The Surprising Skill That Fortifies Relationships

As a grown man, I feel like I know way too much about Disney Princesses.

I guess that’s part of the joy of having pre-teen daughters.  So, yes not only do I know about the main Disney Princesses, but I also know about most of the off-brands and Barbie knock-offs.  Yikes.   My life has an excess of pink and glitter.  

Truth be told, I do wish that problems in real life could, in fact, be resolved the way they are on my daughter’s shows.  All we need is the magic of friendship and a well-choreographed dance number.  Then. . . . voila!  Problems are solved.  

If only.

Real Life Problems

Unfortunately, anyone who has been alive for more than a day knows that real life problems are not resolved so easily.  As Becky and I are rounding the bend on twenty years of marriage this year, we know how hard it is.  After two decades of life together, we have had to navigate some incredibly painful relationship problems.  Other couples we know have had similar challenges and have fallen apart.

So why do some relationships seem to implode for no apparent reason?  Social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson offer one explanation.  In their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), they describe how a fixation on our own righteousness can choke the life out of love. They write:

The vast majority of couples who drift apart do so slowly, over time, in a snowballing pattern of blame and self-justification. Each partner focuses on what the other one is doing wrong while justifying his or her own preferences, attitudes, and ways of doing things. … From our standpoint, therefore, misunderstandings, conflicts, personality differences, and even angry quarrels are not the assassins of love; self-justification is.

So whether a relationship is drifting apart slowly or explodes all at once, there is an important skill we can use to repair it.

And The Winner Is. . . 

I wish there were more fanfare or a greater surprise, but simply put the most important relationship skill that has allowed Becky and me to make it through twenty years is forgiveness.  

Probably not shocking.  Especially coming from a pastor.  Still, if I could trace one common thread that runs through almost every single failed marriage it would the unwillingness of one or both people to truly forgive.  

Throughout this week, I will be posting a number of articles about forgiveness.  So for today, let me give you two good reasons why we should learn this vital relationship skill.


  • The Bible Tells Me So. . .
    Again, this may be the obvious choice for a pastor.  Still, I find God’s Word is the most reliable source of wisdom that governs our life.  The rest of my posts this week will unpack this idea.
    Also, you can listen to yesterday’s sermon on forgiveness to get started.  Go to Sunday’s Message to listen.


  • Research Also agrees
    It is also refreshing to see that psychologists and other researchers have discovered that forgiveness is a vital relationship skill as well.  Daryl R. Van Tongeren* and his team have discovered that

“A 6-month longitudinal study of romantic couples, revealed that participants who regularly forgave their partner reported increased meaning in life over time.”  

The Challenge
Forgiveness is a simple idea that is extremely difficult to practice in real life.  My invitation for this week is simply to consider what is posted here.  I will address some of the challenges of forgiveness and provide some concrete steps for us to put this skill into practice.  

If you have questions of struggles with forgiving people in your life, you can email me questions here.

My hope is that your relationships will be strengthened by forgiveness.  

Join the conversation below:  Why is it hard to forgive people in our lives?


*Van Tongeren, D.R., Green, J.D., “Forgiveness Increases Meaning in Life” in Social Psychological and Personality Science.  2015, Vol 6(I) 47-55.  

5 thoughts on “The Surprising Skill That Fortifies Relationships

  1. I think it’s hardest to forgive when people aren’t sorry for how they hurt you, or if they’re repeat offenders and continually hurt you. Then you’re challenged with being in a constant state of having to forgive them. We’re called to forgive but we’re human and we have walls and defense mechanisms, and it’s not always so easy. I’ve recently felt God asking me to pray for some people who’ve been those repeat offenders. I’ve been struggling to really know if I’ve forgiven them. I WANT to so I can let go, but I’ve been unsure if I’ve really done that. I felt just yesterday Him telling me to “just start praying for them.” So I am and I’ll see what happens as a result!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Melanie, Thanks for the comment. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Forgiveness is simple, but it is not easy. Our defenses are there for a reason so forgiveness can be challenging. I don’t have any easy answers, but stay tuned this week. I’ll have other posts talking about some of the challenges we face when we try to forgive.


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