Nobody is perfect. We know this is true, yet we still expect people to act in ways that are close to perfect, including our family members. When your spouse does something that hurts or disappoints you, then apologizes for it, you assume they’ll never do something like that again. Their apology is so sincere that when that something happens again, you’re shocked.
That’s why I encourage you to forgive but don’t forget. It’s counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught. There’s a difference between what is meant by “forgive and forget” and “forgive but don’t forget.” The difference is that you need to forget the offense that you’ve forgiven, but don’t forget that you may need to forgive them again. Maybe not for the same offense, but you never know. Now, that doesn’t give a person free rein to continue offending, but as humans, we are not capable of perfection, so we will offend again.
I can easily draw on examples from my own life. You might be able to relate. When my family is all together in a small space for several days, things tend to flare up more easily in that environment. Situations will inevitably arise. I can promise you that I will do something that will need to be forgiven. And I can also quickly tell you that if we stay in the same room for longer than 24 hours, I’m likely to do something more than once that needs to be forgiven. I often tell my family that the forgiveness card they are carrying in their front pocket will be used quite often in my presence. That’s called family life. In many families, forgiveness works! In other families, bitterness and difficult situations can arise from not forgiving, causing resentment to grow more deeply. I would challenge you to try to be a family that constantly talks about the importance of forgiveness.
When we choose to forgive others, the goal is not to relieve the other people of their guilt, but it’s to help free us from experiencing the hurt over and over again in our minds. Because that’s what we do when we’ve been hurt. We replay the situation over and over with different possible endings, but it does nothing to change what really happened. It serves no purpose, but it’s in our human nature to dwell on it.
Hopefully, our forgiveness does release the offender in some way, but their journey to wholeness will be different from ours. They will likely deal with more consequences surrounding the event. And that is their journey to walk, not ours. The purpose of forgiveness is to free us from carrying a sack of worries. It allows us to live each day to the fullest. When we walk around with a boatload of burdens, it’s hard to stay afloat. We can easily sink in the muck of our emotions!
This is especially true in our marriages and families. These are the people we spend the majority of our time with, so there are more opportunities for us to fail or disappoint them and vice versa. We will also learn the most with them. These are the people that should be in our most trusted circle of influence and the ones who should be first in line to forgive or be forgiven.
If your family is not practicing forgiveness, then you’re holding grudges. This does nothing but keep your relationships captive. Learn to forgive and be free.