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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Forgiving Your Mate

C.S. Lewis said that when we think about forgiveness, we should be modest in our first attempts. Don't start with, say, the Gestapo; start with the rude clerk at the corner store.

Then you can work your way up to the Gestapo.

And then you can make the ultimate leap, to forgiving your spouse.

It sounds contradictory; how can it be that hard to forgive the person closest to you? A person with whom you chose to spend your life, someone who's supposed to be your very best friend?

The contradiction disappears when you consider the flip side of those positives...

Someone close can hurt you the worst, because you're vulnerable, and they know the ways in which you're vulnerable.

Choosing a life spent together requires an investment of one's soul as a promise, and it's not easy to walk away, the multitudinous divorces today notwithstanding. Divorce hurts. It's failure, and loss of potential, loss of a future.

And sometimes a best friend can turn into your worst enemy, by deciding to abuse trust and confidences.

The Gestapo, on the other hand, probably didn't hurt you, and probably didn't lay a hand on your ancestors.They're easy to forgive. It's a theoretical exercise which nonetheless lets us feel a few steps closer to Holy.

So, how do we go about forgiving this friendly enemy, this hostile ally, this unpredictable constant in our lives?

First, never say you forgive your mate if you really don't. People can tell when you're not sincere, and the person closest to you can tell most of all.

If the offense has been so great that forgiveness will take awhile - then give it time. Be polite, be considerate, and act as if your unforgiven mate is a Son or Daughter of God, dropped by for a lifetime visit (which is exactly the case).

Second, look in the mirror. Are there things you would have had a hard time forgiving in your behavior, had your places been reversed.

Be honest here, and include the stuff your mate never found out about.

No one's perfect. But as the bumper sticker says, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."

Says in the Bible, forgive and you'll be forgiven. That's a powerful incentive.

Third, when you forgive, don't look back. When you forgive you put away the possibility of ever mentioning the offense again. It has to be gone.

What if your mate "does it again"? Then it's a new offense, and a new forgiveness.

This does not mean that you suddenly take a 'stupid' pill. If the offense was overspending, then access to credit cards can be limited, and you can check the bills. You just have to do it quietly, and you can't talk about it. And if oiverspending recurs, you can NOT say, "You're at it again!"

'Again' leaves your vocabulary when you say, "I forgive you for this."

What you can say is, "I think you went over-budget last month. I'm sure you had a good reason, but let's not do it this month, okay?" (Sound familiar? "Go, and sin no more?")

They say that love is a choice. It is.

And the act of forgiving? It's a choice, yes, but it's a bit more than that.

It's a promise to act like Jesus.

Even to your mate.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. What a great post, Andrew, full of much wisdom and understanding. I never knew that C.S. Lewis shared that thought. It's a common principle in therapy and really does make the change more attainable. I've always liked C.S. Lewis, in fact, we share a birthday (not the year, mind you! ha!) so now I have one more reason to like him. And your words are so quote-worthy, my friend, but this one stood out for me, "The act of forgiving? It's a choice, yes, but it's a bit more than that. It's a promise to act like Jesus." Love it!

    1. Beth, thank you so much! C.S. Lewis is the one who convinced me of the 'rightness' of Christianity, with "Mere Christianity".

      Though the Narnia series - which I read as an adult - helped!

  2. An excellent post, Andrew, full of truth!

    I especially liked this part: "...act as if your unforgiven mate is a Son or Daughter of God, dropped by for a lifetime visit (which is exactly the case)."

    I've actually found this approach to be helpful in most familial relationships. Spouse, children, siblings...all are a bit easier to deal with when I remember that they are a child of God dropped off for an extended visit.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings to you, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Joe! I've tried to use that approach, too. Sometimes it's inconvenient - it makes it hard to be angry, or to hold a grudge, when I really, really want to.

      God bless!