As my wife and I approach our first anniversary, I've taken some time to think about all the lessons I've learned over the past year (let's be honest -- all the lessons my wife has taught me). It's not been difficult, since I've recorded many of them on my blog.
There's one lesson I've yet to write about, though. And I happen to believe it's the most important lesson I learned in my first year of marriage.
No, it doesn't have to do with avoiding conflict, like much of what I learned. Instead, it involves the other side of the coin -- resolution.
In any relationship, conflict is inevitable. This is especially true of marriage.
Think of it like a chemical reaction. With marriage, two people are linked together, and in that state they proceed through life -- sleeping, eating, doing everything side by side. Tension is bound to arise.
While conflict comes naturally, resolution does not. It takes practice and skill and work. Hopefully with time we get better at it.
Early in our marriage, I thought forgiveness led to resolution.
My wife and I would get into an argument, and after a while, both of us usually ended up apologizing for something we'd done. What I noticed, though, is while we'd technically forgiven each other, hurt and resentment and bitterness often lingered. Which, of course, led to more conflict.
Forgiveness alone is never enough, because it only pardons a wrong.
Forgiveness is a transaction -- a canceling of a debt, a remission for a wrong. It doesn't heal a wound. It only excuses what caused the wound. But the wound still exists -- aching, throbbing, festering.
Bitterness compounds bitterness. Hurt compounds hurt. Anger compounds anger.
Before long, there's a deep divide separating husband and wife.
Another step is necessary to reach resolution. To make what was once, true again.
That step is reconciliation. And every conflict -- at least every healthy conflict -- must end with it.
Reconciliation takes what is broken and brings healing.
Reconciliation transforms bitterness into peace, resentfulness into harmony, division into unity. Every reconciliation is an allegory of the Resurrection. By its nature, it brings what is dead back to life.
Of course, reconciliation is never easy. It's so much harder than simply apologizing and forgiving. It takes time and patience and humility and, most of all, mutual willingness.
And this is costly -- exceedingly costly -- because it requires surrendering everything that stands between and replacing it with love. Unconditionally.
But reconciliation is perhaps the most beautiful interaction in any relationship. It is the saving resolution to a dramatic crisis. It is the long-awaited reunion of two lost souls. It is the unforeseen twist to a tragedy-turned-romance.
And it is the most important lesson I learned in my first year of marriage.
This post was previously published at PaulPerkins.com.
How have you experienced the transforming power of reconciliation? Comment below.