Forgiveness in Marriage is Not Optional

“Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, On earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

If we don’t practice forgiveness of others, then how can we ask for forgiveness from Our Lord? Of course, Our Lord is all-merciful and He will always forgive those who come to Him with a contrite heart. But we as Christians are called to emulate Christ. We are called to be understanding, merciful, and forgiving as He is.

On a recent Marriage Unhindered segment, host and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) Doug Hinderer talked about how important forgiveness is in relationships, especially marriages.

He began by turning our attention to scripture and referencing the places where forgiveness is discussed.

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

“Put it in the context of marriage,” said Doug. “If you forgive your spouse his/her transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive your spouse, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. That brings it closer to home. That takes it out of the theoretical, ‘forgive others’, and puts it into the specific, ‘forgive the person that you’re married to.’”

A few chapters later, Jesus commands Peter to forgive his brother not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). And in Chapter 11 of Mark, we hear the Lord command us to forgive anyone against whom we have a transgression so that Our Father may forgive us. And in Chapter 6 of Luke’s gospel, we hear Our Lord command us to stop judging and condemning and begin forgiving. Likewise, we will be forgiven rather than judged and condemned by God.

It is not optional for us, especially in marriage. If we want to foster loving relationships, if we want to be able to move on from past offenses, and if we truly want to end up happy sons and daughters of God in Heaven, we cannot hold grudges.

“Here’s the plain truth: No one gives us more opportunity to practice forgiveness than our spouse. No one. We are not as vulnerable with anyone else in the world as we are with our spouses. We have given him or her our entire heart, our entire life. And that makes us very vulnerable to their defects. No marriage can survive, much less thrive, without forgiveness.”

As faulted creatures, we are bound to take advantage, intentionally and unintentionally, of the power we are given in a relationship. And when we are taken advantage of, our impulse is to want to get even.

“You dealt me 4 units of pain, so I’m going to deal you 4 units of pain. And then we’ll be even.” That is a vindictive lifestyle, unsustainable and unhealthy. That’s an Old Testament view of retribution, and Jesus came to instruct us how to forgive our enemies and turn the other cheek. If we’re asked to forgive our enemies, how much more are we called to forgive our spouses, the ones who God brought into our lives to love unconditionally?

An unwillingness to forgive is a form of slavery. By holding grudges, we become slaves to anger, resentment, pride, and jealousy. These are the tools of the devil, and if he can get us to hyper-focus on the pain, he can get us to do things like lash out, act vindictively, or even end our marriage. Forgiveness is the key to liberation. Begin again, and choose love over hatred.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.