Do you need forgiveness from someone? Sometimes it’s not so easy to get. Sometimes we’ve hurt another person so deeply, or for so many times, that they just can’t let it go. This may not be your need—and I hope it isn’t—but it could come in handy one day. Or, perhaps a friend needs to hear this. Either way, pass it on, or file it for safekeeping. But if it is you, then put it to work!
Recently I was talking with one of the men at the Mission who has come back to living for the Lord after a serious bout with addiction. One of the casualties was his estranged wife. She likes what she sees the Lord doing in him now, and has declared her forgiveness of him. However, he has been around the track enough to know that people who love us will say they’ve forgiven us, because that’s what they want to do, but their hearts may still carry the wound.
Consequently, he suspects that if they do get back together, that he will likely be whipped by her words. In fact, this is already going on in limited form because the visits are brief. If they get back to living together, her ways will escalate. He doesn’t think his “male pride” can bear up under such scourging. What’s a poor, repentant (former) rascal to do?
Here’s what I told him. See if you think I was too tough.
Three Practical Steps
I said, there are three things that God will need your cooperation with or she will very likely never be able to release the pain you have caused her:
1) A Track Record
You will need to establish a stable and consistent track record of walking with the Lord AND walking clear of the old ways. This just takes time and usually lots of it. Words come cheap, even newly re-converted Christian words. She’s heard the talk more than once. She’s been fooled by it in the past, because she wanted to believe you. No longer. Now, she really needs to see you walk it out. Anyone can keep a good resolution going for a short distance, but life is a marathon, not a sprint.
However, time is not the only factor here. She will need to see how you deal with tough situations that used to bring out the addiction. She needs to see you handling situations and your emotions in a very different way now for her to believe that you really have changed. You may think you’re doing better than you are, but she’s going to watch you like a hawk.
The slightest sign of you going back to your old ways will set off her alarms. The bright side of this is that her honest feedback will help you go deeper and be more honest with yourself. Listen to her warning bells, if you can’t hear your own. Give her credit for knowing your rascally side and when you’re dipping into it. Admitting she’s right when’s she’s right will go a long way.
Free Download: If you need help forgiving someone else, even someone it seems impossible to forgive, go now to receive as a gift, How to Forgive the Unforgiveable, at our website, healingstreamsusa.org/gift-b-2.
2) A Sponge To Her Poison
Sometimes, no matter what you do, she’ll feel her hurt and tumble into that place where the pain only comes out as poison. When this happens, she will start ripping you up, trying to get you to hurt, so you can feel her pain. You just have to let her. Any attempt you try to make to excuse yourself, like saying, “but I didn’t do that this time,” won’t matter. She hasn’t gotten over the last time and still holds you to blame for it.
Be ready for these moments. Know that they will come. Be mentally prepared to absorb her poison. It won’t kill you. Just keep reminding yourself that God and Jesus have heard your confession and forgiven you. Stand on that ground, know that all of this is under the Blood. Don’t try to defend yourself. Just listen to her and absorb it. Meanwhile, be looking up to the Lord and thanking Him that He at least is fully forgiving of you! Let her blows to your feelings push you up into God so you can get the benefit of spiritual growth out of the moment. (If you have trouble forgiving yourself, please see “Can’t Forgive Yourself?” on this blog.)
The only way you can help her get over what you’ve done, is to let her vent it all. If you push any of it back, she will just give it to you again the next time! This kind of venting won’t fully mend her heart. Only her own genuine forgiveness of you can do that. Nevertheless, listening to her with your whole heart, will build trust. If you don’t fight against her words, she will see that she can be real with you and that you won’t have a bad reaction. This will help her see you in a whole new light.
3) An Ear To Her Tears
What you want to watch for are the God-inspired tender moments when she lowers her guard and tries to tell you about her fears, her wounds and how what you did took her apart. Very likely (if you have done steps 1 and 2 above) she will show you her tears. These won’t be tears of rage coming out of her flesh. They will be tears of hurt coming out of her wound. Unlike the raging moments (which you just have to let play out), these are moments when you want to really draw close.
Listen and let her know (with no defensiveness) that you really do understand now much your actions hurt her. If she sees you truly feel her pain, two beautiful things will happen. First, she will finally feel like she has been heard by you. She’s been trying to get to this place, but your efforts to defend yourself were telling her that you cared more about yourself than about her. Once this happens, she’ll stop telling you about that pain. She won’t necessarily be done yet. She may move on to other pains. But she will at least be done with that one.
Second, she will begin to trust that you will guard against her having to go through that kind of pain again. This is practically universal in human nature. If I truly see how deeply my actions hurt someone I love, then something in me shifts and I will fight to never do that again. The problem is that up until such a moment, I’ll keep pretending to myself that my own needs excuse what I’m doing, or I’ll tell myself that it isn’t hurting them that much. But feeling the other person’s pain exposes these lies and (usually) destroys them.
Now at last, she will be ready to truly release her forgiveness, not just declare it. You can ask, but don’t force it. It’s coming. It’s practically impossible to stop it from coming, if you’ve carried out these steps faithfully. So, just let it happen naturally, then give her a hug, and look up at the Lord and kiss the sky.
No Room for Pride!
So far so good. Now it was time to bring down the hammer—the sledge hammer. I told him, As for that “male pride”—let it die! It doesn’t need to survive! It is your enemy, not your friend. “Male pride” got you into all kinds of trouble and bad reactions in the past. Don’t protect it. That’s the last thing you should do.
Besides, you don’t need pride to cover you now. The love of God covers you. You can’t get a better covering than that. If we had only been covered by sufficient love in the first place, pride would never have had a chance to grow so large. So, let your wife kill your “male pride” with her tirades—and thank God it is finally being dealt some death blows!
Was I too tough? At least he didn’t think so. He was genuinely glad to see practical things he could do, and have a plan and a hope that she could mend. Before he left, he gave me a huge hug!
BONUS: For more on working things out with other people see Reconciliation with Others at our website for healing, healingstreamsusa.org.