When someone asks me, “What do you think is the most important ingredient in the family?
I quickly respond: forgiveness.
It also might be the most difficult.
I can’t count the number of times over the years that I’ve had to go to my husband or my children and say, “Honey, I shouldn’t have said what I did, or I shouldn’t have done what I did and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?”
I can’t remember a single time that I felt like doing this.
I’d much rather tack on, “But if you had or if you hadn’t….”
After all, sometimes I think I’m justified.
But God has commanded me to ask for forgiveness and to grant it. So for the sake of my relationship with Him I go…most likely silently kicking and screaming!
If I waited until I felt like doing this I’d probably never do it. And then bitterness and resentment would begin to creep into our relationship creating a low-grade infection that has the potential to grow into a serious illness.
The asking and granting of forgiveness does not mean that trust is restored. Trust has to be earned and often this takes a long time. It also does not mean you or the other person immediately feel better. Either of you may be wounded.
However, it is the asking of and granting of forgiveness that opens the door to the healing process.
Confessing our sins and asking forgiveness is harder for some than others. My husband John says (generally speaking) it’s easier for women to ask for forgiveness than it is for men and it’s easier for men to grant it than it is for most women.
It helps to realize that what we practice within our families will trickle down into other relationships.
Yesterday I had to ask a girlfriend for forgiveness for something I said that I found out had offended her. I had not meant to offend her but I did. Yes it was humiliating for me to do this but in the long term I want a clean relationship with her and I want to be obedient to God in this area of confessing.
It helps to remember that, God-willing, we are raising future husbands and wives. And they are going to need to know how to forgive if they want healthy marriages. How will they learn how to do this if they don’t see us practicing this in our home?
Sometimes for me it’s the way I said something to my husband. It was cynical, critical or unkind. And I have to say to him,
“Honey I’m sorry I said that the way I did. Will you forgive me?”
Once forgiveness is granted we might talk about how I could have said what I needed to say in a better way. We don’t sweep the issue under the carpet, but instead bring it into the open and ask God to help us resolve the issue.
How about you? We all need God ‘s help in the asking and granting of forgiveness.
If we ask Him for help, He will give it generously.
After all forgiveness is the heart of the gospel.
If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Susan Alexander Yates is a mom to five children (including a set of twins) and grandmother to 21 (including a set of quadruplets!). Susan and her husband John have been married 51 years. Susan has written 16 books and speaks on the subjects of marriage, parenting, faith, and women’s issues. Susan’s favorite time of the year is June when all her kids and grandkids are together for a week of “cousins and family camp” in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia.