By Mark Verkler

Today we’re talking about the two most important things in marriage today. 20 years ago I was taking a lunch break and had the Christian radio station here in Dallas on. Max Lucado was on with a short clip like he used to do. He said, “I’ve been married all these years and I found that the two most important things in marriage are forgiving and asking for forgiveness.” And it made such an impression on me. I’ve thought about it ever since then. In marriage counseling, and with my marriage of 35 years now, I’m convinced more than ever, that he was right about that. The two most important things in a marriage are forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

Now, when you think about forgiving, it takes humility. You must embrace the hurt which has been done. You have to own that. You have to embrace the anger. That’s the injustice. You make a choice to forgive. Someone once said said, “don’t wait until you feel like forgiving, you’ll never get there.” You have to make a choice to forgive.

Some people want to do it too quickly. “Oh, yes, I forgive you, don’t worry about it. Oh, it’s no big deal. Oh, it’s okay.” Rushing or passively forgiving is not really forgiveness. That’s burying it, denying it, and covering it up. When I forgive, I own my side, even if the other person hasn’t completely owned it. Now, if they haven’t owned it, that’s something different about reconciliation. That can come from broken trust. I can make a choice to forgive, regardless of how much my spouse has owned something, but I must make a choice.

Now, what about asking for forgiveness? I’ve had so many people come into my office that have said, “I could count on one hand, all the time my spouse has asked me to forgive them.” Someone may have grown up in a house where it was just rarely if ever done, and they’re not used to it. For others, it’s that humility they can’t overcome. They haven’t overcome the pride that it takes to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness.

Matthew 5:25, one of my favorite marriage verses, says to agree with your adversary quickly. Why does Jesus say that and how would that apply to marriage? Well, if my spouse has said, “you’ve hurt me,” or “you’ve done that,” and there’s any truth in that, (which of course there always is some grain of truth), owning It is my first step towards asking for forgiveness. In fact, owning it or taking responsibility is one of the five parts of an apology.

  1. The first step is Regret, saying I am sorry.
  2. Taking Responsibility and admitting I was wrong is the second part.
  3. Repentance, this is what I’ll do next time is third.
  4. A fourth is seeking Restitution.
  5. And then a fifth is Request: will you forgive me? It goes so far as for me to own something with my spouse, and then say “honey, will you forgive me?”  And do it in a sincere way.

Don’t get me wrong: the bigger the misdeed, the more of those five parts of apology you’ll need to do. I want you to come back and meditate on these two most important things in a marriage. I think they’re the two most important things in any relationship. Part of what they do is built-in accountability. I know that if I hurt my wife, I’m going to ask for forgiveness. I don’t use that as an excuse to do the hurt or the pain. It has the opposite effect as we forgive each other.  It’s like it says in Romans 2. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. So, what it ought to be doing is taking me towards repentance and moving me away from the things that I’ve hurt my spouse with, or my spouse has hurt me with. So, I want you to hold on to the two most important things in marriage, forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

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