Don’t Go Relivin’ What You Have Forgiven

Jill says: Even when you’re moving forward, it’s easy to want to bring up the past.

Mark says: It’s the human side of us that wants to throw something back into play that we settled in our heart or relationship a while ago.

Jill says: Just this past week, when Mark complimented me on being a “wonderful and thoughtful wife,” immediately I thought, “Well that’s not what you thought three years ago when you left me.” We weren’t arguing, we weren’t in a difficult place in our relationship, the affair is not something I even think of on a regular basis.  Yet, that’s what came to my mind!  Thankfully, I “took my thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and they didn’t exit my mouth!  However, even the fact that they entered my heart had to be something I dealt with before God. Lord I’m sorry that I’m trying to dig up what you have redeemed. 

Mark says: That happens to me as well.  When Jill is stressed and says something in a sharp tone, I can easily get sucked into thinking, “I’m outta here. I don’t need this.”  Even when things have been fine for months and there’s daily evidence that we’re doing well, my heart can quickly jump into the past and set up shop once again.

Relivin ForgivenJill says: In the Today’s Christian Woman article I wrote on rebuilding trust, I stated, “Mark didn’t need my tone of voice or choice of words to condemn, criticize, or punish him any further. Ultimately, we both had to resist the urge to react to one another in our hurt, responding instead with love and respect.”

Mark says: It doesn’t matter if what’s in the past is something big like an affair that happened years ago or it’s a conflict that happened  and was resolved yesterday, we have to resist the urge to bring up the past.  Forgiveness allows us to move forward, but in an effort of self-protection our heart longs to cling to the past.

We have to remember the part that spiritual warfare plays here. The enemy has come to “steal, kill, and destroy,” (John 10:10).  There’s a battle for your marriage each and every day and we have to resist the urge to play into the enemy’s hand.

Jill says: Sometimes when we want to lash out at one another it can be because there was conflict that was really never resolved.  However, much of the time, it creeps in even when it has been resolved, and even when forgiveness has been granted.

Don’t go relivin’ what you have forgiven. Those are the words I said to myself this week when I wanted to respond to Mark’s compliment with a snarky response.

Mark says: I do the same when I’m tempted to move the past into the present. It’s not always the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.

What about you? What do you need to leave in the past? Where do you need to resist taking the bait? 


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2 thoughts on “Don’t Go Relivin’ What You Have Forgiven

  1. I have a comment/question that I’d like to make: What do you say to the woman who has endured abuse in her marriage? I have seen situations, both as a nurse and in an extended family relationship, where Christian women are encouraged and admonished by Christian counselors-who may not be qualified to spot abuse in the relationship-to “forgive”, encouraged to be submissive, encouraged to “work” on the relationship, encouraged to bring in their husbands for counseling (who often refuse to come), etc. But in MANY of these situations, I have seen that the abuse very often continues, and that there is no significant, lasting change on the part of the husband (abuse can occur the other way around, but this is the most common scenario). More often than not, the abuse temporarily ceases and the husband promises that he is changing, but before long, the agitation begins to build again, and the abuse cycle starts all over. And this is true whether the abuse is verbal, emotional or physical, or some combination of all of them. Ask ANYONE who works with abuse victims, and they will tell you that, very often, the women will initially forgive the spouse many times, saying that it was just a one-time event (even when it was not), that he just messed up, etc., and they beg those in authority not to arrest and to drop any charges. If usually takes many cycles of abuse before the woman has the insight and understanding and courage to acknowledge that things are not going to ever get better, and that for her own safety and protection and for the safety and protection of her children as well, she MUST leave the relationship. Most women, especially Christian women who have a very great belief in the sanctity of marriage, are overwhelmed at the thought of breaking up a family, and their kids not having a father in their lives. So what do we say to women who are in those situations? I think that encouraging women reading this column, who may have been in abusive situations, to “forget” their past experiences with a man who has been abusive to her in some way, puts her in great danger, and makes her feel guilt and great shame for not being able to “forgive and forget” when she is getting signals-sometimes not even consciously acknowledged- that things are heating up again with her spouse and that she is headed for another round of abuse. Most men who are abusers tend to either abuse or have abusive tendencies their entire lives; somehow, it seems that telling women to consciously separate themselves from their experiences with a spouse who has violated them in some way makes them carry an emotional and spiritual burden that should not be theirs to carry, and puts them in great danger as well because they are being told to ignore the warning signals of what is happening around them. So I guess my question is, are you saying that all women, in all situations, need to “forgive and forget”, no matter what has gone on with a spouse? And if not, what would your counsel be for women who find themselves in these situations? Where is the line?? I sincerely hope you’ll comment on this issue, because it statistically affects many of the women who are reading your columns.

    • Sue, you are right. Women who are in abusive situations need to get themselves and their children out of that setting. That’s a very different scenario than everyday marriage challenges that we work through, put behind us, and then are tempted to unfairly throw into our spouse’s face again. Just to clarify, we’re not even suggesting we need to “forgive and forget.” We’re saying that when we forgive we give up the right to throw that mistake in our spouse’s face over and over again. We also have to be aware of how the enemy sneaks that in and snags us without even realizing it’s happening. Even when we forgive and move forward, if there’s an unhealthy pattern of behavior that continues, we always retain the right to put that pattern on the table and deal with it in whatever way we need to.