Why should I forgive My spouse?


In this week’s episode, we are diving into Matthew 6:12 where Jesus teaches us in his model prayer to ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This portion of the Lord’s Prayer contains a critical message about the importance of forgiveness in our marriages.

When we pray to be forgiven of our “debts,” it is an acknowledgement that we owe a debt to God that we could never repay on our own. Our sin has separated us from God, and no amount of personal sacrifice could bridge that gap. Jesus uses this monetary concept to illustrate our spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God. Just like an insurmountable financial debt, we need someone else to intervene and pay the penalty on our behalf.

And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through his sacrificial death on the cross. He served as the ultimate debtor, taking on the punishment we deserved and setting us free. When we pray for forgiveness, we are relying on Christ’s act of grace and love. His atonement cancels the certificate of debt that was against us.

Forgiveness is a gift we receive, not something we earn. And Ephesians 4:32 commands us to extend that same grace to others: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Jesus reinforces this in the Lord’s Prayer by adding “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Marriage provides frequent opportunities to practice forgiveness. We will inevitably hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe it’s a cutting remark made in an argument, ongoing neglect of a need, or betrayal of trust through deception or unfaithfulness. These hurts often leave us with feelings of resentment, pain and desires for retaliation. But God calls us to pardon the offenses of our spouse, releasing the debt owed between us.

Forgiveness is not denying or diminishing the wrong, but rather a conscious choice to show mercy instead of demanding payment. When we release the debt, we absorb the cost ourselves in order to grant freedom to the offender. This mirrors Christ, who absorbed the cost of our sin on the cross in order to grant us freedom.

However, forgiveness is often a process, not an emotion. We may need to make the choice to forgive again and again, with God’s help. That can be especially difficult when a spouse apologizes but proceeds to repeat the same offenses. We must continue looking to Christ’s never-ending grace and forgiveness as our model.

Ultimately, choosing forgiveness is an act of faith in God’s power to change hearts. We release the debt owed to us and trust God to transform the other person. Forgiveness that is fueled by the Holy Spirit brings incredible freedom to both people involved. We exchange bitterness for the hope of reconciliation. As we extend mercy to others in marriage, we experience God’s mercy afresh in our own hearts.


Jennifer Smith (00:05):

Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy. John Piper.

Aaron Smith (00:19):

Hey, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith, your host of the Marriage After God podcast. And before we jump into today’s topic, lately we’ve been reading off reviews that you guys have all been leaving us. And so this review is by mom to three nj. She left a five star review. Thank you. She says, loved your books and learned about your journey. I make an effort to listen to your show every week to help keep me grounded in surrounding myself in truth and love. Every season of life has challenges, but it’s encouraging to listen to a solid faith-based couple, navigate some things many couples and parents go through. Thank you. Well, mom to three and Jay, we want to thank you for leaving us a really great review. All these reviews, all the reviews that you guys have all left really bless us and they also help others find our podcast on things like iTunes. And so we want to invite you, if you haven’t left us a review or a star rating to take a moment right now, tap a star rating and write us a review. An honest Loving Review is all we look for and we honestly love them and we love reading them and sharing them on our podcast as well. So if you haven’t done that, please do that today.

Jennifer Smith (01:23):

We also want to let you know that our newest book, the Marriage Gift, is out and available. If you just want to go to the marriage gift.com, you can order yours today.

Aaron Smith (01:32):

Awesome. So we’re in part seven of this eight part series on prayer, on learning to prayer, pray in your marriage, and for your spouse based off of the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew chapter six,

Jennifer Smith (01:45):

We’ve been navigating and answering questions like, what is true prayer? When should I pray? What should I pray? Who am I praying to and what am I pursuing when I pray? Also, can I live without prayer, which was the last one Today we’re going to talk about and explore what happens when I pray.

Aaron Smith (02:03):

Yeah. So we’re in Matthew chapter six as we’ve been going through and we’re in verse 12, and we’re also going to be pulling out another verse from later on in Matthew chapter six. But this verse is, it says, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. In this example, in this model prayer that Jesus gives us, he includes this very important need that every one of us has. This is it

Jennifer Smith (02:32):


Aaron Smith (02:33):

This is what we all need. This is the basis of the gospel. Even it’s forgiveness.

Jennifer Smith (02:38):

When we pray, we are recognizing our need for Savior and for the Lord to redeem, save, and help us because we are imperfect sinners, all of us.

Aaron Smith (02:49):

Yeah. The amazing thing is that

Jennifer Smith (02:50):

Actually I should say we’re perfect sinners.

Aaron Smith (02:52):

Yeah, we’re perfectly.

Jennifer Smith (02:53):

We’re perfect at thinning. No, but we are imperfect, meaning we are sinners.

Aaron Smith (03:00):

We have a debt like this word debt. It implies that we owe God something

Jennifer Smith (03:05):

We can’t pay.

Aaron Smith (03:06):

So in this prayer, forgive us our debts. We’re calling to God to forgive our debts, which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross is forgive the debt of sin that we have,

Jennifer Smith (03:17):

Which was necessary to cover our sin.

Aaron Smith (03:21):

So we need to recognize as believers how this is one of the most important things when we come to the Lord, is a recognition of where our debts have gone, that we have debt. And that’s been forgiven on the cross because it leads us to that second part of this prayer that we’re going to be talking about. But what did one of our kids ask us this week?

Jennifer Smith (03:46):

I was talking to our oldest, we’re actually talking about cryptocurrency, and he had a couple of questions about that, but which Aaron’s into, we’ve talked about that before in the podcast. But he was reading this, it was an intro to crypto for beginners, for kids, and he saw the word debt and he was like, mom, what exactly is debt? And so I went into diving into finances and I was trying to explain to him just the collective, how the world operates with credit cards and loans and debt, everything. And he looked at me so confused and I could tell it was not making sense to him. And he was like, why wouldn’t we just use the money we earned

Aaron Smith (04:28):

Novel? That’s a great idea.

Jennifer Smith (04:30):

Which I think in an ideal world would happen, but that’s not what we’re living in. And so we just got to talk about what debt is.

Aaron Smith (04:40):

So debt is this idea that we owe something to someone. We’ve taken something and used something that we couldn’t pay for. That’s like essentially the idea of debt. You got your car and you didn’t have the money for the 30,000 or however much it costs for a car. So now you have debt and you have to pay that back over time.

Jennifer Smith (04:59):

Yeah. Debtor is someone who owes someone something. And when a debt is forgiven or pardoned, you no longer are under obligation to

Aaron Smith (05:12):


Jennifer Smith (05:12):

Pay it like you’re free.

Aaron Smith (05:14):

And I don’t know about you, but so if anyone’s been following us for the last 12 years when they early, early on when we got out of debt the first time, oh

Jennifer Smith (05:22):


Aaron Smith (05:25):

We talked about how freeing that felt to finally have we owed no one anything. It was such an amazing thing. And the Bible actually tells us to not owe anyone anything, but we owe God. We have sinned against God. We have a debt of sin, a debt that needs to be paid, it needs to be paid for. And that’s when we talk about forgiveness in the Bible. That’s what Christ did.

Jennifer Smith (05:52):

Well, the thing is, the debt itself still exists. Even if you’ve been forgiven or pardon of that debt, it still exists. And the value of that debt doesn’t just disappear. Someone else has to cover it. It

Aaron Smith (06:03):

Had to be paid for. So

Jennifer Smith (06:05):

Here comes Christ. And I just, oh, so grateful. But Paul knew this and he shares about it in Fellon 18. It says, if he has wronged you at all, he’s talking about Onesimus. If he has wronged you at all or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I Paul write this with my own hand. I will repay it to say nothing of you’re owing me even your own self.

Aaron Smith (06:28):

I love Paul. I

Jennifer Smith (06:29):

Know the way he, he’s

Aaron Smith (06:30):

Like, I’ll pay for it. He’s like, just, I want to remind you though how much you owe me that I’m not holding against you,

Jennifer Smith (06:36):

But he is covering the accounts. He’s making it right for this other person. And so even he was talking about that,

Aaron Smith (06:47):

And this actually goes into how important forgiveness is because there’s a lot of people that think, well, why did Jesus have to that on the cross? Why couldn’t God just pretend it didn’t happen or overlook it? But like you said, the debt doesn’t go away. The sin exists. The sin has happened, the debt has been made and needs to be paid. It needs to be covered, it needs to be dealt with. It cannot just be wiped out and it has to be dealt with. And that’s exactly what Christ did on the cross. I was

Jennifer Smith (07:15):

Going to say, the debt forgivers, the one who is assuming whatever the debt is and taking it upon their own obligation to deal

Aaron Smith (07:21):

With it and paying for

Jennifer Smith (07:21):

It. Yeah.

Aaron Smith (07:23):

So someone that comes in to forgive a debt, they don’t just say, oh, I don’t want this person to have to pay anymore. Then the person that is owed it says, well, are you going to pay it?

Jennifer Smith (07:31):


Aaron Smith (07:32):

And Christ says, yes,

Jennifer Smith (07:33):

I’m going to

Aaron Smith (07:34):

Pay that.

Jennifer Smith (07:34):

I mean without saying it, he said, charge that to my account

Aaron Smith (07:38):

He did

Jennifer Smith (07:38):

For us.

Aaron Smith (07:40):

And the Bible actually tells us that because he did that, his righteousness is charged to our account. Little flip

Jennifer Smith (07:48):


Aaron Smith (07:48):

He trades it. He’s like, you don’t have the money to pay all paid. Instead, you don’t have the life to give.

Jennifer Smith (07:53):


Aaron Smith (07:54):

Give it instead because I have the life that can pay for it. You do not. And then he gives us his life in exchange

Jennifer Smith (08:01):


Aaron Smith (08:02):

Hours, which is incredible. And we’re building this up because we want you all listening to recognize the weight of forgiveness because until we fully grasp the weight of forgiveness, the weight, that it wasn’t that because Jesus died, God just forgets about the sin. No, Jesus actually took the sin upon his own body and put it to death on a cross in his own perfect flesh, took what we deserved and paid for it

Jennifer Smith (08:40):

And not just us, the whole world. He did that for

Aaron Smith (08:43):

Everyone, the whole world. That’s what the Bible teaches. And so Jesus is calling us to rely on the Lord to help us walk just like Him. He knows we need an example. He knows we need to see it firsthand. And so that’s what leads us into this. Why when we come to God and say, Lord, forgive me of my debts, but help me to forgive others their debts. This second part is so terrifying.

Jennifer Smith (09:12):

It’s important,

Aaron Smith (09:13):

But it’s so important because Christ says, because I’ve forgiven you, I want you to forgive also.

Jennifer Smith (09:21):

So wherever you’re listening, just go ahead and turn that volume up. We don’t want anyone to miss this. In Matthew chapter six, skipping on down a little bit to 14 and 15, it says, for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.

Aaron Smith (09:45):

This is probably one of the scariest and hardest verses in the Bible because no one likes being wronged and not being reconciled. So when someone wrongs you, when I was in Africa, I was just telling, Elliot asked me, he’s like, has anyone ever robbed you? And I was like, well, yes, actually, I was in Africa and I was trying to exchange some American money for local money, and there was a local guy and he’s like, yeah, give me this. And I’m like, oh, nevermind. And he tricked me. They

Jennifer Smith (10:15):

Were very quick of the hands.

Aaron Smith (10:16):

He tricked me. I gave him a $50 bill. And then when I decided to not do the transaction, I didn’t like what was going on, he handed me my bill back and then turned around and I turned around and I looked. He handed me a $1 bill

Jennifer Smith (10:29):


Aaron Smith (10:29):

Up just like my 50 was folded up and I turned around and he’s gone. He’s in the wind. And so man, that doesn’t feel good. So what I want is justice. Justice is we find that guy, I get my money back, he gets in trouble. That’s justice. That didn’t happen. We never found him. He went off and spent my money. I hope he spent it wisely. But no one likes being trespassed against, lied to, cheated, stolen from hurt, especially in marriage from the person that you trust the most, your spouse. No one wants to be trespassed against. We hate it, but forgiveness is the cure.

Jennifer Smith (11:14):

It’s so powerful

Aaron Smith (11:15):

To trespass. Think about it. The cure for you being a sinner is the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This very truth is, if any of you know our testimony or have read the unveiled wife and heard the story of how God captured my heart and what he gave me to remind me of how I should view my wife and our marriage was this very thing. And it was this idea that if I can’t forgive my wife for whatever she’s done, whatever or hasn’t done, if I can’t forgive her, then that means I believe that her trespass against me is greater than the world’s trespass against Christ

Jennifer Smith (11:55):

Or even just your own against Christ

Aaron Smith (11:56):

Or my own trespass against Christ. The sin that I’ve committed against Christ is not as great as the sin that my wife has committed against me. And so if I’m withholding forgiveness from my spouse or anyone in the world for anything they’ve done, then what I’m saying is, and what you are saying, if you’re listening and you’re holding a trespass against someone, is that what they’ve done to you is more costly and more grievous than what you or the world has done to Christ. And God, that truth should shock us because that’s exactly what we’re doing. Jesus warns, he says, if you do not forgive, I will not forgive. That’s a terrifying thing. That means if you’re holding onto forgiveness, that means you cannot receive the forgiveness of Christ because you don’t even understand it. And yet we all do it at various times.

Jennifer Smith (12:53):

That’s what I was going to say is the only way we can truly forgive others is because we know that we ourselves have been forgiven. It’s in that knowledge of what

Aaron Smith (13:03):


Jennifer Smith (13:03):

Forgiveness is that empowers us, that it enables us

Aaron Smith (13:06):

Well and in the true recognition of the depth of our need for forgiveness. Because if I think like, well, I’m not that bad. What I’ve done isn’t that bad, but what they’ve done to me, oh, that’s worse.

Jennifer Smith (13:19):


Aaron Smith (13:19):

Worse than anything I’ve ever done. That’s what we’re saying.

Jennifer Smith (13:23):

Well, so even with all this knowledge and truth and everything that you’re saying, even still, I know that it’s hard and a difficult thing.

Aaron Smith (13:32):


Jennifer Smith (13:32):

Many people

Aaron Smith (13:34):

It’s very difficult.

Jennifer Smith (13:36):

So how do we encourage those listening to take the next practical step in walking as Jesus walked to be like him and to forgive?

Aaron Smith (13:49):

Well, I want to point out that I think often we have this idea, again, we go back to this idea of we want justice. So a part of that justice that we’re looking for is I can’t forgive until they come and ask me to forgive them. And so since they’ve never come to me, if they’ve never repented to me, they’ve never changed, then no, I’m not going to forgive them.

Jennifer Smith (14:11):

I think that is an easy argument if the person’s still alive. But what happens when you’re in a relationship with someone and that person’s no longer here? Can you still offer forgiveness?

Aaron Smith (14:20):

And that’s where the truth comes in,

Jennifer Smith (14:22):


Aaron Smith (14:22):

The lie is that I can’t forgive unless that person, unless the other party

Jennifer Smith (14:27):

Initiated, has

Aaron Smith (14:28):

Initiated. But that can’t possibly be what Jesus is saying here. It just can’t. So the reality is forgiveness is something completely separate than reconciliation.

Jennifer Smith (14:43):

I mean, for me, I see that as the forgiveness is the initiation. When you forgive, that opens the door to reconciliation.

Aaron Smith (14:51):

Well, reconciliation cannot even possibly take place unless there’s forgiveness.

Jennifer Smith (14:55):


Aaron Smith (14:56):

Okay, so let’s look at salvation. So Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.

Jennifer Smith (15:03):


Aaron Smith (15:03):

That means all sins are what? Forgiven. Forgiven. But does that mean all people are reconciled?

Jennifer Smith (15:10):

No, because you have to believe, right?

Aaron Smith (15:12):

Yeah. So just we look at our relationship and you’ve hurt me or I’ve hurt you and you’re waiting for me to come to you and you never forgive me. So that door never can be open because let’s say I don’t even know I’ve wronged you. How many times has that happened in our

Jennifer Smith (15:27):

Marriage? Yeah, a lot.

Aaron Smith (15:27):

I’ve offended you and I don’t even know it because that happens. I make mistakes and you’re just steaming and fuming and you’re like, I’m not going to tell him He should know, and I’m not going to forgive him until he comes and says, I’m sorry for doing this. And I don’t even know. There is no reconciliation happening. I’m walking around my life thinking of things fine,

Jennifer Smith (15:46):

Which makes me so mad when that

Aaron Smith (15:48):

Happens. Oh yeah.

Jennifer Smith (15:50):

I’ve grown up in a lot of ways over the years.

Aaron Smith (15:52):

But think about if you start from forgiveness, that doesn’t mean we’re reconciled yet

Jennifer Smith (15:57):


Aaron Smith (15:57):

The offense still exists. I still did something that hurt you. But you say, you know what, Lord? Okay, I know. I know my husband. I know he wronged me, but I’m going to forgive him.

Jennifer Smith (16:08):

What’s the approach in conversation, just for listener’s sake, on a situation like this when there’s been an offense, but you’ve chosen to walk out in forgiveness, do you go to that spouse and say, Hey, I just want to let you know that I’ve forgiven you for this thing that you don’t know about?

Aaron Smith (16:24):

Well, I think because

Jennifer Smith (16:26):

It’s a silly tangent, but I think

Aaron Smith (16:27):

It’s if you start from the forgiveness again in this scenario where I don’t know, I did something, it puts you in a different heart toward me where you can now come to me and say, Hey, can I talk to you about something?

Jennifer Smith (16:36):

Because the humility is there.

Aaron Smith (16:37):

Even if you don’t start off with saying, I

Jennifer Smith (16:39):


Aaron Smith (16:39):


Jennifer Smith (16:39):


Aaron Smith (16:40):

Heart, the reason you’re coming to me is because you want reconciliation, which starts with a conversation. So going back to the gospel, forgiveness has been purchased for all people, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not, but reconciliation, which means fixing of the two sides of the sheet. That’s what literally reconciliation means on a balance sheet where you have debts and you have income, reconciliation is they equal out. You’ve figured out your debts, you’ve figured out your income, and they’ve matched. And now it’s flat, it’s back to zero and it’s right. So Christ did his part. It says, yet, while we are still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ initiated by forgiving us before we ever received it, believed it, wanted it asked for anything

Jennifer Smith (17:25):

Or even understood that we

Aaron Smith (17:27):

Need it

Jennifer Smith (17:28):


Aaron Smith (17:28):

Exactly. So that starts the initiation. There was no other option. He started it. He did the work. Me hearing that he’s forgiven me, him coming to me and convicting my heart of my sin,

Jennifer Smith (17:41):


Aaron Smith (17:41):

Word of God permeating my heart being spoken to me, the gospel being preached, and I hear it, oh, I have the God of the universe and that God of the universe has forgiven me for my offense. Thank you, Jesus. I’m going to believe in what you’ve done because you’ve forgiven me. That’s called reconciliation. What we’re talking about today is forgiveness. Jesus is teaching us to pray in this prayer that because Christ initiated, because Christ has forgiven us, we can forgive others their trespasses, and he tells us, but we need to ask sometimes because that’s not natural for us. It’s not a natural posture because naturally we want justice.

Jennifer Smith (18:27):

So for those listening, and to go back to that initial question, what is the practical step for when there’s an offense and you understand forgiveness and you want to walk it out, but it feels challenging and hard, what do you do?

Aaron Smith (18:43):

Go to God

Jennifer Smith (18:44):


Aaron Smith (18:46):

Jesus says, help me to forgive my debtors.

Jennifer Smith (18:50):

And you pray about it. Yeah. Okay,

Aaron Smith (18:52):

Help me to forgive my spouse. God, I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m sad, I’m broken. Help me to forgive because I don’t feel like forgiving. I don’t want to. I want justice. I want reconciliation. I want this to be fixed. I want him to change. I want her to change. But going to him first because then he helps us to forgive. He reminds us, first of all, he’s like, just remember what you’ve been forgiven of. Just remember that because you’ve been forgiven a

Jennifer Smith (19:21):


Aaron Smith (19:22):

And I love you and I forgive you. And no matter how many times you’ve, because in the notes it’s talking about this idea of what happens when they do it again because that hurts.

Jennifer Smith (19:33):

Yeah. That was my next question. We haven’t got there yet. I was going to ask, how do you forgive your spouse who apologizes but keeps offending you in the same way,

Aaron Smith (19:42):

And we all do it, don’t we do this? We keep offending God in the same way

Jennifer Smith (19:47):


Aaron Smith (19:48):

And over and over again,

Jennifer Smith (19:49):

And it’s so painful and frustrating when you are the one being offended. So I can only imagine for God how he feels,

Aaron Smith (19:58):

And we’ve talked about this in past episodes in this series about praying for your spouse that God would reach their hearts, would transform those areas that you see clearly. But also asking God to say, God, show me how to see them with your eyes.

Jennifer Smith (20:14):


Aaron Smith (20:14):

Me how to forgive them with your forgiveness.

Jennifer Smith (20:16):

I know. Show

Aaron Smith (20:17):

Me how to love them with your love.

Jennifer Smith (20:18):

That was a big part of my prayer early in our marriage when there was repeated offenses and frustrations over choices made and feeling really angry and really sad and really emotional over just what was going on. And I remember having to, there was a testimony given at a church where there was some infidelity going on, and they were long past that now and reconciled the husband and wife, but they were kind of giving an interview style from the stage, and it was such an encouragement to the couples listening in that room. But she said, the wife said, I had to see him like a brother in need of Christ and not just as my husband, because as my husband it hurts and it’s offensive, but if I see him as God sees him, I see a man in need of a savior. And I prayed for that and he came to the Lord.

Aaron Smith (21:12):

It’s powerful. I remember that was a really powerful story, which reminds me of this other truth that we’re supposed to, we love our neighbors as ourself. When you love your wife, as yourself, as the Bible teaches that a husband who loves his wife is loving himself or a wife loving her husband is loving herself, I always ask myself, how would I want my wife to treat me in this situation if I did what she did,

Jennifer Smith (21:37):


Aaron Smith (21:38):

I acted the way she acted, how would I want my wife to treat me? I say this as if I do it perfectly every time, but I don’t. I get hurt and I get offended and I get frustrated. But if we ask ourselves, okay, they did it again, the very thing that they just apologized about, how would I want them to treat me if I did it again, if I failed again, if I stepped over the line again? And often our answers are going to be like, well, I’d want them to have grace. I’d want them to have mercy. I’d want them to forgive me, love me still. I’d want them to love me still. I’d want them to talk to me kindly. I’d want them to encourage me to want better.

Jennifer Smith (22:13):

Help me

Aaron Smith (22:14):

Something we can also, this is something I prayed a lot, and I know you have praying that other believers that we walk closely with, and by the way, if you aren’t walking closely with other believers,

Jennifer Smith (22:25):

You need to be,

Aaron Smith (22:26):

This is your call. You need to be walking with other believers closely, but praying that our close friends who love us would see

Jennifer Smith (22:36):

And say something

Aaron Smith (22:37):

That sin outside of my marriage, they would recommend that they would discern and then praying that they would step up and say, Hey, why are you doing that? That’s not right. You should change.

Jennifer Smith (22:51):

There’s a new couple that’s been coming to our home fellowship for a couple of months now, and she was sharing with me that one of the things that she really appreciates about our marriage, Jaron was that we go straight to asking the hard questions. And she goes, I love that. And they’ve been out of fellowship for a while with walking closely with believers. And so she’s excited, looking forward to just the deep conversations. And I just bring that up not to boast in us or our relationship or the way that we operate, but I think it’s so necessary as believers that we’re all doing it for each other because when we’re confronted with the hard questions then not just, Hey, how are you? Fine. Okay, good. Moving on. When we take time to really dig in and to discern and to see with our spiritual eyes how people are, and we care enough to sit with them in it and to pray with them in it and to encourage them in it, people’s lives are changed. It’s necessary for the body as a whole.

Aaron Smith (23:49):

And if you don’t believe us, go back and listen to our handful of episodes that we’ve done in the past about community and the importance of it.

Jennifer Smith (23:56):

Okay, so I’m all about the questions today, but we’ve already talked about how forgiveness can be challenging for some, especially in this scenario of repeated offenses or not, but how would you say, I don’t know why I’m starting out saying it like that. What would you say to encourage someone who maybe forgiveness doesn’t come immediate or instantly it can be a process emotionally and mentally trying to navigate what that means to them and their relationship and their marriage?

Aaron Smith (24:29):

I’d say it’s okay now, as long as we’re not dwelling in that holding onto unforgiveness because that’s poisonous, say

Jennifer Smith (24:36):

Withholding is a lot different than imm processing this now than dealing with or

Aaron Smith (24:40):

Struggling with. I’m, that’s a big difference. And we’ve seen both of that in our marriage of just struggling with it. And of course I’m going to forgive you, but right now I’m still processing.

Jennifer Smith (24:49):

Well, I didn’t want

Aaron Smith (24:50):

Versus I don’t want to forgive you.

Jennifer Smith (24:51):

I didn’t want people listening to this episode feel like, okay, well, it’s easy for them to just forgive and get over it, but that I couldn’t do that. And I just want to point out that we get it. There’s been seasons in our life where forgiveness is not an instant thing, and that’s an opportunity for the Lord to speak into our lives through his scripture and remind us why we need to forgive and the power of forgiveness and even encouragement such as this today of just praying that we would forgive. But it is a process and sometimes it can come quicker than other times, even if it’s the same type of offense that has happened. There’s been times in our marriage jar where you’ve done something and on one hand, I’d be very quick to forgive you and then at a different time for a different reason. It is not easy. So we get it.

Aaron Smith (25:40):

There’s this question that we need to ask ourselves even when we say we do forgive, and it’s something that we’ve, I mean, everyone listening has experienced this. You say, I forgive you, but really in your heart you’re like, I’m going to hold onto this one.

Jennifer Smith (25:54):

Okay. I admit that I needed a lot of refining in this department because I was quick to say with my words, but my attitude, my heart posture, my words coming out of my mouth, everything else did not match those words.

Aaron Smith (26:07):

And here’s a little litmus test if you’re listening, do you have a perspective of your spouse, husband to his wife, wife to his husband, her husband, where you think of them a certain way and it’s a negative thing, the way they do something, the way they say something when they say a certain thing in your mind, you think you’re always like that?

Jennifer Smith (26:36):

Yeah, because I was walking in this way with you for a lot of years, and the pile would accumulate my list of, see, this is who you are, who you are and how you are. And anytime you did something that affirmed that, I’m like, see,

Aaron Smith (26:53):

Yeah, and

Jennifer Smith (26:55):

I’m chuckling, but it’s, that’s not how we should,

Aaron Smith (26:57):

That’s not forgiveness

Jennifer Smith (26:58):

Operating, but

Aaron Smith (26:59):

That’s an indication that you are forming a identity for your spouse based on their offenses toward you. The offenses that they’ve done, perceived offenses, sometimes they’re not

Jennifer Smith (27:14):

Actually offenses. I was just thinking that

Aaron Smith (27:16):

They’re perceived offenses.

Jennifer Smith (27:18):

When you think of expectations, if you broke an expectation, that doesn’t mean that what you just did was offensive.

Aaron Smith (27:23):

You did that because you don’t love me.

Jennifer Smith (27:25):


Aaron Smith (27:25):

Like, wait, of course I love you, but I just wasn’t thinking. And so you have in your mind, you’re building a viewpoint, a perspective, an identity of your spouse based on true actual offenses and perceived offenses that you are unwilling to forgive.

Jennifer Smith (27:43):


Aaron Smith (27:44):

If you said in the past, I forgive you. And that leads to the question is, have you truly forgiven? Because if you’re looking at them through the eyes of this identity of offense, then you’re going to be offended by the way they put the dishes away by

Jennifer Smith (27:58):

Every little thing. By

Aaron Smith (27:59):

The way, they don’t put the dishes away. And

Jennifer Smith (28:00):

I know this because I walked this way and what formed in my heart was bitterness. I was bitter and I didn’t appreciate our relationship. And

Aaron Smith (28:11):

That’s what unforgiveness turns into, by the way, that word bitterness

Jennifer Smith (28:15):

And it literally rots you from the inside out.

Aaron Smith (28:18):

You probably would recognize this also with right now, I want you to think of, don’t say it out loud. A certain relationship, a friendship, a couple a person, and usually your first thought about them will be something negative like, oh, they’re always late. Oh, they’re always flaky. They’re always you named the definition. That’s an indication that you have not looked at that person through eyes of forgiveness, but you hold onto like, oh, that’s who they are. And they’re just always that way and they’re just always going to be that way. And I, that’s an unforgiving heart. That’s not looking at them with the benefit of the doubt. That’s not looking at them from a lens of grace and mercy and forgiveness. And so when we go to that question of have we truly forgiven? They’ve wronged you in some way or form or fashion several times, multiple times, and you’ve built now an identity of unforgiveness toward them. We do that a lot. And it’s why Jesus is like, remember that God’s forgiven you and then pray and ask God to help you forgive others.

Jennifer Smith (29:24):

So I want to add to the conversation for those listening, because I’ve shared a lot of me walking a certain way with you in the past, but I’m not necessarily there now. I think I’ve grown and matured in a lot of ways that forgiveness comes

Aaron Smith (29:37):


Jennifer Smith (29:38):

These days. But something that helped me that I realized was that in the beginning of our relationship, I saw forgiveness as this thing that kind of happens to you. Like, oh, when’s my heart going to change? Okay, I forgive you. But now I realize it’s always been a choice. It is a choice that you get to walk in.

Aaron Smith (29:59):

It was only ever a choice.

Jennifer Smith (30:00):

It’s only ever been a choice.

Aaron Smith (30:02):

I’ve had this. I know that you were bringing up how you tend to be, and you have grown a lot, and I’ve held onto things in different ways. Usually I won’t say something about it for so long, but it builds up in me and then all of a sudden comes out of me,

Jennifer Smith (30:20):

Oh, well, what happens is I end up doing something unrelated, and for some reason it triggers you to remember other things and then you’ll bring it up. And I’m like, where did that even come from? That’s not what’s going on right now. And then we have to walk through both things.

Aaron Smith (30:35):

And so I’ve had identities about you, and going back to our testimony, I had an identity that I formed in you of unforgiveness that made me not want you, and that was what got addressed. He’s like, you are holding stuff against your wife that I don’t even hold against you. I’m like, oh, dang, that’s got

Jennifer Smith (30:53):

To hurt.

Aaron Smith (30:53):

Yeah. Just real quick, I also wanted to mention going back to the friendship stuff, there’s been relationships that I’ve been hurt in and they’ve wronged me and us, and it’s really hard in those situations where especially you don’t see how reconciliation is possible, you don’t see how that person will ever change to actually forgive them. And that what it truly means. And we’ve had this talk of like, well, if you do truly forgive them, that means that that door’s open. If they ever call, ever reach out that I’m not going to just shun ’em away, then I’m going to be like, yep, let’s do this. I’m here. And I genuinely believe that we could have reconciliation.

Jennifer Smith (31:35):

Do you feel

Aaron Smith (31:35):

Whether that ever comes or not,

Jennifer Smith (31:37):

Do you feel like you have to talk yourself into that

Aaron Smith (31:39):


Jennifer Smith (31:39):

Space though

Aaron Smith (31:40):

Lot? Yes, and it’s something actually, it’s not like a one-time thing. It’s not like I’m like, Nope, I forgive. And that door’s open and then things happen, and then memories come up and I’m like, and then that one day that I get the phone call and I’m like, okay,

Jennifer Smith (31:53):

Here go. Well,

Aaron Smith (31:53):

Am I going to follow through what I actually set up? I would do,

Jennifer Smith (31:57):

But I do want to acknowledge that forgiveness, when you do forgive someone, doesn’t mean that you have to be in a reconciled relationship, per se, where you guys are walking the same way you were before. I’m not talking about marriage. Obviously you’ve brought up friendship and I’m just Well,

Aaron Smith (32:13):

Sometimes it’s true in marriage too. Absolutely.

Jennifer Smith (32:15):

Wait, no, as

Aaron Smith (32:16):

In you can’t just pretend like it never happened. It takes years of trust building and it takes,

Jennifer Smith (32:21):

Oh, of course,

Aaron Smith (32:22):


Jennifer Smith (32:22):

That’s what I’m talking about though. Yes, yes. What I’m talking about is if there’s been someone, maybe not even a close friendship, but anyone outside of marriage that there was something happened between you guys,

Aaron Smith (32:34):

Major offense of someone,

Jennifer Smith (32:34):

Major offense, you chose to walk in forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean that you have to choose continue walking in relationship with that person. We can put boundaries on relationships and choose whether or not to

Aaron Smith (32:46):


Jennifer Smith (32:47):

Walking with certain people.

Aaron Smith (32:49):


Jennifer Smith (32:49):

I just want to acknowledge that because things happen and people go separate ways for whatever reason. And so just because you’re choosing to walk in forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are going to have a perfect friendship from that point forward. It might look different, but at least you know

Aaron Smith (33:06):

Could truly forgive them. You

Jennifer Smith (33:07):

Can truly forgive them. And like you said, that that door is open if things change, change.

Aaron Smith (33:13):

And with the forgiveness comes the prayer of, I really pray that this person does change and grows and matures and is transformed by you, Jesus.

Jennifer Smith (33:24):

Now to clarify in marriage, I would say that forgiveness is absolutely 100% necessary as well as reconciliation, because you cannot have a marriage that is left unreconciled,

Aaron Smith (33:34):

Doesn’t work,

Jennifer Smith (33:35):

Doesn’t work. When we were talking about each other’s ways of being with forgiveness, there was another thing that I remember doing back in the day. I’m better now, but I used to be afraid to forgive because in my mind I thought, well, if I forgive you, it would be like a wash. And then how would you ever learn to be better?

Aaron Smith (33:57):

Yeah, it’s just permission. Now. You could just keep doing that thing.

Jennifer Smith (34:00):

And I think that brings me back to why I would say I forgive you, but in my actions and my attitude and everything else, I wanted to hurt you, and I wanted to do things that would make you see that you hurt me. And so there’s a lot, a

Aaron Smith (34:12):

Lot. You want me to feel the weight of how I hurt you. You want justice.

Jennifer Smith (34:16):

I feel like over the years, the Lord has unraveled me and is like, oh, here’s one more thing to see that you’re walking and that’s not right. Let me show you the right way.

Aaron Smith (34:24):

We should do an episode on this because I’ve talked about this. I’ve talked about my issue with pornography growing up and throughout most of my life and how since walking in freedom from that, how God addresses

Jennifer Smith (34:38):

All the little things, all

Aaron Smith (34:39):

The other things that were

Jennifer Smith (34:40):


Aaron Smith (34:41):

By that one big thing.

Jennifer Smith (34:42):


Aaron Smith (34:42):

Now that’s out of the way and it’s like, now I can, let’s focus on this one. Let layers like you said’s, like let’s peel back. It’s that sanctification process. It’s like, okay, yeah, we’ve worked on one big thing over here that might show up in other ways, but now there’s this other thing you didn’t see before. Now there’s this other thing, and it’s God constantly carving out the dead flesh out of us, which is what we want, but it’s sometimes painful.

Jennifer Smith (35:07):

So you guys know, I like to share definitions of things just because to get a full bodied experience with a word, I don’t know. I’m an author, guys, it’s what I do. So for the word forgiveness, if you just look up Wikipedia, it says, forgiveness in a psychological sense is the intentional and voluntary process by which one who may initially feel victimized or wronged, goes through a change in feelings and attitude regarding a given offender and overcomes the impact of the offense, negative emotions such as resentment and a desire for vengeance.

Aaron Smith (35:42):

That’s very interesting because I was just thinking, can someone be forced to forgive? The answer is no. Right? You just read voluntary. It’s a conscious choice on the part of the offended to do the forgiving. There is no making them. You could come and grovel and try and say, please forgive me. Please forgive me. I’m going to do everything and change everything about your life. And you can come and try and do all of everything in your power as the one who did the offense to make it right. And that person still gets to choose whether to forgive you or not. They can withhold it as a weapon, as a tool. And like you were just saying, we do this, we withhold forgiveness as a way of hurting. Imagine if God did that withheld forgiveness from us instead of going and selling everything to buy the field, to get the costly pearl or the costly treasure that’s in the field. He sold everything to purchase once and for all our forgiveness. And yet we hold onto such little things,

Jennifer Smith (36:51):

Little things I know,

Aaron Smith (36:52):

And we wield our unforgiveness as a sharp dagger

Jennifer Smith (36:57):

To hurt people. So if you’re doing that, stop doing that. What I liked about this definition is the second part where it says that person goes through a change in feelings and attitude, which I’ve already admitted. I’ve grown in this area over time of recognizing that that is what forgiveness is. And it’s so powerful that change is transformation and that transformation happens when we pray, when we ask God, first of all, we’re recognizing that he forgives us and we experience that for forgiveness and we’re praying and asking him to help us forgive others. And that is what happens when we pray. There’s a process of transformation where our feelings, our heart attitude, which I love your response to my question earlier about what’s the next practical step when you know you need to forgive someone, it is to pray because it’s in that place of prayer that you’re in the throne room of grace and the Lord humbles you that you can see clearly and choose to walk in that voluntary process.

Aaron Smith (37:57):

There’s something really powerful in this definition. It says, overcome helps the person that’s offended overcome the impact of the offense. So you forgiving your spouse who’s offended, you actually diffuses and defeats the

Jennifer Smith (38:17):


Aaron Smith (38:17):

Of that offense.

Jennifer Smith (38:18):


Aaron Smith (38:20):

Which think about what that means

Jennifer Smith (38:22):

Because there’s a lot of different offenses out there that hurt people

Aaron Smith (38:25):

Well, and what happens in our marriages, you get offended, then you walk in a fence, you’re bitter angry. Now we’re arguing about this and we’re fighting about that, and I am mad at you for this. And nothing, it just increases the impact of the offense, but forgiveness actually diffuses it. And then I was thinking about this, I haven’t fully fleshed this out, but the Bible talks about how God can’t dwell in the presence of sin, that he is perfect, that he is wrathful, that he is just, and that in his justice he needs to meet out justice on sin and death and offenses. And we’ve offended him, but the forgiveness that Jesus offers actually pacifies the impact of our offense on him so that he no longer when he sees us, he sees Christ. He no longer desires to crush. I don’t know if anyone realizes this, but it says that it pleased God to crush Jesus because that’s actually his posture towards sin. That’s his posture towards all of humanity who has sinned against him and offended him. But guess what He did instead, he crushed his own son so that that impact of that offense that the world has on him could be pacified, could be that it’s overcome in Christ. So when you believe in Christ and you have the forgiveness of Christ, that impact of your sin toward God is gone. The consequences of those sins toward God have been dealt with. That just blows my mind to think about.

Jennifer Smith (40:08):

That’s good. That’s really, really good. So our encouragement for you guys today is to, well, first I just want to throw out this challenge that if you evaluate your life, maybe it’s in your relationship with your spouse, maybe it’s with one of your kids, maybe it’s with a family member or a friend. If there is unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone, go to God in prayer. And if you don’t have any words, just pray the Lord’s prayer. Just reach out to God and ask him to show you how to move forward and how to forgive and how to go through this process of forgiveness. And I dunno, I just wanted to encourage you guys to go to him and just to be reminded that when we do go to God in prayer, we’re aligning our hearts to His will. We we’re being humbled, and it may not be like what our flesh wants, but it’s what our flesh and spirit need, and God is bigger than us or our relationship problems. And he’s the God of miracles and the God of impossible. So even that relationship that in your mind you’re thinking, that’s never going to happen,

Aaron Smith (41:26):


Jennifer Smith (41:26):

Just want to challenge you to go to Him and pray about it.

Aaron Smith (41:29):

I love that.

Jennifer Smith (41:31):

So at the end of every episode, we like to end with a prayer, and during this series we’ve been sharing prayers from the Marriage gift, our newest book. And so for today, we’re going to read 3 23. And the title is Truly Forgiving Each Other. And the verse that supports it is Luke 17, three through four. Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother sins rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in the day and turns to you seven times saying, I repent, you must forgive him. Dear Lord, thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for the gift of forgiveness. Lord, make us a couple who truly forgives each other. Please help us to stop feeling angry with each other. If there are any lingering feelings of resentment between us, will you please dissolve them? Please help us to reconcile our hearts and minds so that we remain strong as one.

God, we ask you for a season of rest and relief from emotional pain and turmoil. Teach us how to cover each other in unconditional love. May we never be easily offended. Open our eyes to see the good in each other. When we are tempted to think negatively of each other, we ask for your Holy Spirit to radically redirect our thoughts. Lord, please help us pay attention to how we interact with each other so that we can repent of any grievous ways when we see sin in each other’s lives. Show us how to gently rebuke each other and also forgive. May your love be made evident in our marriage through the way we treat each other and wac humbly in oneness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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