Forgiveness Is Not A Feeling

Written by Andrea Shair

Learning to forgive is CRITICAL to building a healthy marriage. We’ve only had “little” offenses to forgive each other on this first year, but I’m not going to kid myself that “little” hurts are all that’ll ever touch our marriage.  Even so, in this first year I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice forgiveness (and so has my husband). It’s easy to think that forgiveness is just a feeling, but it’s not.  So what is forgiveness?

According to Gary Chapman, forgiveness is a decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice when we’ve been hurt.

  • Forgiveness removes the barrier and lifts the penalty. This means that we choose to never hold that failure against the other person again.
  • Forgiveness opens possibility for the relationship to be restored and grow again.

Forgiveness is powerful stuff.  It’s also important to know what forgiveness is NOT.

Forgiveness does not destroy memory. Especially when it comes to emotional hurts, certain triggers can bring on a flood of memories relating to the hurt. Remembering that pain doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven the hurt, it just means you’re human and have feelings. I’ve made a conscious decision that when I forgive someone I will choose to not let the memory of the past offense impact how I respond to them today.

Forgiveness does not remove all consequences of wrongdoing. Forgiveness does not automatically restore your relationship to exactly where it was before the hurt happens. Instead, forgiveness means that you are willing to work toward restoring the relationship.

Forgiveness does not rebuild trust automatically. Loss of trust is a natural consequence of wrongdoing. Trust has to be rebuilt starting with a genuine apology followed by a continuous demonstration of a change in behavior. With an attitude of openness and a consistent pattern of honesty, trust can be rebuilt again.

Forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation. It brings the possibility of reconciliation if both parties are willing. If you come wanting to restore the relationship but the other person does not, release them to God and release your hurt and anger to Him. Don’t let their unwillingness to reconcile destroy your life. Sometimes you should not be reconciled because the other person will continue to harm you; they need to address and be healed from their problems first. 

Genuine forgiveness is the only thing that will keep roots of bitterness from choking your marriage. It’s the only thing that will tear down walls of hurt that will otherwise isolate individuals in a marriage. Forgiveness must be continuous.  I’ve fought negative thoughts like, “I won’t forgive unless he apologizes first” because I know that if I want to be forgiven by God for my shortcomings, I MUST forgive.

Whether or not the other person apologizes is between them and God. Extending forgiveness is ultimately something between God and myself. When I’m finally able to apologize to Him for my hard-heart, pride and self-righteousness and receive His forgiveness, then forgiving my spouse (or anyone else) is a natural by-product. If I think that the other person is undeserving of forgiveness, I’m already in a position of needing forgiveness myself. It’s interesting how that works.

Are you ready to forgive?

Exercise: How to forgive: A practical guide
I forgave the woman who stole my husband

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9 Responses to “Forgiveness Is Not A Feeling”

  • Chris says:

    anonymous…father thank you for our sisters heart convictions of the knowledge that you are greater than her circumstances or her husband. you are causing her to reign with you. romans 5.17. do bring this husband to humble repentance and do restore his heart to his wife and child in jesus name amen

  • anonymous says:

    I believed that,whatever areas we need to improve or learn from it that’s where we need to focus on seeking through prayers, reading,and listening the certain topic.For this reason, I open this site and read about forgiveness.

    I am on the process of forgiving my other half,I knew that I did my best to give him many chances to understand his behavior and breaking down the trust. There were times that we’re not living in the same roof few times already and even up to now. This time I am just tired of it, and I know that the Lord delivered me from being lost previously,it was so difficult for me to control my anger towards him and it always flashing back the pain from what he did. Then, the Lord helped me to learn that we need to accept the truth of the situation and we can’t control everything and anyone who doesn’t have the willingness to ask forgiveness knowing that he did the wrong thing.I am not a perfect wife either but as far I am aware of, that I am trying my best to be the wife that is pleasing before the Lord.Every time I think what he did, and not supporting us (with my 20 months old son) for some financial support I start to get angry but the conviction of the Lord is quick to remind me to calm down.I always pray that the Lord will renew my mind (not to think about his doings and the other woman involve) and change my heart. The Lord gives me peace despite of what is happening of my marriage until now. I would absolutely say that it is the outrageous grace of the Lord that I survive everyday with my son. I keep on praying for him also that the Lord will open his eyes from being blind and heart to humble himself before the Lord. Please help me also in this prayer.

    Thank you.

  • Kate says:

    Hello Clive,

    It sounds like you are in a very difficult and sad situation. We have all sinned and it is essential to ask for forgiveness. It is wonderful to hear you gave your heart to the Lord 2 weeks ago. So are you connected with a church? Are you getting some mentoring or counselling for yourself? Are you joining with a bible study group? A change in behaviour is needed, a growth in learning to deal with anger.

    The Lord has big plans for His people, but it doesn’t usually start with fixing the mess…. He changes our hearts, changes our choices, changes our outlook, changes US, and we pray that as we are changed to be MORE gracious, more patient, more slow to anger, more faithful, more trustworthy, to be MORE like Him, that situations and people in our lives will be affected by His great LOVE.

    I want to pray for you now: Father God, bless Clive in his pursuit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Help him to learn and grow in this difficult time. Help him to find a Christian support group with men or one godly man who will mentor him. Help him to love his wife as You love us, willing to sacrifice. Bless him in Jesus’ name, amen.

    Kate

  • clive says:

    THE FISRT TIME I HIT ON MY WIFE WAS 5 YEARS AGO AND I SAID I WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN BUT DO NOT NO WHAT CAME OVER ME THIS TIME SHE MADE ME SO ANGRY AND COULD NOT HELP MY SELF IT JUST HAPPEN. NOW SHE NOT ANSWERING MY CALL DON’T WANT TO RETURN MY WHAT’S UP AND BBM MESSAGES PLEASE TELL ME WHAT CAN I DO OR PLEASE MAY BE YOU GUYS CAN HELP I HAVE TOLD HER I’LL CHANDE JUST TO HAVE HE BACK THE FIRST STEP I ALRAEDY BEEN MADE BY GIVING MY HEART TO THE LORD 2 WEEKS AGO AND I WILL DO ANYTHING JUST TO BE WITH HER SHE IS MY LIFE SHE MY EVERTHING MY LIFE JUST TURN AROUND HER, MY LIFE HAS NO MEANING WITH OUT HER I AM LOST WITH OUT HER WE HAVE BEEN APART FOR A MONTH AND IAM DYING INSIDE. I HAVE TRIED EVERTHING NOW I REALLY NEED UR HELP LIKE IN YESTERDAY ASAP

  • clive says:

    i have made a big mistake by hitting on my wife and now she don’t want to forgive me please i need your hELP I LOVE HER AND DO NOT WANT TO LOOSE HER IF YOU CAN JUST TELL HER THAT I AM SORRY AND I APOLOGISE AND I REALLY MEAN IT i’LL WILL CHANGE I WILL DO ANYTHING FOR HER. JUST TO BE WITH HER SHE MY EVERYTHING MY IS NOTHING WITH OUT HER PLEASE I NEN YOUR HELP HERE….IF IT YOU CAN SEND HER A MESSAGE THAT I AM SORRY HEAR IS HE E- MAIL ADDRESS [it is our policy not to publish personal contact information]
    please i need your help guys

    thanx Clive

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    Hi Tiki,
    I’m glad to hear you say that you have made the decision to forgive your husband. That is always the first step, for us to forgive our spouse. I’ve heard it said that when we choose not to forgive someone it is like us eating the rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Instead we die ……step by step inside of us.

    I hope that you continue to pray for your husband to come to that same point in your relationship so that he too can feel that freedom that comes from forgiving another person. Even though you don’t feel like you want to see him in three weeks, ask God to change that in your life. After all, His Spirit is alive within you and can totally do that.(reread your comment above and see how many times you said ‘I’ in the second half)

    God can and does change hearts and my prayer is that He would continue to change and bring healing to both of you in the weeks ahead.

    Dear Heavenly Father
    I bring Tiki and her husband to you today. They have experienced much hurt in their marriage to have brought them to this place of separation. Lord would You bring healing and forgiveness to both of their lives? Help her husband to let go of the hurt and allow You to heal those broken pieces. And for Tiki, give her an earnest desire to see him in three weeks and to reconnect with him. Help her to let go of the hurt and be open to seeing him instead of trying to protect her hurting heart. Fill her with Your love for him. Amen

  • tiki says:

    Comment removed at commenter’s request.

  • Lisa says:

    I had a person I thought was a friend to humiliate me on the phone in front of their friends. I actually helped this person several times during their time of need and that was the thanks I got. I was so hurt and cried my eyes out. Then they “apologized if I felt like a fool” as they stated by way of text. It was a low thing to do and I realized I can be mad at this person for the rest of my life or forgive and let go. There are times when something triggers the memory of what happened and I think about it for a few secs. Sometimes I get mad all over again, because it was so wrong to do to anyone, let alone a person that has helped you. I forgave her, but stopped calling and texting her. I felt that talking to her was not something I wanted to do anymore. I was supposed to go visit her, but went to visit another friend instead that is right down the road from her. When she found out, she wondered why I didn’t tell her I was in her area. (We live 3 hours apart, thank God.) She also said she thinks about me often, but why think about someone you humiliated. People like that you have to stay away from. I can’t even say I love her anymore like I used to or that I really care. Sometimes all the forgiveness in the world doesn’t put you back to in the friendship you had before.

  • Brenda Miller says:

    Tremendous article, Andrea! It was not until I realized that I had to make a choice to forgive, knowing that God had forgiven me so very much, that I began to really see healing in my marriage, as well as my other relationships. My feelings followed my choice to forgive. How could I expect others to let go of the many hurts I had caused them if I was not willing to do the same? Even when they did forgive me, I was always feeling guilty because I had not been willing to let go of my own hurts and hard feelings. Thus, my own unwillingness to forgive was keeping me in bondage, even when my husband and others were letting the hurts go. Forgiveness really is the way to freedom – regardless of whether or not the other person is willing to share in doing the forgiving! Thanks so much for this, Andrea!

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