The reality of marriage is there are moments when we will hurt each other — intentionally or unintentionally. A quick “I’m sorry, I was wrong”, or “What can I do to make it better?” offers the possibility for restoring connection.
But, what if your spouse’s words or actions don’t result in change?
What if the hurt continues to happen over and over again?
Remember, Christian community and connection are life-giving . . .
A repentant, regretful heart reflects a deep desire to change and accept 100-percent ownership. The occasional misstep means your spouse is moving toward genuine change — remember progress over perfection. Notice the moments you catch them “doing it right” and then, offer them encouragement.
However, when blame shifts back toward you, it’s time to pray and consider if a “heart issue” is behind those actions and words.
1Bryce Klabunde offers the following list as a helpful tool for discerning a repentant heart:
- Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them into trouble. A house isn’t clean until you open every closet and sweep every corner. People who desire to be clean are completely honest about their lives. No more secrets.
- Repentant people face the pain their sin caused others. They invite the victims of their sin (anyone hurt by their actions) to express the intensity of emotions that they feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment.
- Repentant people do not give excuses or shift blame. They made the choice to hurt others, and they must take full responsibility for their behavior.
- Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt. They realize they can never completely “pay off ” the debt they owe their victims.
- Repentant people don’t pressure others to say, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is a journey, and the other person needs time to deal with the hurt before they can forgive. All that penitent people can do is admit their indebtedness and humbly request the undeserved gift of forgiveness.
- Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians. They gather a group of friends around them who hold them accountable to a plan for clean living. They invite the group to question them about their behaviors. And they follow the group’s recommendations regarding how to avoid temptation.
- Repentant people accept their limitations. They realize that the consequences of their sin (including the distrust) will last a long time, perhaps the rest of their lives. They understand that they may never enjoy the same freedom that other people enjoy. Sex offenders or child molesters, for example, should never be alone with children. Alcoholics must abstain from drinking. Adulterers must put strict limitations on their time with members of the opposite sex. A porn addict can never look at porn again, which requires limited access to computers, phones, tablets, and social media. That’s the reality of their situation, and they willingly accept their boundaries.
- Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them. We serve a merciful God who delights in giving second chances.
Remember, Christian community and connection are life-giving when you are deeply wounded and in need of loving comfort, guidance, wisdom, discernment, and support. When you choose community — you choose hope instead of hopelessness.
1 Bryce Klabunde, “‘I’ll Change, I Promise’: Six Signs of Genuine Repentance”
Adapted from Sheri’s book, Restoring What’s Been Lost: Victory Over Porn Addiction Copyright © 2020 Sheri Mueller