The Family Proclamation to the world says, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, (and) compassion.” Forgiveness in marriage can be very difficult especially when infidelity occurs. A few years ago there were several friends of ours who were getting divorced because their spouse had an affair.
Even though our friend was going through difficult times, my husband and I were able to come together and evaluate our own marriage and how we would deal with such circumstances. I began to wonder where my ideas of how I would handle such a situation such as infidelity. As I pondered this I realized most of my thoughts had come from media, T. V. mostly.
Media teaches that we should be angry, hurt, scream, yell, throw, things and most likely kick the person out of our lives. I realized that this is not reality. Couples who go through this are so hurt, there is much pain, and confusion because you love your spouse but you feel betrayed, your own emotions even confuse you. These situations are very stressful and mentally wearing.
I have also found it interesting that people are quick to forgive their friends but not their family members. I am not talking about repeating offenders because we know that most circumstances are not that way. I am talking about the one time offenders or small mishaps that happen between in-laws. The third article of faith says, ““We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” They can’t be handled with a few hurtful words, kicking, scream but must be handled with love, patience, and understanding.
Mullet, Neto and Riviere found three factors that influence one’s decision to forgive. Situational factors, (intent of harm, repetition of offense, severity of the consequences, apologies, or compensation from the offender) Relational factors, (the attitude after the offense and environmental pressures) and personality factors. (Successful Marriages and Families) “Repentance is a process of enhancing internal awareness and interpersonal accountability.” (Successful Marriage and Families)
Here are some important ways in How to forgive:
- Recall the Hurt so many times we want to forget that pain and move forward but you need to acknowledge the wrong during and injury in order to move forward.
- Empathize, Even though this may be difficult you must see the other person’s point of view. You might realize it was an honest mistake, what pressures were they facing, was their an understandable reason regardless of the seriousness of the offense, has the offender been a victim in the past, what pain and remorse is the offender feeling.
- Offer the altruistic gift of forgiveness, “Forgiving with altruism is easier when the victim is humbled by an awareness of his or her own shortcomings and offenses, with special gratitude for those occasions when he or she was freely forgiven.” When hate is put aside and forgiveness is offered both parties can move forward more easily.
- Commit public to forgive, you could write in a journal, talk to a counselor, write a letter. Verbalize your forgiveness will help the victim to heal.
- Hold on to forgiveness, you will still be haunted by the pain of the offense but hold on to your forgiveness process, move forward, reframe the thought process with something more important or meaning full instead of dwelling on the negative experience.
- Recognize the offense, be willing to name the offense and claim the injury.
- Sorrow for the Offense, Grieving is also essential for the victim in the healing process, and should be a temporary healing process.
- Disclose, In order to forgive, the victim must recognize that something was wrong and someone was at fault.
- Avoid the offending behavior, establish boundaries and make important decisions about people you want in your life, keep yourself safe.
- Make restitution, instead of expending energy on retaliation, the victim can find way to replenish their own depleted reserves. ( All about steps came from Successful Marriages and Families)
Reconcile is usually the desired result and is a give and take process where the two parties will eventually come closer to each other. Make sure you give yourself time this will not happen in one day or in a week. The time frame will be different for each individual and circumstance. There will be times when there is “one-way forgiveness”, whose victims offenders cannot or will not repent, and forgive and that can be difficult, but try to reconcile when possible. Too many times the question asked is should forgiveness take place, but the real question is how it should take place. (Successful Marriages and Families) Forgiveness is possible, it will take time but it is possible.
Sometimes you will need to forgive a spouse for withdrawing their love when they are angry or upset, or a child who was dishonest. Not all situations are extreme but many times in families they are small offenses that can add up. We must be sure to take the time to forgive each other even in small circumstance. I know there are times I have to ask my children to forgive me for jumping to a conclusion, getting upset easily, or perhaps demanding more from one child than another. I know I often have to ask my husband for forgiveness when I take my bad day out on him or withdraw myself from situations I am done with. Asking, receiving, and allowing forgiveness are what will keep families strong and the efforts are worth it! Too many times the question asked is should forgiveness take place, but the real question is how it should take place. (Successful Marriages and Families) Forgiveness is possible, it will take time but it is possible.
Image: Repenting Man