Modeling Honest and Forgiving Qualities.

Marriage /
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When was the last time you lied to your spouse?

About anything?

How about forgave them when they didn’t deserve it?

The answer to that begs the question; are we modeling honest actions and forgiving qualities we want to see from our children?

On the surface these seem like such common sense questions. Modeling honest behavior. Forgiveness. Truthfully, they’re a lot more complex than we care to admit.

Lies snowball. One leads to another to cover up the first. Telling a friend a half truth only to be found out when another friend shared the hidden half unknowingly. Skirting around the edges with your spouse, knowing they’d be displeased with the actuality.

Phew. That’s  a lot of deception to keep track of. Truth is… the truth is much easier.

Why IS modeling honest behavior so hard?

Well, I don’t entirely know.  While some people certainly have more candor than others, everyone lies to some degree. Surely it comes down, at least in part, to fear and acceptance. People fear rejection so they morph themselves into whatever the situation or person calls for. Folks want to be accepted. So they give acceptable “truths.” Instead of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Telling ourselves we lie to avoid hurting someone is bunk, being lied to hurts worse.

But still, we live much of our lives this way.

I want my kids to be honest. Brutally honest. The rule of thumb around my house is that while an act of rebellion will bring about a consequence; a honest, repentant heart will always receive a measure of grace.  A lie on the other hand begs the greatest of punishments.

The snowball.

Lying quickly becomes habit. Common place.

Children already have to overcome their sin nature that tells them, lying to cover up a discretion will help them get out of consequences. So I ask the question, when was the last time you lied to your spouse? to shed light on how much harder we make it for them to succeed when we model dishonest behavior.

How much do kids understand?

Part of why modeling honesty is difficult is because kids are sharp! I couldn’t begin to list the numerous times when my children have asked me about something they should have known nothing about. They hear our conversations when we don’t know or think they are listening. They see and read our body language. Becoming experts at reading between the lines.

Being vague when a spouse asks about our day so we don’t reveal how much time we actually spent on social media.  Providing a hazy answer, because we were particularly short with the children, bordering or completely crossing over into mean-mommy(or daddy). Do we model obscurity and vague deception or transparency. Honesty. Truth. Come what may?

Are you a good forgiver?

In the beginning of my marriage my black and white personality set my husband up for failure.  When an expectation wasn’t met, I simply could not understand. It is easy to follow through, I’d say.  You just do what you say you’re going to do. That’s that.


Poor guy.

Fortunately, while I still see life mostly in absolutes, I’ve come to accept others like their gray area. I’m OK with that.

But I am hurt!

People fall short all the time.

Every day. The bible tells us it will happen and we experience disappointment in our lives all. the. time. Interesting that we are living with so much disappointment, when fulfillment in a relationship can only truly be gained based on what we put in, rather than what we get out. Is that whole “it’s better to give than to receive,” thing just a sweet sentiment? A kids Sunday School lesson. Or is it the infallible word of God? See Acts 20:35.

 Want the single greatest piece of advice ever?

In our premarital counseling, we were told to live every day trying to make the other happy. If we were successful, we’d both be happy! Makes sense, right?

Two people are rarely both good at this. No two people are the same, therefore, one half of a pair will be more selfish than the other. What then is the selfless half to do?

Live each day to make the other happy. If the raw truth of what we are actually vowing at a wedding was made clear I have to wonder if anyone would get married.

Have you figured out if you’re a good forgiver yet?

I have always been a great forgiver.

Only I haven’t, really at all.

When I was let down, by someone, I’d spend an undetermined amount of time being upset about it. Maybe I’d be a little extra quiet for a while, carrying the hurt around like a backpack. Baiting an apology if one hadn’t already been extended, typically came next. Eventually, I’d drive home the offense, you know, just to be sure the offender knew what they’d done wrong  (ya we’re still talking primarily about spouses here)

Only after at least a few days of this, would I forgive. Once I’d reached the point of feeling like forgiving, I offered the forgiveness. So I was a good forgiver.

And I found no victory in this method.

Can you practice?

After years of let down, broken commitments, and failed expectations, I got a crazy idea. Somewhere around marriage year 10-11, I thought, what if forgiveness should look completely different? Could I just “let it go?” All of it?

Who’s to say I am right, anyway? Well, me, that’s who. And maybe the friends I vent to.

A battle you find yourself fighting over and over is a battle in which to concede. Practicing stellar forgiveness over and over (the kind that’s given without being asked for) is like sharpening a sword. It’s more effective each time. It gets easier.

Is choosing to have no expectations an option?

Instead of, “I’m so hurt that you… fill in the blank ” I opt for, “I choose to forgive you. My love is about what I can do for you, not what I receive.” End of story. Done. No period of passive quietness. Zero bringing it up. It’s as though it never happened. Seems like I can think of another example of a love that is like this. Can you?

When my children grieve one another, they must ask themselves a question. Is going to battle over this injustice worth a damaged relationship? (the answer should always be no. if it’s not, that’s a whole other post)

Translate that to our marriage and we have, “is this grievance a deal breaker?” “Am I going to walk away from my spouse over this thing?” If the answer is no, it can be let go. When you look at it that way, there’s a whole lot we fuss over, that’s not worth the trouble. What is gained by holding on to fault, grief and blame?

This life is temporal and fleeting. Approaching it like a contest to see how many mountains you can turn into mole hills, even when it’s not fair, reaps big rewards. The level at which you put this into action is up to you. Just how much are you willing to let go of?

Marriage can survive the really bad stuff.

When just one person steps up and says, I won’t hold on to the hurt.

Brutal honesty. Selfless forgiveness. Catch phrases you live out at surface value? Essential virtues you intentionally model for your spouse and children? Commands to be obeyed?

Finally, I am fortunate enough to know a few fantastic marriage counselors. The value on the service they provide is great. If you need one, get one! But ask yourself one last time, “is it a deal breaker?” Whatever IT is…

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