This is CRITICAL When In Need of Forgiveness:

Forgiveness needs patience!

A friend who betrays you. A boss who loses his temper and shames you in front of others. Infidelity by your spouse. A father who abused you. A parent who abandoned you. With each wrong done, and pain endured, there is a person who stands in need of forgiveness.

Most of us have experienced pain like this at some time in our lives, or we know someone who has. Many have also been the cause of great pain to others.

When seeking forgiveness you must communicate patience!

It is a stirring moment when one who has done great harm comes to recognize what they have done and truly seeks forgiveness and restoration. A wrong assumption however, often accompanies the occasion. It is this: “if I confess my wrong and ask forgiveness, the one I am speaking to must not only forgive me, and do it now, but must be willing to move on from what has happened and not look back.”

Not so.

I understand why we want to believe that. When we realize we have hurt someone, we hurt too. Often however, our apology is motivated by the hopes of closing the case so we don’t have to hurt anymore. We don’t want to enter into the pain we caused the other or stay with them for as long as it takes to forgive us and come out from under the damage that was done.

What must be understood, however, is how critical PATIENCE is at this point in the relationship!

When we ask another to forgive us for the wrong we have done and pain we have caused, we must be patient for the healing process to run its course.

A general rule of thumb might be: the amount of time given to heal must be commensurate with the severity of the wrong done.  

Examples:

  • You forget to pick up the butter on the way home? No big deal.
  • You forget to pick up your child from daycare on the way home, a bit different.
  • You forget to do either of the above 10 times, even more different.
  • OR, you lose your temper with your employees once in the last 3 years vs. you lose your temper every week. If the latter, you better believe it is going to take quite a bit longer for your employees to believe you when you announce that you are going to change the way you communicate and no longer lose your temper!

We have a tendency to minimize wrongs we have done and even more so, the effects of a wrong we have done.

Take the example of an affair–a great and painful wrong that happens quite frequently in marriage. Think more carefully with me about just a few of the effects:

  • Mutual trust is broken. What enables all relationships to endure is trust. From the moment a relationship begins, the question of trust is foremost in each one’s mind. Is this person who they claim to be? Am I willing to entrust who I am and all I have to them? Most marriages start out with a good if not full amount of trust. What enables that relationship to grow stronger throughout the challenges of life is the assurance of trust in each other. When that trust is broken, the offended party thinks: if I can’t trust him or her in this area of life, how can I trust them in any area of life together? Over time, this is likely lead to a serious decline in the relationship.
  • Then of course, there is the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Many who have had affairs don’t even seem to think about this. Furthermore, they don’t stop to consider the likelihood of passing on to their spouse–the mother or father of their children–a disease that could even shorten their life!
  • The introduction of fear into the relationship. What was once not even a concern, now becomes one every day throughout the day. Will he or she do this again? What are they up to now? Why isn’t he or she returning my texts or phone calls more quickly?
  • The effects of the affair are suddenly multiplied when the children find out. They are afraid. Trust is lost. Hurt and anger brew. They need to talk but don’t know who to talk to, so they bury what’s going on inside. A whole new set of problems emerge if they aren’t told until later in life: How come you didn’t tell us ‘til now? We have trusted you all our lives, and now we hear this? Now I am not sure where or how or if I can trust you anywhere!
  • Of course, then there is the question of divorce. Will the offended party forgive or will they seek a divorce? And in the latter case, the problems simply multiply exponentially.

I have listed only five of the effects of the great pain caused by the wrong of an affair. I didn’t talk about the feelings that will have to be deal with such as anger, hatred, confusion, or loneliness; or the effect on extended family members or friendships; or the effect on the other person’s self-image. And what about the possibility of pregnancy that could have taken place? And even blackmail? The list goes on!

Such great cost that one great wrong can have in a relationship! Simply apologizing to the offended party is not enough.

To heal a relationship from a wrong done, yes you must have genuine sorrow and seek forgiveness. BUT THEN, you must communicate you will be patient as long as necessary for the other to heal!

If now or at any time in the future, there is a need for you to confess a wrong done such as I have written about, I would urge you to communicate in a way similar to the following:  “I have hurt you by doing __________. What I did was wrong, and I am so sorry. I grieve for the pain I have caused you and the damage that has been done. I ask your forgiveness, giving you as much time as you need to be able to forgive me and reconcile our relationship.”

Then pray. Pray that God would give you the patience you need, and pray for the one whom you offended. When forgiveness and restoration of relationships take place, it is truly a grace of God!

Though forgiveness is only one key to a successful marriage, it is certainly one of the most important. What would you add to what I have written in regards to the need for patience when asking forgiveness? What makes it so hard to do?  I welcome your comments below!

1 reply
  1. Linda Willis
    Linda Willis says:

    This article gives an excellent description of what is needed in the forgiveness and healing process.

    I have seen in some cases it take more than the offender’s lifetime
    for that forgiveness to finally be worked through, and the healing process
    progress to completion.

    If this be the case, we ask and trust the Lord to complete in our loved
    one what was not fully completed while we were here.

    While time remains, this article provides key guidelines
    for doing what what can be done. Good counseling can help as well,
    if people are willing. With all being said and done, I believe that God’s power brings about the
    inner healing.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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