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Building the Bridge to Forgiveness (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date 04/03/2012

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Best-selling author Gary Chapman explains how listeners can work to heal broken relationships by taking personal responsibility and seeking forgiveness. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Dr. Gary Chapman: So what are we suggesting to people who want to improve family relationships? We are suggesting that the place to start is by tearing the wall down on your side.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Dr. Gary Chapman is our guest today and he'll explain how to tear down that wall that perhaps has grown between you and your spouse or you and your child. Your host is Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, last time we began a two-part message from Dr. Gary Chapman that's very insightful. And if you missed part one, get in touch with us. I want to make sure you have it. We can send that entire message to you on CD or audio download so that you can hear part one or share the two-part series with your spouse or maybe a friend who's struggling.

John: Yeah, and request the CD when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or you can get the audio download at

Jim: To give you the gist of what we heard last time, Gary explained that when we extend forgiveness, we're helping to tear down the wall of bitterness and resentment that can grow up between us and the other person. Even if that other person won't cooperate, we have a responsibility at least to work on our side of the wall. I lost that analogy. He's gonna give us several more examples today.

John: Dr. Chapman is the author of numerous books, including The Five Love Languages and also wrote When Sorry Isn't Enough. And we'll start with a brief recap today. Here now, Dr. Gary Chapman, speaking at Moody Bible Institute on today's "Focus on the Family."


Dr. Gary Chapman: There is no question but what many marriages, many families, parent-child relationships, there are long, thick, high walls that exist between the people involved. Now how do walls get erected in relationships? I would suggest that they are erected one stone at a time.

And many of your friends now, who've been married for five years or 15 or 25, many of your friends now have a long wall, high and thick. Only now they don't have any love feelings. All they have now is hostility, hurt, anger, bitterness or just apathy, just stay away from each other, just live and let live.

Now when we come to talk about tearing down those walls so that we can begin to rebuild relationships, I want to read you the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 7, beginning with verse 3. The analogy is different, but the message is very clear. Jesus said, "Why do you behold the speck that is in (your wife's eye), but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how is it that you will say to (your husband), let me pull the speck out of your eye and behold, there's a beam in your own eye.

Jesus said, if you want to improve a relationship, the place you start is by getting the beam out of your own eye. To use my analogy, tearing the wall down on your side, not on their side.

So, I want to give you three steps on how to do that, three steps on how to get the beam out of your eye or how to tear the wall down on your side. No. 1, identify your own failures. Identify your own failures. We've got to get 'em on the front burner. Now how do you do that? I suggest prayer, prayer.

Second step, we confess those things to God—confession to God. Confession says, "Lord, the way I treated her last night is wrong. The way I have ignored her for three days is wrong, let alone what she did. That's her problem. But the way I have responded to her is wrong."

Now Paul says, "I'm committed to living with an empty conscience toward God and toward men." Now how do we get an empty conscience toward God? By confession to God, we've just talked about it. How do I get an empty conscience toward men? By confession to the person I sinned against and that's the third step. Confession to the other person. We are suggesting that people get alone with God and say to God, "Lord, where am I failing in this relationship?"

Now I'll give you an illustration out of my own life. Some years ago when our children were still at home, before I was as spiritual as I am now (Laughter), I got up one morning and I said to my wife, "Carolyn, where's my briefcase?" And she said, "Gary, I don't know. I haven't seen it." I said, "Well, it was in there by the dresser. You must have moved it." She said, "Gary, I haven't seen your briefcase." I said, "Carolyn, think. I know where the thing was. Who else would've moved it?" She said, "Gary, I haven't seen your briefcase." I said, "Carolyn, go look for the thing. I gotta get these kids to school. I'm already late." And I went on with that thing, two or three more rounds. I was screaming at my wife about a briefcase. Can you believe that? (Laughter)

Now I was nice to the kids. Have a nice day, da, da, da, da, da. But when I get rid of the kids at school, I went back to being angry with her and I drove from the school to the church thinking to myself, how could I have married such a scatterbrained woman? This time she's lost my briefcase. Let her lose her car keys if she wants to, but don't lose my briefcase. Everything I own's in my briefcase. How can I make it? [I] don't know who I'm goin' to see, what I'm going to do. How can I make it without my briefcase?

When I got to my office, I didn't walk in by the secretaries, I went in the back door to my office. Folks, when you have sinned, you don't want to see people. You want to do what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Get you a bush and hide behind it, hope God won't see you. (Laughter)

I went in the back door to my office and I opened my door and there was my briefcase. (Laughter) Now I have an option. (Laughter) I can say to myself, "I'm not going to let her know it was out here." And I could hope she would forget the ordeal. Or I could practice what I preach.

And if I had done the former, I obviously would not be usin' this for an illustration. (Laughter) So, I said to God, "Oh, Lord, the way I talked to her is wrong." Folks, it's a sin to scream at a woman." "Be ye kind one to another" and screaming at a woman is not kind. I don't care how you slice it; it's a sin to scream at a woman, also a sin to scream at a man.

And I said, "Oh, Lord, the way I talked to her is wrong. And I want to thank You for the Cross of Christ and I want to accept Your forgiveness." Folks, you don't have to beg God to forgive you. You just have to confess and accept what He's already done on the Cross.

But that's only half of it. That's an empty conscience toward God; there's another half. So, I called her. "Hi, Babe." (Laughter) "Found my briefcase." She didn't say anything. She knew there oughta be more to it than that. (Laughter) And so, I said to her, "The way I uh … the way I uh … (Clearing throat), the way I uh … (Laughter), the way I uh … uh … talked to you this morning was ((Clearing throat) … was ((Clearing throat) … was wrong." I didn't say it was easy. (Laughter) Not easy to admit that we're wrong. "And I want to ask you to forgive me."

You know what she said? "I thought you would call." (Laughter) "Why?" We're committed to this principle. Folks, I wish I were perfect. I wish I never sinned against my wife. I wish I were perfect; I'm not. Some people tell me they are. I don't know. I'm not. We don't have to be perfect to have good marriages. We do have to deal with our failure. We do have to keep the walls torn down.

Now the same thing is true with our children. I remember one morning I was driving my son to school. I don't remember how old he was, but he was goin' through that stage where children ask you a question and you give them a good answer, but they don't like your answer, so they ask the same question again. And they don't like that answer, so they ask the same question again.

About the seventh time he asked me the same question, I lost it! And I reached over and gave it to him or tried to. He scooted over and almost fell in the crack. (Laughter) And after that, there was a long silence. And then we got to school. And I said to him, "Have a good day, Bud." And he said, "It'll be hard." (Laughter)

And I drove from the school to the church, feeling terrible. Now why did I feel so terrible? Because I had just done a terrible thing. Lash out at a kid in anger? I could've killed the kid if I hit him in the right place! When I got to church, I didn't go by the secretaries. (Laughter) Thank God for back doors. (Laughter) I went in the back door to my office and I sat down and I leaned over my desk and I said, "Oh, God! Oh, God, how could I have done that? With all my education (Weeping) and all my training and all the time I help other people, how could I have done that?"

And the answer came loud and clear, "Because you are a dirty rotten sinner, that's why you can do it. And don't ever think that you're above anything." And I said, "Oh, Lord, it's wrong; it's wrong to lose my temper and lash out at my child. It's wrong. And I want to thank You for the Cross and I want to accept Your forgiveness." (Sigh)

You know, it even feels better when you confess your sins to God, but that's only half of it. That's an empty conscience toward God. And so, I thought I'm gonna go over there and knock on the door and get him out of the class and tell him I'm sorry and ask him to forgive me. And I thought, I don't know, daddy knockin' on the door and all the kids are gonna say, "What's your daddy doin' at school, boy?" And I thought, oh, I don't know. I don't think so. And I thought, well, maybe if I go over there when he's on the playground, I can call him over to the edge of the playground and I can tell him I'm sorry and ask him to forgive me. And I thought, I don't know, daddy on the playground.

So, I called my wife and I said, "Darling," I said, "Look." I said, "Let me pick Derrick up today, okay?" Our plan was, I take him to school; she picks him up in the afternoon. I said, "Let me pick him up today, okay?" She said, "Well, sure, but why do you want to do that?" I said, "Never mind, Babe." I said, "Just let me pick him up, okay?" (Laughter)

Folks, you don't have to tell your sins to everybody. (Laughter) Just the person you sinned against. (Laughter) And so, I picked him up that afternoon and he got in the car and I said to him, I said, "Derrick," I said, "Son, before we go home," I said, "I want to say to you that I'm sorry for the way I treated you this morning. I lost my temper and I lashed out at you in anger and I want to tell you that fathers should not treat children that way. And I want you to know that was wrong and I'm sorry. And I want to ask you to forgive me."

You know what he said? "Sure, Dad. Sure, Dad!" Children don't have any problem forgiving us. The problem is with us! We're too hard hearted to acknowledge that we've done wrong. And some of us as parents think that if we acknowledge that we've done wrong to our children, they will lose respect for us. No! The opposite is true. They've already lost respect for you for what you've done. They know you're wrong. But when you admit that you're wrong and you ask forgiveness, you go up in respect in your children.

Program Note:

John: Dr. Gary Chapman on "Focus on the Family" and this reminder to get his book, When Sorry Isn't Enough when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by Here now, Dr. Gary Chapman, speaking at Moody Bible Institute on today's "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note

Gary: May I tell you another failure between myself and my wife? I hate to just give you all my failures, but don't worry; it won't be all of 'em. (Laughter) I was leading a conference a few years ago, mid-August, the week that we had our anniversary. So, I was in one city and she was at home. And that's not unusual, because we often celebrate our anniversary at a time other than the anniversary, so that was no big deal. The problem was, ooh, the block was, ooh, the sin was that on the day of our anniversary, I forgot to call her! Can you believe that? Marriage counselor (Laughter), forgot to call his wife on the anniversary! I couldn't believe it myself! (Laughter)

Now folks, I call my wife every night when I'm on the road, every night I call her, but on the day of our anniversary, I didn't call her. I woke up the next morning, 6:30 in the morning and it dawned on me, I didn't call her. So, I ran across the road to a little food store. And there was a little telephone outside and so, I called her. And I said, "Carolyn, "I said, "Honey," I said, "Sweetie." (Laughter) I said, "Oh, Honey, I am so sorry." I said, "Honey, I am so sorry."

She said, "Gary!" I said, "Yes, Babe." She said, "What are you talkin' about?" (Laughter) I said, "Honey, you know what I'm talkin' about. I forgot to call you yesterday on our anniversary. I forgot to call you. Honey, I am so sorry. I said, "Now Honey, I want you to know that I was speakin' three or four times during the day and in between the times, I was speakin', I was counseling with people all day long." And I said, "Last night, I was just bone tired, Darling." And I said, "There is no phone, Honey in the dormitory where I'm staying. But Honey, it's still wrong. Honey, I should've called you. Darlin', I am so sorry."

And she said, "Gary!" (Laughter) And I said, "Yes, Babe." She said, "Gary, you are forgiven." I said, "No, Babe. That's too easy. No, Babe, Honey, it was awful, Honey. Sorry (Laughter); I am so sorry; I am so sorry." (Laughter and Applause) And she said, "Gary! You are forgiven."

Ooh! And do you know that, that woman has never, ever brought that up to me again. She has never, ever [mentioned it]. I think she's ashamed of it. She didn't want to bring it up again. (Laughter) She has never, ever mentioned it again.

Folks, you're never gonna have a good marriage if you're not willing to forgive when your spouse confesses. But I know what some of you are thinking. Oh, I know what some of you are thinking. "Yeah, Gary, that's a little deal, forget your wife's anniversary. She can forgive you for that. But you don't understand. My wife left me. My wife was unfaithful to me sexually. My wife had an affair with somebody else and then confessed and came back and asked me to forgive her. Aaahh!"

I understand the pain and the hurt. I understand what you're saying. I'm not putting all sins in the same category in terms of pain and hurt and results. Yes, some hurt worse and some hurt longer than others. I understand that, but before you decide not to forgive, you best read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 [FYI: Matthew 6:14-15], when He said that if you do not forgive those who sin against you, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your sins.

Folks, there's not any option. There is no option. If we are the people of God and if we have experienced His forgiveness, we have no option, but to forgive our spouses, forgive our spouses.

Now we cannot accept wrong behavior as a way of life. No, no, no. I'm not saying we accept our spouse having an affair and continuing in that affair. No, no, no, no, no. But I'm saying, if there's confession and there's repentance and they're turning around and they're asking to be reconciled, as Christians, we must forgive.

I give you one other illustration from my own personal life. I'm gonna share with you the happiest night of my life in terms of my relationship with my son and the saddest night of my life. It all happened on the same night.

I think he was about 15. I was in his room one night and we got into it. Do you ever "get into it" with your teenagers? I got into it and when we got into it, I gave him some nasty, mean, harsh words and he gave me some nasty, mean, harsh words. And we were giving it to each other.

And in the middle of that interchange, he walked out of the room, walked across the living room, walked out the front door and slammed the door. And when the door slammed, I woke up. And I thought, "Oh, Lord, what have I done? What have I done?"

And I sat down on the couch and started crying; "weeping" would be a better word. And my wife came in and tried to console me. She put her arm around me and she said, "Gary, that wasn't your fault. I heard that whole thing. He shouldn't be allowed to talk to you that way." And she tried to console me.

But you know, it's hard to console a sinner. And so, after I had wept for a while, I got up and got on my knees on the couch and I said, "Oh, God, oh, God! (Sigh) It's wrong. It's wrong. The way I treated him is wrong, let alone what he did to me. The way I responded to him is wrong." And again, I thought how could I do that, with all my education and all my training.

And the message was clear. Folks, we are sinners. And I said, "I want to thank You for the Cross." I don't know about you, but I have a profound appreciation for the Cross of Christ, a profound appreciation for the Cross of Christ. "I want to thank You for the Cross and I want to accept Your forgiveness." (Sigh)

I sat on the couch I don't know how long. I don't know if it was 30 minutes or three hours. On those occasions, time doesn't matter. You been there? Time doesn't matter. But in due time, my son walked in and I said, "Derrick, could you come in here a minute, son?"

And he came in and sat down on the gold chair and I was still on the couch and I said, "Son, I want you to know that I'm sorry." I said, "You know, it's been a long time since I lost my temper like that, but I want you to know it's wrong. I should never have yelled at you like I did. And I want you to know that those things I said is not really the way I feel about you. At the moment I felt that, but it's not really the way I feel about you and I want you to know that. And I want you to know that I'm sorry. And I want to ask you to forgive me."

You know what he said? He turned to me and he said, "Dad, that wasn't your fault." He said, "I precipitated that." He said, "I shouldn't have talked to you that way." He said, "When I was walkin' up the road, I asked God to forgive me and I want to ask you to forgive me."

You understand why I would say that was the saddest night of my night with my son and the happiest night of my life? You understand what just happened? My son just demonstrated that he's learned a big lesson in life, how to empty his conscience to God and how to empty his conscience to men. That boy's gonna need that as long as he lives.

But if he ever gets married, that son of mine will sin against his wife. I wish he wouldn't. I wish he wouldn't, but he will sometimes do wrong. He will not be perfect, but if he has learned how to empty his conscience to God and empty his conscience to his wife, he has learned one of the big, big, big lessons in personal relationships.

You see, folks, many of us could go a long ways in restoring relationships in our families if we were willing to go and share with that other family member that we recognize our own failures and ask their forgiveness and let God deal with them about their failures.

I'm gonna give you an assignment when we finish this afternoon. I'm gonna suggest that you take at least five minutes to get alone with God and take any relationship that you would like to improve—marriage, parent-child, brother-sister, whatever, any relationship you'd like to improve—and take that relationship to God and say to God, "Lord, where am I failing that person?

And whatever God brings to your mind, you write it down and confess it to God. And then I want to suggest that you go to that person. If they're here, you go to them. If they're at home, you can call them on the phone and say to them, "I've been thinkin' about us and I've asked God to show me where I have been failing you. And He gave me a list and I've asked Him to forgive me and I want to ask you to forgive me."

I tell you, that could be a giant step in many family relationships. I want to challenge you to apply this principle to some relationship that you would like to see improved.


John: Some wise words and a challenge from Dr. Gary Chapman on today's "Focus on the Family" and I hope God does bring someone to mind for you that you can take these steps of forgiveness as Dr. Chapman described for us.

Jim: John, let's post those steps online for those who may have missed some of Gary's message, because they're that important. And if you can, go online and take a look at 'em.

Hey, I also want to thank Gary for his exceptional honesty in this presentation. I wish we could all meet him. He's a great person and that's a badge of courage in my opinion for him to express his faults in such an open way on national radio. Gary is a wonderful husband, a wonderful father and to be honest, I think he's one of our best guests here at Focus on the Family.

But you know what he would say? It was a process as a young married to where he is today, learning these things. In fact, you know, he gives us so many wonderful nuggets. I come home and I'll say, "Jean, I think we should, you know, think of one thing we can do or I can do to improve our marriage." And she'll say, "Have you taped with Gary Chapman today?" (Laughter) I mean, that's how good it is.

John: Yeah, he's kinda like a mentor to all of us here.

Jim: He is and I always feel like I do a bit better in my marriage, in my parenting after we've had Gary on the program. That wisdom that he provides, specifically in the area of forgiveness is evident in his book, When Sorry Isn't Enough. There is where he explains these principles in so much detail and I'd love to get this book into your hands. So make a donation of any amount today and we will provide that book as our way of saying thank you.

And let me remind you, when you make a donation to Focus on the Family, you're helping ministry take place and that's a great reason to get Dr. Chapman's book from us instead of another bookseller. I hate to be that honest about it, but that's where it's at. We're working every day to help marriages thrive and here's just one example of how we're helping to save marriages. It's our Hope Restored four-day intensive counseling in Branson, Missouri. The property is beautiful. We've completed the cabins where the guests stay and what I'm most proud about is, it has a[n] 85 percent success rate post two years after the counseling is done. It is an incredible program and I hope if you need it or you know somebody who needs that kind of intervention, that you'll call us here at Focus. So, get in touch with us today and become a part of our marriage-saving team.

John: We have a lot of offer and you can call 800- A -FAMILY to make a difference; 800-232-6459 or visit our website,

And when you're online with us, be sure to look for The Steps to True Forgiveness that we're posting for you there. And next time, be sure to join us as Steve Green gives us an inside look at the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. It's spectacular and it'll be opening up this fall.

Well, I'm John Fuller and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening.

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Gary Chapman

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Dr. Gary Chapman is the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He's also an international public speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages which has sold more than five million copies and has been translated into nearly 40 languages. Dr. Chapman holds several academic degrees including a Ph.D. in adult education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.