February is a month when we celebrate love and romantic relationships, with Valentine’s Day on February 14. But if love is a positive thing, why do so many marriages and couples face conflict and strained relationships? It is because we are sinful people living in a broken, sinful world, and the devil and our own sinful selves work to undermine our relationships.

Our pride is easily offended if we feel slighted or not understood by those we love. It is easy for us to harden our hearts in those situations and fail to determine the source of the conflict and to work to resolve the issues while they are small. We allow hurts of the past to fester and grow and impact our current relationship with our loved ones. We do not forgive and forget easily.

Forgiveness is key to positive relationships. It is hard for us to take responsibility for our part in conflict and to work to keep or restore the peace in relationships, but it is necessary for the sake of positive long-lasting relationships. It is necessary for us when conflict develops to swallow our pride, approach our loved one and say those challenging words, “I’m sorry for what I said (or did). Please forgive me.” We may have been the one who caused the argument or started the conflict, or we may be the offended party, but regardless, we value the relationship strongly enough to want to keep our list of offenses short and resolve the conflict quickly, taking responsibility for our part. Paul encourages in Ephesians 4:26,“Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

It may seem strange to be talking about conflict and forgiveness in the context of love and Valentine’s Day. But we acknowledge that marriage and relationships are under attack almost continuously in our society and so need to be encouraged and preserved. Marriage and relationships are to be valued, and we need to take regular account and work to preserve them. Our sharing of forgiveness will strengthen marriage and relationships to give us strong families, and improve our relationships in churches and schools.