You know the scenario. You said you forgive your spouse, but it turns out forgiving is harder than you expected and you still hold onto the pain that you felt when they wronged you. You say, “we’re good. It’s fine. It’s in the past,” but your anger and distance speak otherwise. The truth is we are often in denial about our own state of forgiveness. We often believe we are walking in forgiveness but secretly are carrying “roots of bitterness” (Heb 12:15). It is important to identify if you still have bitterness so you can rid yourself of it and walk in true forgiveness. Here are 5 indications that you might still be bitter:
When your spouse does anything similar to the time when you were wronged, your mind reverts back to that anger and annoyance. Example: Your husband yelled very harshly when you were running late, and the next time you were running late, he nicely reminded you of the time and you snapped angrily.
You assume your spouse will act in the wrong again. Example: Before your wife has repeated her mistake of disrespecting you, you believe she will definitely wrong you again, and you are just waiting for the proof.
You can list every single mistake/wrong/sin your spouse has made lately. Example: Your husband might not have re-made the mistake that made you so mad in the first place, but every small, menial error is causing you to boil with anger. You are keeping track of all his failings.
When you are in the middle of an argument, you bring up past wrongs that have no, or little, bearing on the present situation. Example: Your wife did not discipline the children when they have been running wild, ransacking the house. When you argue, you decide to bring up how your wife is typically lazy, no longer wants to have sex and never makes a good dinner anymore.
You wish you and your spouse could have more “space;” you just don’t really want to be around your spouse anymore. Example: You found out your husband had gambled some of your savings. Even though he has sincerely apologized and never done it again in the last three years, things have “never been the same” and you have no desire to be intimate or spend time with him.
Our Christian faith hinges on the power of forgiveness, and God commands us to extend His forgiveness to others. “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 you trespasses “ Matt 6:14-15. Our calling is difficult but clear. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Eph 4:31-32. Indicate the bitterness within you and ask God to eradicate it, but also know that this requires personal submission. You have to let go of your bitterness, not just pray for it to disappear. Be committed to destroying the bitterness so that you can truly forgive in the way that God has called us all to.