Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Forgiveness: How Does 70 Times 7 Work?

Recently, one of my friends named John shared a follow-up story of his friend who had struggled with forgiveness. Several years ago, John had told me about an event in his friend’s life shortly after it occurred. This man’s wife had taken their two youngest daughters to a friend’s birthday party. Halfway through the birthday party she received a call from their two older daughters saying they needed to be picked up from a high-school party that was getting out of hand. She grabbed the two younger girls, loaded them into the car and hurried over to get her older girls. They were standing by the curb as she approached. She was in the process of texting the hostess of the birthday party explaining why she had left in such a rush. Distracted, she didn’t see the bend in the road until she felt the jolt as her car jumped the curb. As she looked up she saw both her girls go under the car. Both died while trapped beneath the vehicle.

My friend John had tried for months to talk with his old friend after the event, but each time he called his friend would only say he wasn’t ready to talk. Finally, last month, they sat down together. Afterwards, John wrote me and said there were two things his friend shared that really struck him, and in turn had made him want to share them with me.

  1. First, John’s friend realized the accident hadn’t just taken the girls lives, but somehow it had taken almost everything he treasured.
    1. It had robbed the innocence of his two younger girls as they had witnessed the violent death of their two older sisters.
    2. It had robbed the special intimacy he and his wife shared. She was so distraught by what she’d done that she seemed incapable of connecting with him. The pain of that night seemed to invade all their time together.
    3. It robbed him of a career he had loved. He had been a pilot, but his job required travel for three to four nights a week and he now needed to stay home and take care of his family. He also confessed that he was so distracted by what had occurred he wasn’t even sure he’d be safe to fly a plane.
    4. He lost the ability to enjoy his community. He had many friends, but now going out felt not only awkward, but painful. He was always afraid people would ask how he was doing, expecting him to be over it by now or they wouldn’t ask which would make him even angrier because that made him feel they didn’t care.
    5. He lost his ability to financially support his family as he once had. Finding another job had been difficult and he had taken a 40% pay cut.
    6. In many ways it had cost him his church since he didn’t feel he could go there and pretend as if nothing had happened. He was confused by how people just seemed to go on as if nothing had happened.
    7. It had cost him his understanding of God. It just didn’t make sense how something like this could happen to him and his family.
    8. It had even cost him contact with his extended family since his parents blamed his wife for the death of his two daughters and refused to come to visit if she was present.
  1. Second, forgiving 70 times 7 as Jesus taught, took on a totally new reality. The man told how he had forgiven his wife the day his daughters died and that he had forgiven her multiple times each day as the painful memories rolled across their lives. And he vowed that he would continue to forgive her every day from now on.

John closed by saying, “I was so struck by the forgiveness statement that I thought of your work and the challenges ahead for the couples coming to you for help.” Forgiveness is not a “one and done” process any more than redemption is completed at baptism – it is a process that must take place till the spirit leaves the flesh.

The similarities between what this man experienced and those recovering from infidelity struck me. At some level all of us have been betrayed and all of us have betrayed someone else. At the very least I hope this example reminds us to never take for granted the forgiveness extended to us by others.

 

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The right lesson...

sent at the exact right time. 

 

Thank you. 

Very well stated.

Very well stated.

70 x 7

I have to admit that as we've been working on recovery (1 year out) that I still have to forgive my husband, EVERY day. For the most part, recovery has gone well. I have to admit there are times when we both get frustrated but, we work through it. We went to counseling together and I still continue to go on my own. I have just recently come to the realization of my own need for his forgiveness...not for his decision to have the emotional and a one time physical act affair (with the same woman) but, for the numerous misunderstandings and assumptions that were factors in what happened. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm making excuses for what he's done, I definitely am not; however, I know now that because we didn't work through other issues it helped to fuel our situation. I pray for us (both separately and as a couple) all of the time. People used to tell us that we were the perfect couple and I think that we actually believed it as well, until this happened. We've been together for 29 years and I pray that we're together for the rest of our lives.

70 X 7

I understand the 70x7, but what does forgiveness really look like?  What do I have to do to truly forgive? 

 

7 X 70

Forgiveness is an hourly process at the beginning, it is a giving to God the anger and hurt you are feeling. While it helps when the other party is contrite, their actions or attitude have little to do with the process. This is a giving to God, and it is a struggle, we are selfish by nature and take these emotions back often.

Forgiveness is an understanding of the sovereignty of God. While God understands our human frailties and vices, who are we to question him. Yet I find myself on multiple of multiple occasions doing exactly that. Wounds heal in some fashion, but we decide on how badly they scar.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation, nor is reconciliation required for forgiveness, I have found so often in this journey that these two get confused and people often use them almost interchangeable.

The ostracization that was felt in the story was not an issue of forgiveness but of reconciliation.

 

I never thought of

I never thought of forgiveness as having to be daily. I struggle so much with this forgiveness concept that I even told the marriage counselor that I wasn't eve sure what forgiveness was any more.  Some days I do feel more forgiving than others so maybe I am indeed doing that. 

You asked if we have ever had to ask to be forgiven.  I have not.  I have asked God to forgive me for my sins and the bible tells me he does.  My weakness is not to be able to accept His forgiveness.  

If I did something so horrible that I needed to ask forgivenss from another human I don't think I could.  Even if the forgiveness were offered up without asking I don't think I would believe it.  Forgiveness is a weird thing and you have certainly given me something more to think about on it.

 

Touching story about

Touching story about forgiveness, but it's not as if the wife set out that evening with the intent of running down her two daughters. It's forgiving for something incredibly painful and done to me intentionally that I'm having trouble forgiving.

Touching Story About

I too struggle with forgiving the deliberate choice my husband made to cheat on me, with malice of forethought since he admitted he was seeking revenge on me for what he believed was my not loving him enough or anymore....blah blah blah, beginning in September 2011, especially when he embarked on his quest on our 7th wedding anniversary while I was home preparing a romantic dinner for us to celebrate.   I don't know how I'm going to make it through these next few months, since it was around this time last year when he kicked the affair into high gear, and when our next anniversary comes around, I hope I can rise to the occasion and not derail into the rage I fight on a minute by minute basis.  I know God does not want me to seek revenge, but I want some form of justice!  I deserve justice!  I was robbed emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially so he could carry on his disgusting behavior.  Believe it or not, as much as I resent the other woman and would love to get back at her, I'm really pissed at my husband and I shamefully admit that I want him to suffer...for a long time.  Although he claims to be contrite and ashamed and all that, it's not enough for me...at least not now.  I'm trying so hard to let go but the triggers are omnipresent and most of them I cannot avoid.  There are times I just don't know what to do to ease the pain...I'm not sure anything ever will.  I really do want our marriage to work but I'm still so raw....

 

I can relate!!

I understand what you are saying because I feel EXACTLY the same. The story was about a woman who made a terrible mistake but didn't hurt her daughters on purpose. Adulterous spouses, while they may not originally intend to have affairs or be deceptive, clearly make a CHOICE to cheat. They ALWAYS have the option of NOT having an affair, but they selfishly choose to cheat. It doesn't matter what is behind their flawed reasoning or justifications....they are making a conscious and deliberate choice. Affairs aren't mistakes - a mistake is something that someone does by accident. No one 'accidently' has sex with someone other than their spouse. They do it because they WANT to. I'm quite sure this woman in the story did not WANT to hurt her daughters! And that is why forgiveness after adultery is SO HARD. Because our selfish spouses made the CHOICE to cheat and hurt us, and we are just supposed to forgive. Yes, I know I'm just as human as my husband! I am FAR from perfect! But I've never had sex with anyone other than my husband even when I have had the opportunity, because I made the choice NOT to cheat. My husband could have done that too - but he was too selfish to think of anything except getting some cheap sex.

So I can totally relate to Susan's response - because while I know that the 'Christian' thing to do is forgive, I still sometimes wish that my husband would suffer the way he has made me suffer. If that makes me a horrible person than I guess that's what I am. But I can't fake or pretend to forgive when I am still so hurt and angry that he could risk our entire marriage for a couple or weeks of cheap, unprotected, selfish sex.

Exactly and well said

It is much easier to forgive things that were not done intentionally, but affairs for the most part are intentional. My husband intended on doing what he done. That's why for me it is so hard to forgive. 

Forgiveness

I have never responded to these periodic resources but this one struck me so deeply. It reminds me , though the pain I have been going through this past year seems more than I can bear, there are always others whose pain makes mine look slight.

My heart breaks as I read this.

I am striving to forgive. I know it is a necessary step that frees me from bondage and each time a painful thought pops in my head, I try to repeat over and over, "I forgive" until the thought goes away.

Thank you for being one of many supports the Lord has given me to heal from my husbands long term affair. I look forward to each and they are always what I need, when I need it. 

Forgiveness IS a choice

It has been 10 months since discovering my husband's infidelity and although I claimed forgiveness, it was only recently that I truly began to understand what forgiveness commands of me.  For so long, it was dependent upon his expression of regret.  I "forgave" him, but felt no deliverance...that is, until I realized that forgiveness by its very nature is to forgive that which is unforgivable.  

I realized that the forgiveness I depend on from my Maker is no different.  I have had my own moments when I acted carelessly, and sometimes even callously... Sometimes being too foolish to anticipate the consequences, at other times underestimating the damage that might occur, and occassionally even imagining a worthwhile trade off. When I attempted to relate to my husband's humanness, that flawed reasoning that resulted in his transgression, It enabled me to feel some compassion.  Anger comes easily when we've been hurt.  The problem is that there is no end to it.  Forgiveness is a choice.  It is born from compassion... Understanding that we ALL need forgiveness.

First let me say that I am so

First let me say that I am so sorry for that family's loss. It's such a tradegy to lose a child. 

Next, I want to say thank you. For years, I have struggled with the concept of forgiveness. Nobody could ever explain it to me in a way that I could understand. 

I finally see that it's not a one time thing. It now all makes sense to me. 

Maybe now I can work on making all my relationships better. 

Thank you so very much. 

So true

We are almost one year past D-Day and I still need to forgive my H. There were times that I had to do it several times a day. Now not so much anymore; I've got my good days (majority) and my bad days (becoming less and less). I had always thought that forgiving was something you'd had to do once. So I felt guilty that it didn't 'work', until I realized that it's an ongoing thing, until you're truly healed.

 

Mara

As the betrayer, I don't feel

As the betrayer, I don't feel worthy of forgiveness. I want to move past this. The affair was short, but the impact was huge. The affair is over and will always be over. I know the Lord forgives me. My husband also says he forgives me, but the struggle comes day after day. The pulling away, the unreturned or minimally returned affection...it is a constant reminder of my failure. I understand it and feel that I deserve to feel this way now. My old nagging feelings of inadequacy have now been multiplied exponentially. I did this. I dug myself into this pit and cannot find my way out. I have moments when the Lord shows me a little brightness at the end of the tunnel, but these moments are so fleeting. Forgiving myself, that is the hardest.

I'm sorry you feel this way.

I wish you didn't, but I'm afraid your hurt may stay with you for a long time, possibly parts of it will remain forever. This is not something either of you will ever forget or think of without reliving a portion of this hurt and disappointment, But time will ease much of your current pain. 

I hope that you can someday understand that despite all this, your husband loves you deeply. He needs and wants you. He wants to know that he's the best man for you, because right now he does not believe he is. He is insecure, questioning himself and doubting his every emotion. He is possibly scared of you doing it again, as being betrayed by your spouse is a horrid burden. I hope you can be grateful for the strength and grace he has needed to stay with you. 

 

If you haven't, to might consider confessing this to him. It seems counterintuitive, but it is your turn to be vulnerable and honest in all your feelings, and that will bring more compassion and forgiveness to your husband's heart. 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes forgiveness seems to come....

only after we are so tired of hurting and worn from fighting against the feelings of disappointment and disgust of the betrayal. I often think it is the mind giving up and the tincture of time fading the pain emotion and memories. 

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