In a previous blog, we shared the importance of forgiveness in a thriving marriage. When we sin against each other and hurt each other, we stop the flow of God’s grace that can bring healing to our relationship.
In this blog, we want to share with you what a genuine apology and true forgiveness looks like. We learned these skills at the Unveiled: Discovering the Great Mystery marriage conference put on by the John Paul II Healing Center. The conference was co-led by the founder of the John Paul II Healing Center, Dr. Bob Schuchts, and his daughter Carrie Schuchts Daunt.
Reconciling with our spouse in marriage is similar to reconciling with God in confession. Dr. Schuchts says, “It requires an honest and humble apology, where we take responsibility for our offenses, express sorrow for them, and seek forgiveness and healing.” Schuchts cites the work of Christian mediator Ken Sande, who outlines the two main components of a biblical approach to reconciliation and healing: Apology and Forgiveness.
Sande identifies the seven ingredients of a good apology:
- Address directly the person you have offended
- Avoid excuses (no alibis, ifs, ands, or buts)
- Admit your wrong attitudes and behaviors
- Acknowledge how you wounded them
- Accept consequences of your behavior and other’s hurt
- Alter your attitude and behavior (be held accountable)
- Ask for forgiveness: “Please forgive me when you are ready.”
We can ask the one we have offended for forgiveness but it cannot be demanded. It is a gift and must be freely given. Healing wounds also takes time. We can forgive someone but the hurts can linger long after the injury. True forgiveness is “a promise to completely let go of any debt owed by the offender.”
According to Sande the four promises of true forgiveness are:
- I will not dwell on the incident
- I will not gossip about the incident
- I will not use this against you in arguments
- I will not let this come between us (an open heart towards you)
If you find it difficult to forgive someone, ask God to give you the grace to see this person as He sees them. Ask Him to give you His heart for this person and the desire to forgive. Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given you” (Mt 7:7).
It is important that after you ask your spouse for forgiveness, you take this offense to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to receive God’s grace and blessings in releasing you from your sins. If you are the one who has been hurt and are having difficulty forgiving, also take this to the confessional. God wants to bring us healing as individuals and as a couple. When we reconcile with God, we will find it easier to reconcile with our spouse. When we find release of our own pain, we can then have compassion for the one who has offended us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
 Dr. Bob Schuchts, Unveiled: Discovering the Great Mystery in Your Marriage Workbook and Journal (Tallahassee: John Paul II Healing Center, 2020), p. 59.
 Ibid., 60.