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The Husband Who Chose Not to Forgive

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
If we believe God is sovereign then we must do as He commands when we’ve been wronged. -

The Forgiveness Series – Article 12 of 71

If we as Christians believe that God is sovereign and that He creates the light and the darkness, then, in order to move toward biblical forgiveness, we must be willing to obey Him when we’ve been wronged. Using the case study of “The List Maker,” this article explores what happens to a marriage and a man when the man is firmly convinced that he has done nothing to contribute to the demise of the marriage. He is convinced that he is the sole victim.

As I have told the story of “The List Maker” over the years, some people have expressed that they believe I responded unprofessionally when he told me his definition of forgiveness. He had hardly finished speaking when I said loudly, “Wrong!” He jumped back as if he had been hit with a bolt of lightening. This man did not have a clue as to the truth of biblical forgiveness. He believed that he had done nothing to contribute to the demise of his marriage. He believed that he was a victim.

The husband told me that he had married the wrong person.

When I told him that our first step was to discern God’s purposes for allowing his wife to commit these offenses against him, he interrupted me, “I already know what the problem is.”

“Well what do you think it is?” I asked him.

“It’s as simple as this,” he said. “I married the wrong person.”

I told him, “Sir, it does not work that way. You stood in the presence of God and witnesses and exchanged your marriage vows.

If you had any doubts beforehand about God’s “right” person for your life, your vows permanently settled that question.”

I continued, “The only thing that could ever undo your vows is if your wife were to continue unrepentantly in adultery, and she is not doing that, or if she were unwilling to fulfill the most basic responsibilities associated with marriage and she deserted you.” (I knew that didn’t apply to this marriage either.)

His parents pressured their son to come for marriage counseling.

Still he held out, stubbornly refusing to open his heart or his mind to any possible good that God could bring out of his wife’s offenses towards him. Men who maintain this sort of attitude usually do not come back after the first or second appointment. However, this man kept coming back week after week. Later I found out from his wife the reason why. He was in business with his parents who were committed Christians. When they heard that he was considering divorce, they asked him to come to me for counseling because they were supporting their son in the business. They knew that they would be paying the bulk of the alimony and child support. They had exerted a little parental pressure on him.

After several weeks, we came to the application point in the counseling process. He had to decide what he was going to do. I reminded him that when we began meeting together several weeks earlier, he had wrongly assumed that he had forgiven his wife because he had made a choice to no longer hold her accountable for her offenses. Then once again, I earnestly urged him to implement the principles that he had learned in order to biblically forgive his wife.

He continued to blame his wife for all their marital problems.

On the one hand, we had the 18 pages of offenses that he had recorded. On the other hand, we had the biblical principles of forgiveness, and the steps that he must take in order to forgive his wife.

I asked him if he was ready to choose to forgive her for everything.

He looked at his two choices that afternoon and replied, “I firmly believe if my wife would get her attitude straightened out we could do fine in this relationship.”

He then made a decision not to forgive her, and three months later, he divorced her.


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