It’s less than a month away from Valentine’s Day, and in my last post, I issued a New Year’s resolution challenge. I’m encouraging my readers to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2014 with stronger marriages and relationships.
We’ve got about four weeks until February 14 gets here. Let’s turn once again to Paul’s letter to the Colossians to find out how to better love the people in our lives (read the first post in this series—looking at Paul’s instruction to “clothe” ourselves with virtues—here).
In Colossians 3:13, Paul says, “Bear with one another.” In another translation he asks us to be “longsuffering” (v. 12 NKJV). Why, after listing all the ways we can bless each other, does Paul have to write these words?
Because he recognizes that sometimes we fall short. We’re going to irritate each other, so we’ll need to put up with each other.
LaVon has learned to live with me, and I with her. She realizes that, no matter how hard I try, some of the traits that have annoyed her since the beginning of our marriage aren’t likely to change. She wishes I worked out more, that I could dance without stepping on her feet, that I was more lighthearted. Sometimes she wishes I had a job that gave me weekends off and a bit more privacy. LaVon and I have both learned, and are still learning, to bear with one another.
John Gottman, the marriage expert who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, gives us another word for that attitude: acceptance. According to Gottman, accepting your partner’s personality is an important key to conflict resolution, which means it’s essential to making marriage work. At some point you say to yourself, You know what? I love her even though she’s not perfect. I know all her negatives, but I still choose to love her because the positives compensate for them.
Of course, there are some things people can’t put up with. Adultery, abuse, and addiction are those issues so painful that they can be deal breakers. In addition, there are smaller issues. These are things that cause real pain and require a measure of grace to be dealt with. If we are to move beyond them, there are six words that may be as important as any spoken in a marriage, perhaps even more important than “I love you.” The six words are: “I am sorry” and “I forgive you.” If you’re unable to say those words, you have no chance of making a friendship, a family relationship, or a marriage last. It’s that simple.
We Must Forgive As Jesus Forgave Us
Paul puts it this way: “If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13b). What a challenge—to forgive as Jesus forgave us. In Luke’s Gospel we are given a powerful picture of Jesus hanging on the cross, looking down upon the Pharisees and Romans who hung him there. “Father, forgive them,” he said, “for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Earlier, in teaching us to pray, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Forgiveness is a powerful tool, an antidote to pain in our lives.
This post is an excerpt from my book, Love to Stay.