If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake. 2 Corinthians 2:10
“Dear Dr. Sala,” writes a friend of Guidelines, “when my husband and I get into an argument, he walks away and comes back as though nothing had ever happened. When he has hurt me and never asks for forgiveness, I feel offended and want to withdraw. Do you have any suggestions which might help?”
It was more than an attempt at humor when someone said, “The man who thinks he can read his wife like a book only shows how illiterate he really is.” How conflicts are resolved is one of many ways which underline how different men and women really are, and why it is important—especially to women—to put closure to conflict.
Though you may have never come to grips with this truth, it is significant that conflict in itself never destroys relationships. It can even make them better. But it is our refusal to confront and bring resolution to conflict that tears us apart; and without resolution – asking and extending forgiveness – the conflict doesn’t go away.
Men can lose their tempers and walk out, coming back an hour later acting as though nothing happened. Or, not wanting to discuss the situation any further, they are more likely to want to kiss or be intimate, thinking that if they can get away with touching, everything is OK. Women, though, catalog and store those unresolved conflicts, their nerves frayed, and the meter on their resentment gauge in the red zone.
Why is resolution important? It’s the only way to cancel the effect of wrongdoing. Jesus believed in confrontation and resolution. He told the disciples that if someone trespassed against them or wronged them, they were to go to the person (that’s confrontation) and tell the person, one-on-one, what wrong had been done. The Greek word—the one used in the New Testament which we translate “to forgive”—means “to give up” or “to relinquish” something.
In simple terms forgiveness means you give up your right to hurt someone because that person hurt you. To really forgive means you put something aside as though it had never happened. You never bring it up again.
The Bible is clear that our forgiveness has to be patterned after God’s forgiving us, and when we can’t forgive, our anger and failure are overshadowed by the far greater debt we owe to God.
Some people—especially men--seem to be threatened by saying, “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” as though it means they have lost the argument. But who cares who loses the argument when you win the peace which you have destroyed.
Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25).
Closure is important. But doesn’t just kissing and cuddling put closure to something? Men think so, but not women. But acknowledging wrong and confessing it—whether it is to God or the one you thoughtlessly hurt—brings healing and closure.
It’s not simply an issue involving the emotions, but the heart and soul as well. If you grew up in a home where you were never taught the importance of forgiveness, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you something of God’s greater measure of forgiveness and let that be your pattern and guide.
As Paul wrote, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
Believe me, closure of a disagreement is as vital as a surgeon’s cleaning and then stitching up an open wound to keep it from festering and remaining raw. It’s just as true with the human heart. Confession is the cleansing, and forgiveness uses the sinews of God’s grace and to suture the wounds which could destroy a relationship.
Resource reading: Colossians 3:1-25