Bringing Mercy to your Marriage

It’s Divine Mercy Sunday this week, one of our favourite feasts. Inspired by the writings of St Faustina, a Polish visionary of the 20th century, this feast honours God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness.

We’ve had more than a few spats in our marriage. There. We’ve said it. People often expect us to be somehow impervious to arguments and discord because we are so-called ‘marriage experts’. Let us set the record straight; there’s a world of difference between knowing the theory of relationships and putting it into practice.

In the real world, there are all sorts of external pressures and virtue deficits in our character that make us imperfect practitioners in the business of relationships. In other words, we stuff up. Regularly.

In our many years preparing couples for marriage, we’ve always told them that if they only remember one relational skill, make it the process of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is this capacity that will enable their marriage to endure the good and the bad times.

Good communication, conflict resolution, family of origin insights are all great skills to have, but your marriage can survive without them. It can’t survive without forgiveness.

Disappointments, misunderstandings, and broken promises will be part of every marriage. Even expert communicators will sometimes be clumsy with their words or lazy with their listening. Without the ability to reconcile, the bumps and bruises of everyday relating can become major injuries, even fatal ones.

The willingness to forgive, to let go of resentment and choose love despite the failures of the other, is a crucial factor in all long-lasting marriages. It’s also vital if you want your marriage to be even the slightest bit joyful.

Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us that God’s mercy is always available to us. And when God forgives, he forgives completely.

All of us are called to ‘forgive as we are forgiven’. As couples, we are called to model God’s forgiveness in our marriage and to facilitate it in our families.

Unresolved resentment will poison any relationship, not just our marriage. It eats away at our joy and darkens our view of the other. It undermines our trust and drives a wedge between us.

Resentment can be hard to budge. Sometimes we cling to our resentment like a drowning man grasps a life float. We convince ourselves that our resentment will somehow protect us from further hurt.

But unresolved resentment does the opposite; it preconditions us to expect disappointment and predisposes us to interpret the actions of the other as hurtful confirmations of their ill-intent. Only forgiveness can liberate us from the prison of resentment and unlock our hearts for generous loving.

If you’re looking for help in dissolving resentment so that forgiveness can spontaneously emerge, check out our BreakThrough workshop. It’s now available online and provides powerful insights and simple activities designed to tap into your natural capacity for growth and healing.

Everybody has someone they need to forgive, someone against whom they hold resentment. This Divine Mercy Sunday lay down your resentment and embrace the freedom that only forgiveness can bring.



About the Author:

Francine & Byron Pirola
Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links.


  1. breakfree April 20, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    If one continues to show mercy to a narcissistic spouse for 6 years, one would have been devoid of self worth. For showing mercy to a narcissistic spouse is just feeding the with more opportunities to treat you as a punchbag with no limits. It has driven me to a continual battle against suicide.

    • Conchita April 21, 2017 at 4:27 am - Reply

      I think this comment is very realistic.

      Forgiveness is essential for personal well being, as well as for the possibility of a way forward in any human relationship.
      But if it is done only on one side in a marriage or in any relationship, then separation might be around the corner if one is to preserve sanity.

      A very important comment!
      I hope that the writers of the article can comment back on it.

      • Conchita April 21, 2017 at 4:34 am - Reply

        Along forgiveness there has to be at some point a desire on both parts for reconciliation. Otherwise the relationship can become a dangerous place to be and distance might be necesary There is so much one person can put up of another even with forgiving.

        • Francine & Byron Pirola
          Francine & Byron Pirola April 21, 2017 at 9:00 am - Reply

          Thanks Conchita. Again, we refer to our previous article on reconciliation and forgiveness

          • Conchita April 23, 2017 at 8:23 pm

            I have now read this article you proposed and it is very good. It is very important that you keep the forgiveness/ trust/ reconciliation difference well established in every article. As they are independent of one another.
            In this article you mention reconciliation in passing. But with no frame to it, It to the desire to trust that is needed to start the process. And indeed how in many cases distance is required to avoid abuse. Even if forgiveness and desire and willingness to reconcile and trust are there in one, at times it needs to be in the two.

          • Conchita April 23, 2017 at 8:33 pm

            I forgot to add that the reality of resentment has to be included. And how this stops us from forgiving. And how all we can do at times I’d to desire to forgive. Mans this desire is missing to ask God for it. It is like desiring to desire, as St Ignatius used to say.
            The beginning of forgiveness is a tricky question. As you well illustrate in the link you gave me children experience. How hard it is for them to start the process in sincerity of heart and not as automatons to follow our “instructions”…. says it all. If children have a basic vision beyond themselves it is much easier. But when some resentment sets in then the path is harder. Same for adults.

            So basically all those concepts are essential to be put forward together in your articles in order to avoid confusion.

          • Conchita April 23, 2017 at 9:06 pm

            The more I think about this passage the more I think of difficult marriages where there has been so much hurt that your words in this article are missing the point of their deep hurt that stops them moving and they need the Christ like loving hand of someone helping the abused part or even both to healing

            I know that in God all those elements come together. Healing, forgiveness, trust, end if resentment, reconciliation, But in our human nature when someone is really battered or abused, to present this article can be adding to hurt. Because in some cases resentment is such a deep expression of hurt that help is needed to break through.

            I say this because as a Catholic I have been blamed for what some perceive our Church of asking too much of people who are very hurt in their marriages. People who want to move on but whose spouse is blind and hurting more and more.

            One has to be very careful with saying things like “God forgives you you forgive”. As this is not in place when the person feels so hurt that the love and forgiveness of God is not visible.

            I hope you understand.

            I know you do because your help to couples is great.
            But I think one has to be careful when one talks about what God does. Because at times we have to be for others this God that they cannot see!
            Not everyone and at all times has the deep experience of the healing power of God and it is up to us to be Christ to one another.

            Maybe the Break Through seminar of three hours that you have gives a better idea of what you propose. I might buy it.

            For the moment let me just say that care is needed when apparently asking people in need of healing to move on.
            I know people like that. As you know too.

    • Francine & Byron Pirola
      Francine & Byron Pirola April 21, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      It sounds like you are in a very difficult situation Breakfree. We would encourage you to get professional support who will advise you wisely, challenge you when necessary and support you in your growth in virtue and holiness. We have also written elsewhere about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation and suggest that it might be helpful to you.

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