Humility is the ability to have a modest opinion of yourself and to reduce your own view of importance, while forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment or anger and to let go of the notion of revenge. At first glance it may not seem that these two are related, but they are in fact joined. It can be nearly impossible to forgive if you cannot learn to display humility. As with the other relationship traits we’ve been discussing (communication, kindness, respect), both humility and forgiveness are achievable in your marriage. Not only are they a necessary component of a healthy relationship, but they are characteristics that all of us can strengthen and continue to grow. Even the best of marriages include two people who have room to improve in these areas.
Here are some ways you can utilize humility and forgiveness to strengthen your marriage:
Take an Honest Assessment of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Everyone has areas of their life that are going well and areas that could use improvement. Understanding your strengths and weakness can give you an honest look at where you need to work on self-improvements. It also allows you to better understand what you bring into your marriage and where you may be contributing to ongoing issues or difficulties.
For example, when looking closely at your behaviors, attitudes and actions, you may notice that you are able to bring a sense of calm to heated discussions but that you have a hard time letting go of resentments. Recognizing this may make you feel more confident when voicing your concerns with your spouse and allow you to initiate discussions that may otherwise be avoided. You may also be able to remind yourself to work through an old grudge when you find yourself holding onto one.
This exercise is also a way to remind yourself that in your marriage both you and your spouse have areas to improve on. A conflicted or struggling marriage is never the absolute fault of only one person. Each spouse plays a role in the path you’ve taken and each of you have the ability to make a change.
Accept Advice Your Spouse Gives
This goes in line with assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Your spouse likely has expertise and strengths in areas that differ from your own. Acknowledge the fact that they have information or advice that could help in many situations. Listen to them and talk through their thoughts on the problem. Maybe they have a way to speed up the house project you are working on, or they may have a different point of view that can help with your work issue.
Accept their advice in the spirit in which it is given – as a way to be helpful, not as a way to put you down or to dismiss your way of doing things. Over the years you and your spouse will have a tremendous opportunity to learn from one another and to grow as individuals because of the varying points of view and knowledge you each bring to the table.
Acknowledge When You’re Wrong
This can be the toughest one for many people. Pride is a nasty beast that can get in the way of resolutions and growth. It’s one thing to take stock of your weaknesses and faults privately, but it’s a whole other matter to admit them to someone else. Even if that someone else is the one you are closest to. Acknowledging that you made a mistake or that your actions caused pain is a difficult and important step that is missing in many marriages. Self-justification over mistakes and bad decisions can be a relationship killer. It can cause your spouse to lose trust and respect for you and it can cause additional problems to compound. Only after an issue has been brought to light can it be resolved.
Ask For and Offer Forgiveness
With any marriage, and especially with remarriages, missteps will happen. Words will be said that cause pain and actions will be taken that will cause anger. At times, especially in the beginning, you may feel like there are more wrong steps than right. How you move through these difficult times will either strengthen or damage your relationship. One way to move past the mistakes is to freely offer forgiveness. It can seem easier to hold on to the argument or the negative feeling, but forgiveness needs to be given and accepted in order to for the marriage to heal. If you’ve made a mistake or said things that were unkind, acknowledge what you did and ask your spouse to forgive you. If your spouse comes to you asking for forgiveness, remember that you too have and will make mistakes. Remember that each of you are learning, humble yourself, and give forgiveness. Use the opportunity to learn and to avoid the same issues in the future.
Learning to introduce humility into your day and thought process can be difficult, but in many ways it makes your marriage easier. The knowledge and acceptance that you are two imperfect people, bound to make mistakes, can help you to move past the periods of struggle and to remain focused on the bigger picture: that while marriage isn’t easy, together you can create a bond that will last through any hardship.
The Strengthen Your Marriage series will wrap up with quality time and why it’s important in your relationship.