ground rules

This past weekend was Groundhog’s Day. Back in 1993, there was a movie that came out about Groundhog’s Day where a weatherman played by Bill Murray has to cover the annual event in Pennsylvania. In the film, he keeps waking up in his hotel room each morning and it is still Groundhog’s Day. After basically becoming despondent and trying multiple ways to kill himself only to wake up again on Groundhog’s Day, he decides to become a better man and pursue a lady in the town. As you can expect, with only one day to woo the lady he has to learn everything about her and then be perfect in one day to win her affection and get to February 3rd. Some people have studied the movie and figured out that it would take someone over 10 years to learn the skills that the main character needs to woo the girl in one day.

In marriage, one fear most men have is very similar. We think that we have awakened to a new morning in our marriage only to find that past failures, faults, mistakes, or wrongs that we have done are brought up by our wife. We think that they forgave us days, months, or even years ago, but in the heat of an argument the “list” comes out. There is no doubt that we probably were wrong on our part on most of the “list”, but how should we respond to our wife when she brings up the “list.” I got together with the Peacefulwife and we tried to come up with some thoughts on the “list” and some ways we can try to limit or even eliminate the “list” from our marriage.

To start off, I think it is important to say that the items on the “list” that we hope to not see are instances where we thought we had been forgiven. Some major failures that husbands may have committed like affairs, gambling, alcoholism, or drugs may be issues that involve years of building trust with your wife before they are going to be out of your wife’s mind. We need to make sure that we have taken care of our part of the past issue if we hope that it will be removed from the list. That means have we altered the behavior on our behalf that our wife had an issue with. Did we ask for forgiveness only to need to ask forgiveness again the next week or month for the same problem?

Let’s look at the difference between forgiveness and trust. In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says:

Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don’t understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior.

Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you.

I think the important area here is that we need a track record to gain the trust needed to eliminate the item from the “list.” Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church describes the forgiveness process this way, “Repentance takes one, forgiveness takes one, reconciliation takes two.” So, we need to make sure that we don’t expect that just because we ask for forgiveness that our responsibility in making the relationship whole is finished. Each spouse has to be active in building reconciliation and trust in each other.

The List (Part 1) is basically the ground rules a husband should hope to be accountable to in order to be forgiven by his wife. In the List (Part 2) we are going to shift the focus to the reasons our wife uses the list.