Focus on the Family Broadcast

Building the Bridge to Forgiveness (Part 2 of 2)

Building the Bridge to Forgiveness (Part 2 of 2)

Dr. Gary Chapman explains how we can begin to heal any relationship by taking responsibility for our part of the problem and seeking forgiveness from both God and the other person. He explains how small injustices can create bricks in a wall between us and our loved one, and the place to start is tearing down the wall on our side. Dr. Chapman illustrates the concept of forgiveness through Bible verses and through descriptions of conflicts with his own wife and son. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 3, 2012


John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, Dr. Gary Chapman shares ideas for reconciliation between husbands and wives, or parents and their children.

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.

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John: Well, thanks for joining us, and stay with us. We’ve got great practical strategies coming up. Your host is Focus president and author 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, please get in touch with us, we can send you the entire message 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. Or you can get the Focus on the Family app for your smartphone, that way you’ll never miss an episode.

John: And our number is 800-A-FAMILY, or find us online in the links for, uh, other ways to listen at

Jim: To give you the gist of what we heard last time, Gary explained that when we extend forgiveness, we are helping to tear down the wall of bitterness and resentment that can grow up between us and the person who wronged us, and even if that other person won’t cooperate, we have a responsibility to at least work on our side of the wall. And he’s gonna give us several examples today.

John: Yeah, and Gary Chapman is the author of a number of bestselling books, all wrapped around the five love languages, and he’s written one on this topic called The Five Apology Languages. We have that book here at Focus on the Family, and when you request it from us, you’ll be helping us do ministry. The proceeds go right back into the work of Focus. So here’s Dr. Chapman speaking at Moody Bible Institute on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And we’ll start with a brief recap.

Dr. 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 to walls get erected in relationships? I would suggest that they are erected one stone at a time. And many of your friends now, who have 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. 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. 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. Thou hypocrite.” 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 get the beam out of your eye, or how to tear the wall down on your side. Number one, identify your own failures. We’ve got to get ’em on the front burner. Now how do you do that? I suggest prayer. Second step, we confess those things to God, confession to God. Confession says, “Lord, the way I treated her last right is wrong.” Now Paul says, “I’m committed to living with an empty conscious toward God and toward men.” Now how do we get an empty conscious toward God? By confession to God, we’ve just talked about it. How do I get an empty conscious toward men? By confession to the person I sinned against, and that’s the third step. Confession to the other person. 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,

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: I got up one morning and I said to my wife, “Carolyn, where is 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, I went on with that thing, two or three more rounds. I was screaming at my wife about a briefcase. Can you believe that?

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: Now I was nice to the kids. Have a nice day, da, da, da, da, da, da. But when I got 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 scattered-brain 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 is in my briefcase. How can I make it? Don’t know who I’m going’ 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 wanna see people. You want to do what Adam and Eve did in the garden. Get you a bush and hide behind it and hope God won’t see you. I went in the back door to my office, and I opened my door, and there was my briefcase. Now, I have an option, I can say to myself, “I’m not gonna 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 using this for an illustration. 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 conscious toward God. There’s another half. So I called her. Hi, babe. Found my briefcase.” She didn’t say anything. She knew there ought to be more to it than that.

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: And so I said to her, “The way I, uh, the way I, uh, the way I, uh, the way I, I, talked to you this morning, was, was, was wrong.” I didn’t say it was easy. 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’d call.”

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: 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 or 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 going 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, and they don’t 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.

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: 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.”

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: 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 in 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.

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: Thank God for back doors. 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 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.” You know, it, it even feels better when you confess your sins to God. But that’s only half of it. That’s an empty conscious toward God. And so I thought I’m gonna go over there and knock on the door and get him out of class and tell him I’m sorry and ask him to forgive me. And I thought, I don’t know, Daddy knocking on the door, and all the kids are gonna say, “What’s your daddy doing at school, boy?” I thought I don’t know; I don’t think so. So I called my wife and I said, “Darlin’, look. Let me pick Derek 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 you wanna do that?” I said, “Never mind, babe, just let me pick him up, okay?” Folks, you don’t have to tell your sins to everybody.

Audience: laughter.

Dr. Chapman: Just the person you’ve sinned against. And so I picked him up that afternoon and he got in the car, and I said to him, I said, “Derek, son, before we go home, I wanna say to you that I’m sorry for the way I treated you this morning. I lost my temper and I lashed out you in anger. And I wanna 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 from your children.

John: You’re listening to Focus on the Family and that’s Dr. Gary Chapman, and you can get his book, The Five Apology Languages for a donation of any amount to the ministry of Focus on the Family. Make that a one-time pledge or a one-time gift and we’ll send the book to you, and we’ll include a free audio download of the entire presentation as well. Donate and request your resources at or call us. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Let’s return now to more from Dr. Gary Chapman.

Dr. Chapman: 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. 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 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 forgot to call his wife on the anniversary! I couldn’t believe it myself! 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, uh, food store, and there was a little telephone outside, and so I called her. And I said, “Carolyn, I said honey, I said sweetie, I said oh honey, I am so sorry. I said honey, I am so, so sorry.” She said, “Gary.” I said, “Yes, babe.” She said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Honey, you know what I’m talking about, I forgot to call you yesterday on our anniversary. I forgot to call you. Honey, I am so sorry. Now, honey, I want you to know that I was speaking three or four times during the day and in between the times I was I was counseling with people all day long.” And I said, “Last night, I was just, I was just bone-tired, darlin’, and there is no phone, honey, in, in the dormitory where I’m staying. But, but honey, it’s still wrong. Honey, I, I should’ve called you. I am so sorry.” And she said, “Gary!” 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, it was sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry.” And she said, “Gary! You are forgiven.” And do you know that that woman has never ever brought that up to me again. She has never ever. I think she’s ashamed of it, she doesn’t wanna bring it up again. (laughs) She has never ever mentioned it again. Oh, what a woman. She forgave me. 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. Ah!” I understand the pain and the hurt. I understand what you’re saying. I’m not putting all sins in the 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 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. No, we cannot accept wrong behavior as a way of life. No, no, no. We are 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’ll 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, 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.” 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 all… And the message was clear. Folks, we’re sinners. And I said, “I wanna 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 wanna thank you for the cross and I want to accept your forgiveness.” 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, “Derek, could you, 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. I precipitated that. I shouldn’t have talked to you that way. When I was walking 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 life 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 conscious to God and how to empty his conscious to men. That boy is gonna need that as long as he lives. But if he ever gets married, that, that son of mine will sin against his wife. I wish he wouldn’t, I wish he wouldn’t, be he will sometimes do wrong. He will not be perfect. But if he has learned how to empty his conscious to God and empty his conscious 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 way in restoring relationships in our families if we were willing to go and share with that other family member that was 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. 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 that you would 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 thinking 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 wanna challenge you to apply this principle to some relationship that you would like to see improved.

John: Such wise words, and, uh, quite a challenge there from Dr. Gary Chapman on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And I hope God brings someone to mind for you, that you can take these steps of forgiveness that Dr. Chapman described for us.

Jim: John, we’ll post those steps online for those who may have missed some of the message that Gary provided. It’s important, and if you can, go online and take a look at that.

John: Yeah, the article is called The First Steps to True Forgiveness, and you’ll find that at

Jim: I also wanna say thank you to Gary for his exceptional honesty in this presentation. That’s a badge of courage in my opinion, for him to express his faults in such an open way on national radio, really for our benefit, so we can learn from those things. Uh, people who don’t know him might have heard these examples and come away thinking’, “He’s not a very nice man.” But that is not true. He is being vulnerable. It’s part of the process of sanctification. it’s what the Lord does in each of our lives to help us recognize our faults and use His power to help us improve and grow. 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.

John: No, I’d have to agree, Jim. And, and part of that is the transparency. And he, he’s kind of a mentor for all of us.

Jim: He really is, and I always feel like I do a bit better in my marriage and my parenting after we’ve had Gary on the program. Jean would attest to that, and you know, that wisdom of his, specifically in the area of forgiveness is evident in the book The Five Apology Languages where he explains these principles in much more detail. And as we said last time, if you’re in an abusive relationship, please get yourself and your children to a place of safety and keep that location a secret before you reach out for help. This program was intended for generally healthy marriages. And for marriages that are in more trouble, I’d highly recommend our four-day intensive experience called Hope Restored. Many of those participants write to us to say how impressed they were by the entire experience, and they say that they feel like they experienced years’ worth of counseling over those four days, thus the word intensive. And when we contact those couples, two years after their visit, over 80%, 80% are still married and doing well. It’s really a remarkable program. And when you give to Focus on the Family, you’re helping us support and save those marriages around the world. Can I ask you to consider making a monthly pledge to the ministry? It doesn’t have to be a large amount. It’s that month-to-month consistency that really helps us smooth out those ups and downs for the budgeting process. And when you make a monthly pledge of any amount, we’ll send you The Five Apology Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. And if you can’t make a monthly commitment, we get that. We’ll send the book to you for a one-time gift for any amount. We just wanna get a copy to you if you need it. So get in touch with us today and become a part of our marriage saving team.

John: And you can reach us by calling 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or donate online and request your copy of The Five Apology Languages at When you get the book from us, we’ll include a free audio download of Gary’s entire presentation. When you’re online, be sure to look for that article First Steps to True Forgiveness that you can print off and keep for the next time you have one of those difficult conversations that Dr. Chapman described. Next time, author Brenda Garrison encourages parents to build bridges of love rather than walls of resentment.


Brenda Garrison: The thing is, we have to give our kids a place to be who they are. It’s gonna ooze out somewhere. And if we can give ’em a space to be who they are, with a messy bedroom, say, they are gonna be way more apt to follow some other rules such as curfew, such as our rules with the internet.

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The 5 Apology Languages: The Secret to Healthy Relationships

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