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

Forgiveness: How Does 70 Times 7 Work?

Several years ago my friend John told me about a man who was struggling with forgiveness.

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 her daughters go under the car.

Both died while trapped beneath the vehicle.

After this event John tried for months to talk with his old friend. Each time he called, his friend would only say he wasn't ready to talk. Finally, they sat down together last month.

John wrote me to say there were two things his friend shared that really struck him. He in turn wanted to share them with me.

First, John's friend realized the accident hadn't just taken the girls lives, but somehow had taken almost everything he treasured:

  • It had robbed the innocence of his two younger girls as they had witnessed the violent death of their two older sisters.
  • 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.
  • It robbed him of a career he had loved. He had been a pilot, but his job required travel three to four nights a week and now he 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.
  • He lost the ability to enjoy his community. He had many friends, but 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 even worse, not ask which made him even angrier because that made him feel like they didn't care.
  • 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.
  • In many ways it had cost him his church because 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Second, John understood Jesus' teaching on forgiving 70 times 7 in a totally new light. The man shared 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. He vowed that he would continue to forgive her every day from now until eternity.

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 the forgiveness extended to us by others for granted.

If you're ready for change and looking for a process to walk you through this journey, I encourage you to take Hope for Healing. This course for the unfaithful opens today at 12 PM CST (USA). Find a safe community of people looking for the healing and support you also desire. Click here https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/hope-for-healing to learn more.

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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. 

Forgiveness

While I appreciate all that this story can teach us about forgiveness and the day to day after any form of trauma, what had been lost here is the matter of intent. It is hard to compare the forgiveness of this basically innocent mother with the forgiveness of a spouse, who purposely pursues adulterous relationships.

Forgiveness

I agree that it is entirely different to equate an unintentional accident with the purposeful deception from your spouse.

Forgiveness

I am more than 5 years out from D-Day, and I have convinced myself that my wife's decision to betray me is not a forgivable offense. While the mother in this story chose to text and drive, in and of itself her decision was not based on selfishness the way the decision to have an affair is. I have come to accept my wife's preference for another man, but I can no more forgive her for that preference than I can 'forgive' her preference for strawberry ice cream over vanilla. Fantasy or not, she preferred the feelings she received from her sweet talking affair partner over the true love, with its ups and downs, she received from her marriage of 32 years.

Forgiveness

Mwh I know exactly how you feel but I have decided to forgive and it has to happen daily. Some times hourly. Over and over I have to forgive because the betrayal haunts me, as does the evilness that was the other person. Nobody knows really how this never leaves my mind or my reality of life. It is truly a burden. I wish that these selfish people who have affairs could only understand the horrible hurt they have caused another. And usually it has hurt their best friend and life partner. I am sorry for your hurt.

Forgiveness has its place. It

Forgiveness has its place. It helps one to not carry around the burden of tragedy. Not forgiving a premeditated act may be borne out of self preservation: what if he/she does it again? Should I not defend myself against such an act?

Forgiveness

It is hard to forgive someone who intentionally deceives us. It is harder to forgive someone who truly isn’t sorry . Forgiveness isn’t for the one who did us wrong forgiveness is for ourselves so the destruction someone else caused loses it power to destroy us. Forgiveness is a daily choice just as a cheater makes a daily choice to cheat we have the power to not be controlled by someone else’s self destruction. I choose to forgive for me so I have the peace I need .

Forgiveness

I agree, Becky. My 2 year D-Day is on Valentine’s Day. When I found out about the affair, I was not only devastated I had such hate in my heart. For four months I carried that hate. I researched forgiveness, I didn’t want my husband to think for a second it was about him and it was ok what he had done. Once I understood forgiveness I was able to go to him and honestly forgive him. I had such a weight lifted off my shoulders, he was no longer controlling me.

Does this mean we are happy and back together? No, far from it, our divorce will be final in April. It is sad it came to this decision, but I no longer carry the hate, I have released his control over me and I am moving on. Is it easy? No, it is not...but I am in a far better place today, than I have been in a very long time.

Very true forgiveness is for healing the betrayed

I forgive every day and every minute of intrusive thoughts that I have from my husband's affair. I decided to forgive because carrying the hatred and bitterness from the betrayal was destroying me at the core. I am much happier after forgiving and embracing the lessons from this betrayal. As for my husband and the AP they have to live with what they did and carry that burden. Hopefully they can learn from their betrayal. But my life is full of joy because I let go of the anger through forgiveness.

Intent is totally different

I agree with the other comments. This woman made a bad decision that killed her daughters and the family suffered on every level. The difference, though, is that she did not intend to do this. Much like an affair, where the spouse intentionally sets out to be unfaithful, deceived and lies to all around them - especially their spouse.
Accidental death is a world apart from intentional unfaithfulness. I would have rather my wife died in a tragic accident than the years of lies and, since the affair ended, the years of no empathy or remorse or connection toward me.
I applaud this man's ability to forgive, but please don't try to pass this over as the same pain an affair causes in the marriage covenant.

Not the same pain

While in no way would I minimise the trauma and devastation the betrayal of infidelity brings to a relationship, felt I had to comment.
Yes it is not the same pain, I could only think it must be so much worse. To lose your children is the most devastating event imaginable. No matter what the unfaithful did, you are both still alive, in pain and struggling, but alive, with choices for the future. I am three years out from D-Day and feel unhappiness every day. I am not the same person, but have forgiven him, though don't see him in the same way now. The reason I have stayed is for my son who needs his father. His journey through adolescence will not be helped by us separating. My son comes first as he had no say in what happened and doesn't deserve to suffer because of it. My heart goes out to the man who forgave and his wife who will struggle to live with herself, probably for the rest of her life. I work in critical care and the worst pain I see is when someone loses a child. Intent doesn't matter. Very thought provoking article. Lola.

Forgiveness

I agree this is comparing two totally different situations. Accidents happen and sometimes accidents destroy lives. However, this young mother did not intentionally kill her children. Her pain is also in a different league. I do not believe for one minute that my pain as a betrayed spouse comes even close to what she is going through. Just feels selfish to even compare my pain to hers. My pain is real and some days I wonder if happiness is forever fleeting. However, I cannot in good conscience compare the utter stupidity and selfishness of adultery to the gut wrenching, heart breaking devastation brought on by the death of two young innocent children. Just does not seem like a good comparison.

What if they deny intent?

Mine got caught texting multiple women he “ministers” to that he lives them. One in particular got most of his free time and attention. He adamantly denies any intention of wrong doing and it took months to get him to admit to an emotional affair. I’m not sure how to forgive this ... especially since he’s reluctant to take responsibility and own his actions.

Just as maybe one doesn’t intend to start an affair, but didn’t fall naked onto another woman by accident, one doesn’t end up accidentally telling other women “I love you” by accident either.

So, I’m wondering if my decision to reconcile is ill advised, and if forgiveness might look different than moving forward as is and accepting the narrative I’ve been given.

I believe in the power of forgiveness... but I’m wondering if it will look different and involve a redefinition of “safe partner” through the process.

Not the same

An affair may start as an “accident,” a moment of weakness, not protecting what is sacred, etc. but in the scenario above it was an unfortunate ONE TIME occurrence. It didn’t involve repeated lies and deceit every day over an extended period of time.

I would guess that the father didn’t try to tell his wife that it didn’t happen, it was all her imagination, she was putting too much “overthinking” into it.

I understand the part of having to make a conscious choice of forgiving daily but the example used is a bad comparision.

The man has to look at his wife knowing that she took their children’s life by accident not intentionally.

I concur with the comment

I concur with the comment directly below.

Forgiveness

Unfortunately you cannot compare this to the total betrayal by your spouse, your lifetime partner, the father of your child.
My husband betrayed me in the worst possible way. Not only did he have an affair but brought her into the home we shared for 20 years, and then in our dream home where we planned on spending the rest of our lives together now that the kids had moved on. I can’t explain the hurt that it has caused me. I have to live here day in and day out knowing what went on here. The lies are unimaginable. I can’t get away from the triggers, the pain and the betrayal. I cannot forgive him for the hurt it has caused me. It never lessens, even with time. My choice is to stay and live this nightmare everyday, or hurt my child and our family even more, and of course if I choose to leave, I will forever be the bad guy. They all can forget, but I never will...

Not comparing apples to apples

It’s soon going to be 5 years since I found out my wife betrayed me. I think at one point I may have those words “I forgive you” in a counseling session but in reality I’m not sure I ever have. We are still together but my life is nothing like it was. I have little to no passion towards her. I have to literally make myself go and get her a Christmas gift, birthday gift and etc. Before D-day I would put a lot of time and effort into those special days surprising her and enjoying it. I use to think about our future but now don’t ever give it much of a thought. I think she believe I have forgiven her and that things are good between us but it’s from that. I appreciate you sharing the story and my heart goes out to that family but it’s definitely not comparing apples to apples.

Ditto

I hear you Kenny. It’s so hard to find a birthday, Mother’s Day or anniversary card with words that I can truly feel or say without tongue in cheek. Depressing even after 5 years. Lack of genuine remorse and repentance doesn’t help.

Forgiveness

I have thought about what I'm going to write here. And I have started over with my comment so many times. There is no right or wrong answer. I have come to realize over the years that there is trauma being caused to people, because of wrong choices, that is just too hard to forgive out of our own power and we deem it unforgivable. Like this woman's inlaws, they couldnt forgive her for what she's done. It was just a wrong choice, it wasn't as if she was a bad mother or were out to purposefully cause harm.
Some of us who have been cheated on cannot forgive our spouse, and deem that act unforgivable. I am not defending the unfaithfull, but if I were to put myself in my husband's shoes, wouldn't I want him to fight for me and forgive me? I have come to learn what the true meaning of forgiving 70x7 like the Bible says means, with my husband who cheated on me several times. This last time was the one that hit me the hardest and I couldn't do anything out of myself. I realized, like some of you already said, that forgiveness is for myself. If I do not forgive, I fan the flame of anger, wrath, hatred. I destroy myself (and I will not give that control and satisfaction to the affair partner.)I cannot live freely and my relationship with my Father in Heaven is severely hindered. And why would I want to give the enemy that upperhand???
I asked Christ daily to help me forgive, especially the woman who purposefully tried to destroy my family and my miracle son's life, and she doesn't even know me. Did I forgive her and my husband? YES.
Is the wounds still there? Heck yes, and will be for a long time.
Do I believe that God can change my husband?
MOST ABSOLUTELY!
He is already changing him. My husband realized he had a problem and together we are working on it. I speak positively over our marriage and over my husband daily.
You see...
I CHOOSE to love
I CHOOSE to forgive
I CHOOSE to be free

Forgiveness

What a sad story and yes this is different then an affair. However, in my situation my actions created the environment for the affair. Active Alcoholic for 20 plus years, sober going on 3 years. I have forgiven my wife as she has forgiven me. Or I should say we are actively forgiving each other on a daily basis. Our marriage is not perfect but it is better then it has ever been. We have spent a lot of time and money in counseling and AA & Alaonon. If you truly love your spouse never give up hope. When my wife had moved out was the darkest time in my life. A whole lot of God, AA and dear friends got me through it. Never would have imagined things could be as good as they are now and forgiveness is the key

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