Forgiveness and Consequences: Homework

Forgiveness was the hardest lesson for me when I became a Christian and it took a lot of time for me to let go of hurts mostly because I still live with the consequences of someone else’s sins. But now I’m free of anger and bitterness. It is my hope to help others who are struggle with forgiveness by sharing last week’s homework assignment. Much love my friends.

Assignment instructions: discuss, “what are your thoughts and strategies for promoting forgiveness in the marital relationship? Within your answer, provide a respectful critique of forgiveness as either a primarily emotion-based or cognitive-based process.” Then respond to two classmates and provide feedback.

My Thoughts

Forgiveness is at the core of Christian belief in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Jesus stated, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (New International Version, 2011, Luke 23:34). Just as they did not know what they were doing to Jesus, many times, couples do not realize the effects of their actions on their spouse. Therefore, forgiveness becomes necessary to maintain a healthy marital relationship. According to Beck et al. (2017, p. 250), the “willingness to forgive and be forgiven has been identified as one of the most important characteristics contributing to high levels of marital satisfaction and longevity.” 

Additionally, developing healthy strategies for promoting forgiveness in the marriage is essential to its success. Ripley and Worthington “states there are two types of forgiveness: decisional and emotional” (Ripley & Worthington, 2014, p. 287). Decisional forgiveness is the cognitive (mental) process of agreeing to forgive someone. Forgiveness can sometimes be done quickly; however, it may leave the person feeling unforgiving (Ripley & Worthington, 2014). Emotional-based forgiveness is a process of working through the emotions involved with forgiveness which can take time and can be emotionally messy. Beck et al.’s (2017) study show that couples with high levels of anxious and avoidant hostile feelings were less likely to forgive or have a more challenging time forgiving. Therefore, it becomes imperative for counselors to have a variety of knowledge in forgiveness techniques and how to prepare couples to offer and receive forgiveness from their spouses. For example, the FREE Intervention 21-1: Preparing for Forgiveness shows counselors several techniques to aid couples to forgive one another, such as increased empathy for spouses, emotional softening, soft start-up, emotional regulation, and/or seeking spiritual wisdom (Ripley & Worthington, 2014). However, when there are high feelings of hostility and resentment between couples, counselors may need to combine other strategies and avenues of forgiveness to increase the chance of forgiveness. Finally, it is also crucial for counselors to be aware when decisional forgiveness is beneficial, but reconciliation is not, such as in abuse cases where the relationship is unhealthy for the spouse or children. Forgiveness, in this case, should be done individually and only when the person is ready to forgive without being coerced into it.

References

Beck, A. R., Ruhlmann, L. M., Durtschi, J. A., & Brown, C. C. (2017). Can’t shake it off? attachment moderates the link between hostility and forgiveness. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 45(5), 250-263. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2017.1365664

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com

Ripley, J. S. & Worthington, E. L. (2014). Couple therapy: A new hope-focused approach. Intervarsity Press.

My professor had asked me a question so one of my responses was to her question.

Hello Professor Pinkston,

Yes, I believe if we are more acutely aware of our sins, then we can extend grace and forgiveness to our offenders. For example, when I became a Christian (about six years ago), I learned how to pray from Luke 11:2-4, where verse four states, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (New International Version, 2011, Luke 11:4).  However, I was not ready to emotionally forgive some individuals who had sinned against me. Therefore, I would pray, “Help me to forgive, Lord. I can’t do this without you.” At some point, I begin to realize other people’s compassion and extended grace for my sins. Then I saw how the consequences of my sins affected others. I also started to learn what forgiveness was and was not with Hill et al.’s (2014) book. One is the difference between empty apologies to keep the peace without repentance of sin and the need for action to stop sinning. I stopped apologizing so much and started working on the actions that I needed to change. It was a process and took time.

However, without changes in actions, apologies mean very little. According to Hill et al. (2014, p. 97), “forgiveness does not release the offender from facing the consequences of their action.” I agree with Hill et al. because without consequences; there is little need to change our actions. Nevertheless, it does not mean we do not forgive a person when there is no change. Forgiveness then becomes about being free of bitterness and anger toward others (Hill et al., 2014). Giving forgiveness this way allows me to have peace and hope that someday the person will change. I hope this answers your question.

References

Hill, H., Hill, M., Bagge, R., & Miersma, P. (2014). Healing the wounds of trauma. American Bible Society.

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com

My response to a classmate’s post.

Hello J.,

I have the same book by Clinton & Hawkins (2009) and agree with their statement on what forgiveness is. I also have a book by Harriet Hill et al. (2014) that states what forgiveness is not:

  • saying the offence didn’t matter
  • saying we were not hurt by what the person did
  • acting as if the event never happened
  • dependent on offenders apologizing first or changing their behavior
  • letting those who do wrong avoid the consequences of their actions
  • letting the offender hurt us or other innocent people again
  • trusting a person again right after they hurt us

(Harriet et al., 2014, p. 96)

The first three bullets are similar to Gottman’s stonewalling, “withdrawing to avoid conflict” (Moitinho & Moitinho, 2020 p. 84).  Spouses may be stonewalling to avoid hurt along with the conflict. Avoidance of feelings is not a healthy way to deal with marital issues. It is like building a wall around yourself or shutting down emotions to protect yourself from the hurt. It also lets those who do wrong avoid the consequences of their actions. I do not believe that is god-like. For example, in The Garden of Eve, when Adam and Eve sinned against God with disobedience, God gave all humankind consequences (curse the earth and physical death) (Genesis, Chapter 3). The price for forgiving humankind’s sins was God’s son dying on the cross to restore an eternal spiritual life for those who believe and follow Jesus (New International Version, 2011, John 3:16). However, Jesus/God did not erase the consequences of sins such as suffering and a physical death on this side of heaven, yet this will happen after judgment day. This is hope we carry in the promise of eternal life with Jesus that encourages us to forgive as God forgives us.

References

Hill, H., Hill, M., Bagge, R., & Miersma, P. (2014). Healing the wounds of trauma. American Bible Society.

Moitinho, E., & Moitinho, D. (2020). The Dream home: How to create an intimate Christian marriage. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com

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