Forgiveness is a big word surrounded by a lot of confusion. Some other time we’ll talk much more about the ins and outs of it, and when we should and should not forgive. (I’m in the research phase of that project.) But today what we want to deal with is the importance of forgiveness specifically in the area of our marital communication. How is unforgiveness connected to pride, and how will humility change the way we relate to and speak with one another? But before we get into all that, let’s recap what we’ve already covered in this Communicating God’s Way Series:
Week One – How to Heal Broken Relationships by Applying Biblical Concepts to Marital Communication
Week Two – How to Get Rid of that Pesky Log in Your Eye
Week Three – Learn to Listen
Week Four – Our Asinine Tendency to Assume and Presume
Week Five – Common Manipulation Tactics and How to Respond (Part One)
Week Six – Common Manipulation (Gaslighting) Tactics and How to Respond (Part Two)
Pride –vs- Humility
Proverbs 29:23 – Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.
It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it? I mean, look at the words themselves. If you had to guess which word was connected to humiliation, pride or humility, which would you guess? Probably the one with the same root word, right? But that’s not reality. We’ll get to the importance of forgiveness in a minute, but first let’s figure out what pride vs humility looks like.
Think about this: Let’s imagine two people, (we all know these people, so this should be easy) both are outgoing and fun to be around. But one is the classic one-upper. He’s always shutting down your story with a bigger one, always has the answer, is always selling something (usually himself) by making you feel inferior, and is constantly cutting down other people with his jokes. The other is just as loud and exuberant, but tends to be the butt of his own jokes (but in a gentle fun way, not a self-loathing way) instead of tearing other people down to get a laugh. Instead of having all the answers he asks a lot of questions and whenever you’re around him you feel like you’re an expert at something and that your expertise is appreciated. He’s always selling something too, but only because he’s so excited and passionate about everything he loves that you naturally want in on it too. Like the other guy, he tells great stories, but when you have a story to tell he listens, and instead of one-upping you, he gets so excited about your story he almost “helps” you tell it with his questions and comments.
When you think about those two guys, which one has your respect? You almost certainly know people in real life like both those caricatures. Which one has lots of acquaintances, but no close friends, and which one has tons of friends? Which one are people constantly making fun of behind his back? Which one would YOU rather spend the day with? Either way, you’re going to have a fun day. But at the end of it one will have built you up, and the other will have torn you down.
Proverbs 21:24 – Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance.
Those two characters are essentially the same person. Their personalities are woven from the same fabric, but the first is filled with pride and the second has learned humility. It is the only real difference between the two. Pride vs. Humility.
Proverbs 18:12 – Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.
Where does Humility Come From?
We understand that humility is important, but let me ask you a few questions. Which of those two people above would you rather have a conversation with? Which one do you want to be married to? I’m sure almost all of us have no trouble very quickly deciding we’d rather be married to number two, Mr. Humility. But here’s the convicting question: who do you think your spouse would rather be married to? Does your life reflect a heart filled with pride, or one that is humble?
Proverbs 15:33 – Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.
We know we want to be humble, but how do we get there? How do we let go of our pride? How do we get rid of that nagging need to always be right, always get the last word, and never be made into the fool? As we learned earlier, the answer is counter-intuitive!
We have to learn to take what we know in our heads and somehow get it down into our hearts. We have to learn to actually believe that humility precedes honor, and above all else, we HAVE to learn to “fear” the Lord! In other words, we have to learn to put far more weight on what He says is true than on our own evaluations and perceptions.
THAT is where humility comes from! When we rightly understand who God is, and who we are in relation to Him, humility is the natural result. We’ll be perfectly comfortable trusting Him to bestow honor upon us in His way and in His time and we won’t have to constantly try to be sure we’re “earning” honor for ourselves.
What Does Humility Have to do with Forgiveness?
Proverbs 20:22 – Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.
It’s hard enough to let go of pride enough to give up our right to the last word, and all that stuff we’ve already talked about, but to humble ourselves enough to hand over to God our right to vengeance? Well, that feels nearly impossible doesn’t it?
But that is the root of forgiveness. Humility.
Proverbs 27: 3 – A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier.
We can continue to carry around our grievances, but as this passage points out, it gets SO heavy! The importance of forgiveness is so much more for our own benefit than for that of our spouse. When we humble ourselves before God and hand over our rights to Him we release the weight of the world from our own shoulders. I think that’s a big part of the whole “light yoke” deal in Matthew 11:28-30. When we hand our burdens over to God, He’ll ease our load, and in His time, bring honor to us for our obedience.
The Importance of Forgiveness in Marital Communication
Proverbs 20: 3 – Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling.
Proverbs 29:22 – An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.
Proverbs 19:11 – Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.
Let’s tie it all together, but before we finalize the importance of forgiveness in marital communication, let me say one thing. Forgiveness is not the same thing as excusing sin. In order for a relationship to be unchanged by sin, there has to be repentance (turning completely away from the sin). We’re not going to go deep into that here, but if you’re not sure, dig into Scripture and find your answers. Look at God’s forgiveness as your example, and I promise, we’ll talk a lot more about it someday soon.
Now, assuming we’re talking about a relationship in which there is (at least now) mutual respect for God and for each other, it is going to be absolutely vital to our communication that we both learn how to forgive one another.
We wrong each other pretty much daily in marriage. It’s not always intentional, but sometimes it is. We’re two sinners trying to live together! It’s going to get messy. Humility recognizes that I sin too. It acknowledges my own need for forgiveness on a daily basis, and has the wisdom to extend grace in return. Humility sees the importance of forgiveness and releases the right to give the other what he deserves, leaving justice in God’s more capable hands. The result is that the doors to communication swing open!
When we know we’re going to receive grace, it’s much easier to be vulnerable! When we know forgiveness is available, we’re more likely to speak honestly. The importance of forgiveness in marital communication is that it cultivates an environment of love from which true intimacy and friendship has a chance to grow!
Ephesians 4:29 – 32 – Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
*How about you? What is the hardest part of forgiveness for you? Can you see how forgiveness and pride greatly hinder your ability to communicate?