It’s my third time reading The Shack, and I learn something new every time I read it.

This particular time I was struck by the details of forgiveness. Without giving away spoilers, suffice it to say there is an offense committed against the main character, Mac, and he must cope with his offender’s actions.

God calls Mac to forgive his enemy. He elaborates further to say that forgiveness is not about approving of the sin, or forgetting it. Neither does forgiveness mean Mac trusting his offender, nor establishing a relationship with him.

All that being said, when it actually comes down to the practical act of forgiving in marriage, things get… complicated, sometimes.

The relationship is a unique one because we often confuse forgiveness with, well, just about anything else.

In marriage, it seems to say, “It’s ok.” Which it’s not.

We seem to say, “I trust you,” when we don’t.

It seems to mean, “Our relationship is fine,” when it’s not.


Forgiveness is NONE of those things. In fact, all forgiveness is, as The Shack puts it, letting go of someone’s throat. Forgiveness means that yes, you may be hurt; no you may not trust as readily; no, your offense is not forgotten or approved of…

…but I won’t punish you for it.

At this moment, it is so like us sinners to think, “But you should trust me again!” “You should tell me it’s ok.” “You should forget about how I hurt you.”


Forgiveness is the first step. It is the gateway to reconciliation. To present new opportunities for trust to be regained, for relationship to be restored, for a holiness to be reestablished.

This is why Christ had to die in order that we could start to regain a right relationship with God. Without His forgiveness, there can be no reconciliation.

People aren’t saved by Christ’s forgiveness. People are saved by their willingness to seek reparation of their relationship with God in response to His sacrifice of forgiveness.

So when your spouse forgives you, that’s only step one. The work is not done. When trust is broken, forgiveness does not restore it. Forgiveness doesn’t right wrongs.

It doesn’t pour the cement back between the bricks. It just cleans out the broken pieces to start fresh.

If you work with a healthy understanding of forgiveness in your marriage, reconciliation can be much easier, less stressful, and more healing.

(For more about forgiveness, read Forgiveness: What It Is and Isn’t or check out our like article as featured on the homepage of YourTango.)

Love, the RYM Team