Dr. John Gottman is a widely respected researcher in the field of marriage. For some 16 years, he observed 49 couples in an apartment that also functioned as a lab seeking to create a more home-like environment than is common in therapy. He recorded everything from facial expressions and heart rate as couples had discussions and debates. His findings gave him a list of marriage principles that allow him to predict divorce with a 91 percent accuracy. These are called the “Four Horsemen,” echoing the apocalyptic doom of the last book of the Bible.
Preceding the Four Horsemen is a conversation with a “harsh startup”. We all know what this is like. Things start with an attack, raised voices, mean comments, or bringing up the same old issue we keep fighting over. What follows are the following:
- Criticism – naming the sin, attacking the person not the problem
- Contempt – disgust, name-calling, mocking, provoking, and negative body language like rolling your eyes or glaring
- Defensiveness – the guilty person doubles down, excuses their behavior, and blame-shifts to someone else
- Stonewalling – a Cold War sets in where couples walk into separate rooms, start sleeping in separate beds, and eventually start living separate lives. Indeed, the heart divorce always comes long before the paperwork is filled out. Curiously, 85 percent of stonewalling is done by the husband.
For the Christian, there is one solution to each of these four problems. Sin leads to death and Jesus leads to life. Jesus not only forgives you, but He also wants us to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Christianity is about being forgiven by God and forgiving others as God has forgiven us. Jesus does not make us pay for our sin, which is mercy. And, Jesus does pay for our sin, which is grace. It is this grace and mercy that invites us, when we have sinned, to come to God in repentance knowing how He will respond to us.
There is simply no possibility of relationship without forgiveness. You could not have a relationship with God if there were not full and free forgiveness. You cannot have a relationship with anyone if that same full and free forgiveness is not flowing.
How do you know you have forgiven someone? Jesus said to bless even those who act like enemies as God has blessed us, despite our acting like His enemies. Blessing is the test of whether or not we have truly forgiven someone.
Have you accepted full and free forgiveness from God? Is there anyone you need to forgive?