Someone once said to me: “Marriage is made of three parts love and seven parts forgiveness.”
This it turns out, is the only quote from Langdon Mitchell, an American playwright in the early twentieth century who had a relationship with a prominent actress named Minnie Fiske. This fact alone, tells us a lot about their relationship. With Valentines being upon us at the moment, I also think it is appropriate to meditate on today.
I remember thinking that it was a cute saying at the time with three parts representing the perfection of love in the Trinity and seven parts representing perfect forgiveness as Jesus describes it (Matt 18:21-22 says to forgive “seventy times seven.”)
I also remember that it was shared with me because I was struggling with my relationships. I was reminded that loving someone is also about forgiving them over and over again.
I must admit that when I was newly married I focused more on the perfect love part. However, over the years I have found the seven parts the more difficult part of marriage and in relationships in general.
Maintaining a clean slate of forgiveness, is the work we get to do in maintaining a relationship, while God enables us to love even the most difficult people.
Reflecting recently on love and forgiveness, I came up with the following list of reminders:
3 Parts Love
- It is not all about you. The relationship has two people in it with feelings, thoughts and motivations. Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
- Love bears with one another. Eph 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” In the end, we are all human, all sinful and on a journey to full redemption. Sometimes we have to bear with the “brokenness” in the people around us.
- Love accepts without the requirement to change. This is true acceptance, love with no strings attached. “Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.” 1 Cor 13:5
7 Parts Forgiveness
- Saying I am sorry is the start of forgiveness. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 Saying the words are as important as asking for forgiveness.
- Blaming is more often a strategy for avoiding your own responsibility. It is easier to blame the other person in a relationship than to admit that one may also have fault in the situation. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
- You have a share of the blame in every situation, even if it is just one percent. It is important to make right for what you did wrong and work towards reconciliation. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matt 5:23-24
- Old hurts will talk eventually. When we forgive, we cannot rehearse those wrongs in our minds, or even talk about it. If we do not consciously make an effort to forget; then even though we say we forgive; it will come out of our mouths because it is still remembered in our hearts. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
- What is not forgotten poisons everything that remains until it is completely destroyed! “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Heb 12:15 Stuff not dealt with, kills any relationship eventually.
- Don’t destroy what is good in light of the slight. Don’t make decisions to end what are working strategies in maintaining a relationship, based on recent bad events or actions. E.g. Don’t give up strategies to promote communication because you are angry – You effectively cut your nose, to spite your face! Look at the Parable of the unmerciful servant. Matt 18:21-35
- Leave the past, focus on the future. “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Isaiah 42:9 A good relationship strategy is looking forward to: How do we move on from here?
Work hard at forgiving. Work just as hard at loving.
Father, help me not to hold onto past hurts in my relationships. Help me to forgive and do it quickly. Help me not to keep remembering the things of the past, but to bear with others and not think too much about what I want and need. Help me to keep no record of wrong. Help me to love without the requirement for change. Help me to love, like You would love.
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