Forgiveness Looks Like For Me

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15, NIV


Forgiveness is a rather difficult concept to grasp.

But it is vital to grasp it as Jesus is clear in these verses above regarding our need to forgive. While I do not consider this a first task for a faithful spouse fresh off of adultery discovery, I do consider it something that needs to be done as per Our Lord’s own words.

We need to start this journey at some point.

It may just begin by asking God for the grace to want to forgive. You do not have to make it all the way on the first step.

Remember: Forgiveness is a process like healing is a process. The deeper the wound and the greater the wrong, the longer the forgiving process is.

And forgiveness is a choice. 

Not a feeling.

How do I know?

You do not command feelings. That is not how emotions work.

But Jesus commanded us to forgive. It is an act of the will.

For me, I choose not to take my rightful revenge on my ex-wife even though it would be just. I forgave and forgive her. My job is no longer to exact my “pound of flesh” from her.

She is in God’s hands now (i.e. a fearful place for her according to Hebrews 10:26-27).

Practically speaking, some days I had to remind myself that I had made this choice. It was hard to let go of the anger and pain–especially with those who supported her wickedness.

It was easy to get caught up in ruminating thoughts about how wrong she and her cohorts were; plus how I wanted to make them pay. At those points, I would sometimes reach up as if nailing those sins to the Cross. This act–a prophetic act–reminded me that I had left it there. I had chosen to forgive. It was a flexing of my will. I was obeying God. These sins were now God’s business, not mine.

As an encouragement, it does get better as we flex our will to choose forgiveness. Though, it may not feel like it right now.

I am not caught up in the anger or pain I had once experienced when the wounds were fresh. Also, I am not consumed by the desire to know how my ex-wife is fairing. Has she felt God smite her yet? That is not a driving thought anymore. I do not need revenge to move forward in my life.

Personally, I am too busy living, loving, and ministering to others to care.

I hope for each one of you, faithful spouses, that you find yourself in a similar place one day. It is not that we forget what happened–I know what I experienced and am forever shaped by it–but we are no longer held in bondage by the pain or need for revenge. That is a good place to be.

I am pretty confident such freedom is the life Jesus wants for each of us


why he commanded us to forgive.





6 thoughts on “Forgiveness Looks Like For Me”

  1. THIS is exactly what ‘forgiveness’ is in the case of adultery:

    “…. no longer held in bondage by the pain or need for revenge. That is a good place to be.”

    As the scripture says: ‘Vengeance belongs to God and He will repay.’

    In another post, you said of your (now ex) wife: “She’s God’s mess to handle.”

    Thank you, DM, for that clarity! I know that many of your readers are having a difficult time with the subject of forgiveness. And it is mostly because they have been misinformed as to what is really meant by ‘forgiveness’ when it comes to adultery.

    If one remembers the setting in which Jesus spoke about forgiveness, there can be more understanding. Jesus was born into a Nation that was under the Mosaic Law. Under that Law, adulterers were put to death. There was NO provision for forgiving and reconciling. (Of course, by the time Jesus came to Earth, the Law was not being properly followed—however, you and I know he adhered to it PERFECTLY!) Therefore, commands about forgiveness simply did not apply to ones who had committed any of the capital offenses listed in the Law, as Jesus would not give a command that contradicted the Law.

    His commands on forgiveness applied to other areas of life. Of course, things changed a bit after the Mosaic Law was fulfilled & done away with, so while adulterers were no longer stoned to death, the Christian concept of forgiveness still did not give a ‘free pass’ to unrepentant adulterers. They were put out of the Christian Congregation! OUT! And out they stayed UNLESS they fully repented & turned around.

    As Jesus said to the woman he forgave: ‘And sin no more…’ He was setting the precedent for how the new arrangement he was establishing would deal with adultery from then on.

    So grateful you are doing what you can to help your readers ‘get a handle’ on this topic of forgiveness.

    Another thing I like to remind others is that even God does not extend blanket forgiveness to just anyone for every reason. They MUST adhere to his standards as best they can as an imperfect being, bearing fruit that befits repentance. After all, the command on forgiveness begins: “Just as your heavenly Father forgives…..” And he never violates his own standard of what is right and what is wrong by forgiving someone who does not wish to adhere to his standards.

    Thank you for tireless love and efforts to minister to your fellow humans!

    ForgeOn, My friend….

    1. Very correct, ForgeOn!

      I would add that divorce was likely compulsory during Jesus’ day. We can see that in the story of Joseph. It wasn’t even a thought of a righteous man to stay married in such matters.

      This historical context is why I think the adultery exception is absent in the other Gospel witnesses in their divorce teachings (i.e. in Mark and Luke). You do not teach about making a choice when it is not a choice. And I would add that mercy in these matters is not demanding death. That is what God said was justice.


  2. DM, Even though forgiveness is a commandment, how can one force herself to do something she’s not feeling? It would seem to be more of lie to pretend to forgive if not really feeling forgiveness. I know only God can determine his guilt and his punishment, (XH hasn’t shown regret, shame, remorse, empathy or repentance) and I am able to leave that to God. However, I am not even close to being able to forgive him myself and I can only hope that God can forgive me not being able.

    1. spiritwoman,

      It is an act of faith and obedience as I see it. Not a lie. We make plenty of choices that are not driven by our emotions but our wills. For example, I choose to care for my four year old daughter even when I would prefer to just leave her and not deal with her tantrum. That does not make me a liar by saying I care for her. It is that idea with this. The emotions will catch up–I believe–but usually are not there at the start.


  3. I am struggling with forgiveness.

    I fell off the no-contact wagon with my ex-husband last night. My thesis is due March 15th. I have six weekends between now and then to write it. In order to finish it, I need to write at least 6 pages per weekend. So it is really, really important that I have either visitation or babysitting lined up every weekend—and I don’t enjoy trying to scramble for babysitters at the last minute.

    I e-mailed him on Sunday night to remind him that he had visitation this weekend and try to confirm that this weekend would work for him. He did not respond.

    Last night, he texts me to say he can’t do visitation this Saturday because he has to work “literally all day.” I remind him how important it is for me to get 8-9 hours of thesis time every weekend, and that I tried to make sure this weekend was good in advance. I ask him if he can extend his Sunday visitation to make up for Saturday. He says no, he’ll have to make it up next weekend. I say, that doesn’t work, I need 8-9 hours this weekend, does he have to work Sunday night, too? (I ask this because I know he likes to party on Sunday nights, and IMO, if he’s bailing on Saturday visitation, he should cancel his Sunday night partying to make up for it). He gets rude and says it’s none of my business what he’s doing Sunday night.

    I pretty much lost my cool and he wound up calling me. It turns out he did not know this weekend was a regularly-scheduled visitation weekend; he thought it was a make-up weekend (not that that would make it okay to ditch it). He said he was sorry but insisted that he absolutely has to work this weekend, for all of Saturday and most of Sunday. He offered to do extra Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays between now and my thesis due date to make up for missing it, help me out and get it done.

    Over the course of the conversation, he says that he really doesn’t know what I want from him. He says he is sorry. He agrees that he cheated on me and lied to me and destroyed the marriage. He has paid what we agreed to in child support even though it has been far more than 28% of his current net income because he knows I need it. He let me have the money we got from his employment lawsuit against his ex-employer. He let me keep the money I got from suing our ex-landlady who refused to return our security deposit. He pitched in with extra money here and there when he had a better-paying job. He has sometimes taken the kids for extra weekends and overnight because he knows I need the sleep. For the most part, he has respected my requests the he pay his child support, do his visitation, and leave me alone. He doesn’t know what else I want from him.

    He says that he is tired of me bringing up what he did, that he feels “harangued”; I only bring it up when he tries to get out of visitation, which has been rare.

    I understand that the Bible says we don’t have to forgive someone who isn’t sorry; but isn’t it possible that he is sorry? Yes, it’s crappy that he was rude and dismissive about my thesis-writing schedule at first. But he did calm down and try to make up for it. It’s also crappy that he complains of being “harangued” when I only bring up his infidelity when he tries to blow off visitation. But does someone have to be perfect in repentance before we can say, “Okay, they really are sorry”?

    I am trying to let go of what happened. I just don’t know what the best way is to heal, move through this, and still get my thesis done.

    1. 1. Failing to follow through with his family commitments.
      2. Choosing his convenience over your (and the kids’) needs.
      3. Calling him out for making these selfish choices and him getting angry over his selfish decisions being exposed.

      Does this sound familiar?!

      I don’t think this is really a forgiveness issue at its core. Personally, I see it more as a matter of grief and healing from the deep, deep trauma of infidelity.

      Of course, this sort of behavior will trigger that awful past for you. It does not take much imagination to figure out why as seen above. But it DOES take empathy and accepting that the fallout of the infidelity does not simply disappear overnight by saying “Sorry” or even taking steps to right the wrong (glad to hear that he did those and is trying to do more).

      Personally, I think it is poor on his part to complain to you about being “harangued” when he just broke yet another commitment to his family. It certainly is not empathetic.

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