In my continuing effort to help couples learn how to fight more fairly with one another, I am listing healthy fight rules. You can view the previous ones here.
The next one is:
Couple’s Fight Rule #3: No Reloading Discarded Weapons
Here’s how this one goes down: a spouse does something to upset his or her significant other. That spouse forgives what the partner did. Then two days later, another situation comes up, and that weapon that has been laid down is picked back up again as ammo.
- Husband: “I’m sorry that I said that you were being negative like your mother.”
- Wife: “I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean it.”
- (Two days later)
- Husband: “I don’t understand why you are so upset today with me. What did I do?”
- Wife: “Maybe you should ask my mother since I am just like her!”
- (Note: this conversation did not come from the Agnew household, repeat, not from the Agnew household, but came across in some counseling a few months ago).
God’s Word talks about forgiveness so much. Jesus told us to forgive or we might be in danger (Matt. 6:15-16). The Bible commands that as far as it depends on you, live at peace will all men (Rom. 12:18). We should forgive each other because we have been forgiven of so much (Col. 3:13).
In fact, a great test to even see if loving your spouse is to go to 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) and do a self-assessment. Every time the word “love” is used, replace that word for your name, and see if that could be said of you (“Travis is patient, Travis is kind, Travis is not jealous…). One of those would read, “Travis keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5).
One of the definitions of love is forgiveness!
What Counts as Forgiveness
In our house, we have this rule: if you’ve forgiven someone of something, it can never ever be brought back up again to rub it into someone’s face, to hurt back, or to hold it over someone’s head.
Once you have truly forgiven someone for something, that will be the last time it is ever brought up.
Another story in the Bible about constant forgiveness was concerning David and King Saul. When David’s popularity rose, Saul became very jealous of him and tried to kill him twice be throwing a spear at him. You know the funny thing about throwing a spear at someone and missing? They now have the spear! They have the weapon that you used and you are defenseless!
Don’t you see how this works in relationships? When someone hurts you, the spear is now in your hands. The thrower is now defenseless, and you have a chance to hurt them back with the same type of thing they hurt you with. But forgiveness is laying down the spear.
Forgiveness is never picking up a weapon to hurt someone who you promised to let go.
I see couple after couple, who because they can’t forgive, keep throwing the same spears back at each other. And the tragic thing is, each time they have been thrown at, they throw back harder and harder. Each incident gets more severe. Every argument is carried over from the last. Every disagreement is seen in light of the incidents in the past. And it wouldn’t have to happen.
You just need to learn how to forgive. And never ever, pickup a weapon that has been laid down.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.