I want to discuss how to deal with the sins you have committed toward others. I know this may be an unfamiliar notion for some but we do sin against others.
I know I still sin. I really hate to. You know the feeling when the words or attitudes jump from your being and hurt those you love the most. Your spouse, children and even the dog can get some of our sinful nature.
What do we do with this pile of sin we might have accumulated over the years?
Make a list of your sins in the marriage. I would go back from dating forward to the present with your list of sins that you have committed in this relationship. Remember here you want to be rigorously honest. These sins can be attitudes that are unloving. If you need help here consult 1 Corinthians 13 to help you see some of these sinful attitudes. You also want to include your sinful behaviors. You know those things you actually did that you know caused your spouse pain.
Ask God to help you recall your sin history. I know some of us struggle with sin amnesia. You know, you forget your sins, but you can remember the sins of others. I find that this syndrome is prevalent so be prayerful. Remember, God was there and He has a perfect memory.
Sometimes we can think of sins we committed but are sometimes less aware of the sins that are things we don't do. Examples of this would be not praising our spouse, not touching them or not listening when they speak. For some types of sinners not doing these things is greater than other sins.
This might be the person who doesn't get angry, doesn't curse or isn't outwardly mean, but it's been a long time since they said "I love you" or initiated intimacy toward their spouse. These behaviors of omission are sometimes very damaging in a relationship.
So in your list of sins, go through your active sins in one column and in the next column, write your sins of omission, the ones you have failed to do.
You might be thinking, All right, I can make my list and maybe role play my spouse forgiving me. No, that's not what you want to do. Remember James 5:16a, "Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another." Then we can be healed and have effective prayers.
After your list is made, let your spouse know you have to get together with them. You also have to prepare your spouse for what you want to do. You might include some of the following boundaries when you do ask forgiveness of your spouse.
1. I would like to talk to you about some mistakes I made in our relationship.
2. Do you have about an hour to do this with me?
3. I need you to listen fully to me without asking questions. Can you do this?
4. When I ask you to forgive me for something I only need you to say, "I forgive you" or that you "need more time." I do not need any comments other than this, because I will be too vulnerable at this time to hear it. Can you agree to this?
5. If you don't think your spouse has this level of self-control, do this with a pastor or counselor. If you confess unknown infidelity, definitely make sure a third person is present for your spouse.
6. After I go over this list with you, I need you not to bring up anything on this list for at least 72 hours, can you do this?
If your spouse can agree to this up front, proceed—then, and only then. You might want them to do the same thing. They may not be mature enough at this point, so don't focus on them.
This exercise is for you to get the junk out of you, not them. If you're reading this together, and you want to do this exercise together, great! Set a time to do this with your spouse. Stay totally focused on you. Even if you believe their sin is bigger than your sin, stay with only your list.
If your spouse wants to go through their list of sins with you, great. Make sure you are both adequately prepared, and set a time to go through both lists at the same time. The 72-hour no-talk rule would still apply.
Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including,10 Minute Marriage. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org