The Importance Of Forgiveness | How To Heal

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.”

– Peter Ustinov

As you might imagine, being able to forgive someone is one of the most essential skills in a long-term happy marriage because, let’s face it, we’re all human, we all married someone human, and all humans make mistakes. Some of these mistakes are minor and some can be life-altering.  But in order to move forward and feel safe and happy in marriage, all of these mistakes must be forgiven.

He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.
Thomas Fuller

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”

– Bryant H. McGill

So let’s first define Forgiveness.  It is often defined as letting go of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference of opinion or mistake. In other words, it’s about letting go of the feelings that were hurt when we thought the other person “messed up.”  I also believe that forgiveness entails no longer seeking or demanding punishment or restitution for that perceived offense.  In other words, forgiveness has two parts – letting go and moving forward.

(Note: Let me take a moment to say that when I talk about a perceived offense I am talking about those times in which we mistakenly hurt our partners feelings.  I am not talking about when one partner deliberately hurts another, either verbally or physically as that is never acceptable and outside the scope of this discussion).

So, why does forgiveness matter?  Well, Bernard Meltzer said:  

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.”

“Said another way, the past can’t be changed.  It has already happened and there’s nothing either of us can do about it.  What we’re left with, then, is a choice about how we intend to go on.  Yes, I said a choice. Forgiveness is in our control.  It’s ours to give or withhold and we can choose whether we want to be stuck living in the past, holding onto our pain, or living for today and the future, and letting go.  We can only let go if we forgive.”

“Forgiveness means letting go of the past.”

– Gerald Jampolsky

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

– Lewis Smedes

When we refuse to forgive, we keep the past alive in our thoughts.  These thoughts can be so vivid that we feel as if the pain is re-occurring over and over in the present moment.  But in the end, who does that really hurt?  By repeatedly focusing on the pain from a past experience, you continue to relive it and often times expand upon it. Not only do you allow the pain from the past to continue to damage the relationship, you choose to let it repeatedly damage you.  To illustrate that, Maya Angelou said:

“Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  To withhold forgiveness damages not only the relationship, but also yourself and, therefore, your future.

Some further quotes to contemplate….

“How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all.”

– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.”

– Suzanne Somers

“Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting.”

– William Arthur Ward

Any thoughts about forgiveness? Any comments you would like to share with us? Share them below.


Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Deb 10 years ago

Forgiveness is not that easy! When you hold someone like your spouse to a very high standard & they break that standard it is very hard to get over that! My husband had been having an emotional affair with his assistant for at least 5 years. In 2011 I comforted my husband about excessive amounts of text messages outside of the office. He claims they were all business related. They stopped the texting but turned to email instead. I have been monitoring everything that goes on since then and realized that this relationship was out of control and very unprofessional. My husband finally admitted that she seduced him a couple of times in the office and once on a business trip! We have since let her go but I am really having trouble getting over the lies and betrayl that went on for so long! My husband has been really trying to be the best husband but I just can't stop thinking about the hurt and pain that this has cause. I want to talk about it all the time and he just wants to forget it. He never was good when it came to conflict so he tends to shut down and think things will just blow over but for me that just fuels me even more. I truly love him and want to stay married, just can't seem to stop thinking about what a fool they have made out of me. I gave him many opportunities to come clean with me about her over the years but he choose to continue with the lies! Iam not sure I will ever get over that! Everyone has always thought I had the prefect husband including me! What can I do? We have been doing our counseling videos but I just keep slipping back to my thoughts and ways to hang on to this pain!! PLEASE HELP!!

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hi, Deb - I don't know if you explored our Survive and Affair section, but we have advice for you on this very issue.