Question: “What’s the difference between forgiveness and being a doormat?”
For starters, forgiveness is something God calls us to, and being a doormat is not. I believe the Bible is clear that love is to be wise, which includes knowing when we’re being taken advantage of and setting boundaries from it happening if we can help it.
Let’s take an example of someone who comes home late from work every day, sometimes apologizing, sometimes acting as if he hasn’t done it, but when he comes home late, he is upset if dinner isn’t hot and waiting for him and that the kids are all crying (because they’re cranky and hungry).
Every time he does this, you must forgive him in your heart for being late and for getting upset with you.
However, you do not need to apologize to him for his dinner not being warm enough or for the crying children, because those are not things you caused (in fact, he has caused those things).
So, here’s what I would do.
I would tell him that because you have children, it is important to them that they be on a schedule and that they have dinner by six every evening. You should also tell him that it is very important to you that you sit together and have dinner as a family and that you hope he will be home in time to join you.
Then, on nights when he comes home by 6, sit together and try to enjoy that meal together as best as you can, and even – non-condescendingly – thank him for coming home on time. Reinforce the good behavior.
But on nights when he is not home by 6, you sit down with your children and have dinner. Also try to enjoy each other’s company, husband- and father-less, as best as you can. When he comes in, let him know that a plate of food is in the frig for him to warm up and – non-guilt-inducing-ly – that you missed his company.
Hopefully, he will handle this well and not say anything hurtful. If he does, though, if he yells at you for not waiting for him, calmly remind him of what you had said you were going to do about dinnertime, and if he begins yelling, let him know that you don’t deserve to be yelled at and that you’ve said all you need to say, and walk out of the room.
Remember, forgiveness is for our benefit and something we are to choose to do to be obedient to God. But being a doormat is a choice we bring on ourselves, a cycle that we can stop, and something that God doesn’t want for you.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.