If you were to ask Linda or myself as to what’s one of the most important things to do in marriage we would answer: to confess to one another and then to forgive one another.
Up until the age of 21 I “confessed” very few things to other people. As a little child, and even in my early teens, I occasionally admitted that there were things I was wrong about. But from my mid-teens on I stopped doing this. I never told another person I was wrong, and never told another person the words “I am sorry.”
This all changed for me when I became a follower of Jesus. When I began dating Linda and realized I was falling in love with her, there was one night when we argued. It was our first significant disagreement (and neither of us can remember what it was all about). In my own small mind I viewed myself as a very powerful arguer. After all, I was studying logic and philosophy! I was angry at Linda, because she didn’t agree with me!!
And then something happened. God told me “John, you are wrong, and you know it.” I thought, “God, you are right about this.” But since I was not the sort of person to ever admit I was wrong, that being a weak thing to do, I just kept on arguing against Linda. As I think back on this I remember how I was arguing and verbally beating her down and then a new thought came to me, which was: why not just admit you are wrong? This was, for me, the equivalent of – why not just go and get ten root canals?
Stop here for just a moment. Why not just do that? What could possibly stop a person from doing that? The answer: pride and/or fear. In my troubled state of mind I thought that if I admit I am wrong she will disown me and leave me, and I did not want this to happen because I “loved” her. But then the thought came to me that, if I admit I am wrong and she does want anything more to do with me, then I need to find this out now before we get married.
So I said words that were by me rarely spoken: “Linda, you are right and I am wrong about this thing. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?” And she said, “yes, I forgive you.” And then we laughed. I laughed until I cried and it was like a release inside me. It was like entering into a whole new world where pride and ego means nothing and all that counts is speaking the truth in love. She forgave me. Like God in Christ has forgiven us. And we only remember the laughter, and have let go of the offense.
If your marriage is in trouble, why don’t YOU begin by identifying things in you that are causing pain to your spouse. Make a list of them. Be specific. Then go to them, and enumerate them, and after each one ask your spouse for forgiveness. If they give it to you (which they should), you are moving in the right direction. If they withhold forgiveness from you, then I invite you to come to my church this Sunday morning as I speak about this stuff. Or go and talk with your pastor and ask for help. Or, finally, call the best marriage counselors in the area – Person to Person Resources in Perrysburg, Ohio.