time You Apologized?

When is the last time you apologized? What did you say or do? Did the person to whom you apologized seem to accept your apology? Did they forgive you? Was the relationship healed? If not, I have an idea as to why they found it hard to forgive you. They did not hear your apology as being sincere.

When someone hurts us and is now trying to apologize, the question in our minds is: are they sincere? We judge sincerity by how they apologize. If they simply say, “I’m sorry,” that may seem a bit weak. We may want to hear them say, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” There are five ways to apologize. If you speak only one, you will likely come across as insincere.

3 Things Forgiveness Can Never Do

Forgiveness Does Not Heal Everything. We often have the mistaken idea that forgiveness will wipe the slate clean. Let me share three things that forgiveness does not do.

(1) Forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of wrongdoing. The father who abandons his children may repent ten years later, but forgiveness does not restore the ten years of void.

(2) Forgiveness does not immediately restore trust. Once trust is violated, it must be rebuilt by the person being trustworthy. If that happens, then over time trust will be restored.

(3) Forgiveness does not remove the offense from one’s memory. It does mean that you choose not to hold the offense against them.

Continue reading article by Dr. Jennifer Thomas >>

Q&A: A wife struggling to recover from her husband’s emotional affair

Q: Gary, I discovered emails between my husband and someone from his past. They have been in touch throughout our marriage. He met her for dinner on a business trip out of town 5 years ago. He ended the contact; we did counseling. But, I’m still angry and so hurt.

Gary Chapman: It’s understandable that one would be hurt and experience the emotion of anger when a spouse has stepped out of line. What is fortunate is that, in this case, your spouse ended that relationship, the two of you went for counseling, and, I’m assuming, you processed that rather thoroughly.

I would suggest that even though the hurt and the anger may come back you take these emotions to God. Say, “Lord, you know what I am remembering. You know what I am feeling again. But, in spite of this, I thank you that my husband repented and I’ve forgiven him. Now help me to do something good today.”

Don’t allow the emotions that come from the past memory destroy today.

Release the Person to God

If you have a tendency to hold anger inside and to withdraw from the person at whom you are angry, please listen. The apostle Paul instructed us to “get rid of anger.” Jesus said, “don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Anger was meant to be a visitor, not a resident. It is not wrong to feel anger, but it is wrong to hold anger inside. There are two biblical ways to handle anger. First, you may lovingly confront the person at whom you are angry and hope that they will apologize and the relationship can be restored. Secondly, if they persist in hurting you and not apologizing, you can release the person to God. The scriptures say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay says the Lord.” Trust Him, and don’t live another day with anger.

Accepting Your Past

The prophet Jeremiah asked: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23).  The obvious answer is ‘no.’ Some things are unchangeable. Perhaps the most influential unchangeable factor in your life is your history.  Your parents, good or bad, dead or alive, known or unknown, are your parents. That fact cannot be changed. Your childhood, pleasant or painful, is your childhood. Our history is not to be changed, but accepted. We waste our time and energy when we ponder on what might have been. Admit your failures, accept the failures of others, and ask God to help you do something good with your future. No matter what has happened in the past, you can have good relationships in the future.

Returning Good for Evil

Do you have a relationship that you would like to see improved? Then, why not decide to do something for that person that she/he would not expect. I mean an act of kindness that would fall in the category of ‘returning good for evil.’ That’s what Jesus taught. You’ll never go wrong while following the teachings of Jesus. I know it’s not natural. We tend to return evil for evil, but that has never been God’s way. When Jesus was on the cross, he prayed for the forgiveness of those who were killing him. Our attitude is always to be one that seeks reconciliation. We don’t overlook wrong, but we stand ready to forgive. Genuine love is the most healing of all medications. You’ll never know the power of love until you love someone who has hurt you deeply.

Q&A: Memories of Past Sexual Experiences

Q: Will having a sexual past affect my upcoming marriage now that I am a believer? 

Gary: The short answer is yes. All of our past failures will have an effect on our future. I was recently talking with a man who had been married for twenty years and he said to me, “Gary, the fact that my wife had sexual relationships with two other men when she was in college still comes to mind when we are intimate.” Either spouse having a sexual past will affect the marriage, but there can be healing. I suggested to the man that he ask God to let the blood of Christ cover his knowledge of his wife’s sexual past so that it becomes a blur. For you, I would ask God to have the blood of Christ cover the memories of your past sexual experiences. Healing is always possible.

The Alternative to Forgiveness

Basically, there is only one alternative to forgiveness: a demand for justice. “You sinned against me and you will crawl on your knees until I feel like forgiving you. If you ever pay me back for this, then I will forgive you!” This is an immensely destructive approach. A better choice is to forgive the offender. He or she has sinned against you and you are hurt, but you say to that person in your own words, “You hurt me deeply, but I want you to know that I forgive you because God has forgiven me. I will treat you as though you did not sin.”

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