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Your Marriage: How Can I Cultivate Kindness, Tenderness, and Forgiveness In My Marriage?

If it hasn’t already, there will come a time when irritation, dislike, or even hatred rears its ugly head in your marriage. There will be moments when love seems far away, forgotten, dead, and impossible to regain.

When that happens, we have a choice.

As believers, we know we’re supposed to forgive. We’re supposed to be kind. We’re not supposed to return evil for evil. We’re supposed to love.

As married believers, we have an even greater call, for our marriages to be a picture of Christ’s relationship with and love for the church.

But how can I do this? How can I cultivate kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness, when tension rises? When I’d rather not see my mate’s face? When we’ve wounded each other?

It’s not enough to ask forgiveness. We have to able to extend true forgiveness, as Ephesians 4:32 commands.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

But that’s a tall order when we’re hurt and angry. It’s even tougher if hatred has entered the relationship.

Fortunately for us, the previous verse tells us how to prepare our hearts, so we can extend true forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31 (ESV) states: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

I have work to do in my heart before I can truly forgive. I have to deal with any and all of the following:

Bitterness. Resentment. The sneer in your heart at your mate. The bad taste in your mouth at seeing, touching, speaking to, acknowledging the existence of your mate.

Wrath. Explosive anger. Rage. The hair-trigger response where you go from slight disdain to complete loathing in less than half a second.

Anger. A simmering mad. It smolders long after the incident.

Clamor. Actual screaming. The noise in your head. Your willful repetition of your mate’s faults (spoken or unspoken), to the point the litany becomes background music in your everyday life.

Slander. Abusive words. Blanket statements and negative generalizations. Words intended to harm, demean, or embarrass.

Malice. Spitefulness. Behavior other than speech intended to harm or injure. Joy at your mate’s suffering. Pure meanness.

Only after I’ve ridded myself of all of these, can I truly be kind to my mate, tender-hearted to him, and forgive.

Sometimes it’s a quick and easy decision. Sometimes it means digging in with God and getting healing for long term, deep hurts. The wound I received from my mate hit a button in me that I’ve not yet conquered. God and I have work to do.

If you were taught how to hold onto anger. How to manipulate others. If you didn’t feel safe growing up. If you were abandoned in some way, rejected, betrayed, or learned from how others treated you that you were disposable or unimportant, this type of heart-cleaning might be more difficult for you.

Because today’s wound from your spouse makes you feel the same way you did when you were previously wounded by someone else.

Either way—if it’s a quick process or a lengthy one—it’s completely possible with God’s help and leading.

But, you have to prepare your heart.

I encourage you to start with the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Praying this prayer will help you have the right perspective. Pray it as many times as you need to, and ask God to write it on your heart.

Extending true forgiveness is key in having a healthy marriage. Today, prayerfully consider if you need to do so, even if it’s over something which happened many years ago.

Work with God to cultivate kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness in your life, so you and your mate can enjoy the benefits.

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