I’ve been working through What did you expect? with a young couple. Although I was initially a bit disappointed, the book has grown on me and, I must say, chapter six on forgiveness was absolutely outstanding. I’ve never seen so much clear, concise and life-changing teaching on forgiveness in one chapter. Tripp begins by saying:

Healthy marriages are healthy because the people in those marriages find joy in cancelling debts. I cannot think of a more essential ingredient in marriage than forgiveness [86].

What Tripp teaches in this chapter though would be of huge help in all human relationships. The section on “What is forgiveness?” (92-94) would help anyone who has been wronged or offended, whether it be by parents, siblings, employers, pastors (or the sheep), friends, or even politicians.

Forgiveness is a vertical commitment that is followed by a horizontal transaction….Forgiveness begins by your giving the offense to the Lord. This does not mean that you act as if something wrong is right. It means that you do not carry the wrong with you (bitterness), and that you do not treat the other in light of the wrong (judgment). You entrust yourself to God’s mercy and justice, and you give yourself to overcoming evil with good…The reason you must start with giving the offense to God is so that when you come to your spouse, you come with the right attitude (grace) and the right goal (reconciliation)… [92-93].

Here’s an outline of the chapter to whet your appetite:

A. The Marriage-damaging stages of the harvest of unforgiveness
1. Immaturity and failure
2. Falling into comfortable patterns
3. Establishing defenses
4. Nurturing dislike
5. Becoming overwhelmed
6. Envy of other couples
7. Fantasies of Escape

B. Then why don’t people just forgive?
1. Debt is power
2. Debt is identity
3. Debt is entitlement
4. Debt is weaponry
5. Debt puts us in God’s position

C. What is forgiveness?
1. Vertical (judicial) forgiveness
2. Horizontal (relational) forgiveness

D. You do not need to ask forgiveness…
1. When you have done something out of human weakness
2. For differences in personality or perspective
3. For attempting to do something and failing

E. What forgiveness requires and returns
1. Forgiveness requires humility
2. Forgiveness requires compassion
3. Forgiveness requires trust
4. Forgiveness requires self-control
5. Forgiveness requires sacrifice
6. Forgiveness requires remembering (our sins)

F. A Better Harvest

1. Forgiveness stimulates appreciation and affection
2. Forgiveness produces patience
3. Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in marriage grows.