Should you “forgive and forget” within your marriage? A realistic look at forgiveness in Christian family relationships. // Episode 66

What are we talking about today?

“Forgive and forget” is a cliche that we’ve all heard. But is it true? Is it something that God wants us to do?

Forgiveness is incredibly hard, but it is also an absolutely necessary part of marriage. Especially within a Christian marriage! Today’s, we’re tackling the question: should we “forgive and forget” in our marriage? And as we forgive… how do we do it?

This is a tough topic, but will be such a blessing to you personally and to your marriage. 

Let’s dive in.

Listen to Episode 66:

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Snag your resources here!

If today’s topic is meaningful to you, you’ll also want to check out these earlier podcast episodes that connect with this same topic:

  • Episode 54.5 Friday Faith Follow-up // Thoughts on finding forgiveness and reconciliation after family conflict
  • Episode 50 // Marriage & Motherhood… why it’s so hard, why it matters so much, and my #1 tip for doing it all well.
  • Episode 60 // What if you’re the only one trying? 5 steps to setting goals and creating change in your family relationships.

You’ll also want to check out our Recommended Marriage Resources

And don’t forget to snag your FREE copy of my 10-Point Conflict Resolution Checklist. Perhaps forgiveness won’t be such a struggle if the conflict were managed more peaceably…

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Today's Episode Highlights

Forgiveness is a hard part of every relationship. Sometimes, we’re forgiving small everyday things and it’s easy enough to “forget” that it happened. Other times, we’re trying to forgive deep, painful betrayals… and things get much more complicated.

Should you "forgive and forget"

First, let’s answer the question. Should we “forgive and forget”? Is forgetting even humanly possible?

My answer? Yes and no.

Don’t forget, you’ll get the most out of listening to the full episode! That link is above.

Should we forgive: YES. God is very clear in Scripture that because He has forgiven us, we now must forgive each other. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s painful. It’s ultimately a spiritual issue.

Should we forget: NO. It is not human nature to forget something that is particularly painful, difficult, or upsetting – especially when it comes from someone we love and trust. 

But we must distinguish between “forgetting” and “deciding not to remember, dwell on, or think about.” There is an excellent article on The Gospel Coalition that helped me clarify some helpful language in this thought process, as it explored the question Does God Forget Our Sins

Let's "forgive and forget" like God does

As the article above describes well, God does not “forget” anything like we forget things. 

We think about forgetting to pick our kids up from their soccer practice. Or forgetting our anniversary with our husband. We know about it, but it slips our mind in the key moment. 

For God, however, forgetting is a choice. He chooses not to bring it to the front of his mind. God “forgets” by choosing not to remember something, and therefore He does not treat us according to what our sins deserve. He treats us according to what He chooses to remember: Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. 

The same is true of how God wants us to forgive in our marriages. He wants us to choose to move on. To make the choice that this sin, this betrayal – big or small – will be in the back of our mind, no longer directing how we interact with, think about, or treat our spouse.

Forgetting the event is not necessary, and often not appropriate or possible. If we are in an unsafe situation, we can (and by God’s Word, we should) forgive, but He is not asking us to continually put ourselves in a dangerous situation. That would be what his Word describes as foolishness! But we are called to “keep no record of wrongs” in our marriage (1 Corinthians 13) and to “repay evil with good” (Romans 12).

Key steps to forgiving

So, what do we do after we’ve been hurt in our marriage? After harsh words have been spoke, we’ve been let down or lied to, or any other number of pains has occurred? We follow four steps, whether the hurt was small or big:

  1. Grieve. 
  2. Forgive. 
  3. Heal. 
  4. Repeat.

Let’s go a little deeper. How do we do this?

First, we must acknowledge our hurt. God does not gloss over our emotions. We need to cry, pray, and take time to experience our grief. Don’t rush through in the name of “forgiveness.”

We also must pray for God’s strength to forgive. While small, everyday things might be easy enough to forgive (though not always!) there are sometimes big hurts in marriage that simply can only be forgiven by an act of the Holy Spirit in us. Pray for God’s peace and unity to fill your marriage. 

As we seek to forgive, we must seek healing and restoration… but only where we can influence it. You cannot make your spouse repent. You cannot make him work with you toward healing. Focus on what you can influence: your thoughts, your actions, your words. You might need to leave the home for a period of time (especially if there is an unsafe situation). you may need to plan out the conversation so you can explain your emotions and reactions more calmly.

Moving forward, we must continue to invest in our relationship as our emotions allow us. This may mean continuing to go on date nights, to review the family budget, or be physical intimate. Or, if your emotions are not ready yet, some of these might scale back. Again, take this to the Lord. Don’t hide your hurt and pain, but don’t wallow in it either. 

Let’s talk about “repeat” as the final step. Forgiveness is a long process! As we seek to “keep no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13), we continually must forgive and “forget” – push the thought to the back of our mind. Every time the memory pops up, start this process over. Feel the grief. Pray. Renew forgiveness. Seek healing. Invest in your relationship.

A reminder of some resources

Friday Faith Follow-up

Forgiveness is not easy! It is painful, difficult, and sometimes feels completely unfair. Yet, it is something that God calls us to – not only in our marriage, but in all relationships. In this short bonus episode, we’re looking at what the Bible says about it specifically. We’re diving into 3 biblical truths that we can cling to when forgiveness is difficult. 

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