Both sets of my grandparents were married for over 60 years, which is why my mother felt cheated when my father died and they had only had 58 years together. That’s my Mom with me in the photo after she’d forgiven Dad for dying (and, perhaps, God, for not healing the cancer).
All six of them were good people, but not perfect. They were all Christians, and they were also sinners, just like the rest of us.
One set of my grandparents lost their farm in the Great Depression, at the same time the other searched all over the West for employment to take care of their five children. Both couples sent their sons to World War II. They worried about their grandsons getting drafted into the Vietnam War.
So they didn’t have it easy.
None of them were rich or well-educated.
What they had in common was the championship character trait of forgiveness. They forgave each other, asked forgiveness from God, and achieved some inner peace by forgiving themselves. All six of them forgave me for various mistakes growing up (or failing to!).
To forgive means you do not get justice or “an eye for an eye.” Forgiveness comes after working through the shocked, angry, sad, and scared it-will-happen-again feelings.
When you decide to release the consequences of choices it may seem like you are letting someone off the hook. Actually, when you forgive, you are the one you’re taking care of. The other person might not ever know about being forgiven. The one released from the past is you.
A long time ago Peter McWilliams wrote to forgive is simply to be so finished with the negative feelings you are again ready for giving to the other person and for getting from them again.
Why not start with an apology to your spouse asking for forgiveness? Whether you receive an apology in exchange or a comforting acceptance of your apology isn’t up to you. Maybe if you forgive, your marriage could be a good one for 60 years.
Dr. Ray Smith is the most sought-after counselor and relationship coach for physicians in Spokane. After graduating with a Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he worked with doctors in Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, Spokane, and Memphis, where he earned a second doctorate, in counseling. His background in parish ministry led to pastoral counseling and coaching for Christian MDs and the creation of physicianscoaching.com to help G.P.s and specialists deal with their unique stresses in medicine.
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