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What's New:

  • Conquer Workshop: You asked and we listened! We are doing our Conquer Workshop again on Tuesday, March 30th. The topic will be How long should you keep hoping for your destructive spouse to change and how will you know his change is real? You can save your seat at leslievernick.com/joinwebinar

Does Grace and Forgiveness Erase Negative Consequences or Amends Making after Serious Sin?

by Leslie Vernick

Recently a man wrote me and was challenging my theology. He told me I was stuck in Old Testament legalistic thinking. He said that if his wife practiced New Testament grace and forgiveness they would still be together. Instead they were separated.

I asked several clarifying questions and it seems that after an abusive incident (not the first one) he expected that as a Christian, his wife would forgive him, offer him a clean slate as sort of a do-over mentality where they would start fresh and not bring up what happened yesterday or the day before.

But rather than the clean slate he longed for, this time his wife told him she was separating from him. She told him that unless he got professional help and showed her over time that he could be safe and manage his negative emotions in a mature way, she would not be coming back. She could forgive him, but she could not live with him. He said her offer of forgiveness was insincere unless she was willing to fully reconcile.

Their church agreed that his behavior was sinful, but in the end sided more with his thinking than hers. He was welcomed back into fellowship with open arms because he said he was repentant. His wife was disciplined and shunned because she wouldn’t comply with their church’s counsel to move back home. After all, he said he was sorry and was willing to meet with the pastor for counseling. She was labeled hard-hearted and rebellious because she refused to subject herself to the possibility of further abuse.

It deeply concerns me how quickly in Christian circles the focus of the problem gets twisted. The victim is now labeled the unrepentant, hard-hearted one because she refused to quickly reconcile. The one who sinned against her is now seen as the victim of his hard-hearted, unforgiving spouse.

Therefore, it’s imperative that we wrestle with the question: Do claims of repentance immediately cancel out any negative consequences a person repenting experiences for their own sinful choices? Does grace and forgiveness mean that there is never any extended relational fallout or broken trust in one’s relationships?

And, is there ever a need to show over time (especially when the sin has been repetitive) that repentance has indeed occurred? Is there a place in New Testament theology for making amends to the one wronged or is that just an Old Testament concept?

When a wounded spouse eventually starts implementing boundaries and consequences she has often been accused of being unforgiving and lacking grace. But is it possible that boundaries and consequences are evidence of godly love?

Paul says that godly love does no harm (Romans 13:10) but that does not mean biblical love never hurts. Paul spoke sternly to those who claimed faith, but whose actions showed otherwise and encouraged setting firm boundaries with these individuals (1 Corinthians 5:9).

Jesus often spoke firmly to the Pharisees, and Proverbs reminds us that a good friend might inflict loving wounds (Proverbs 27:6). All of us find it painful to swallow the medicine of hard truth. It hurts, but like strong ammonia revives the faint, hard truth can shock us awake so that true healing can take place. (See, for example Matthew 23 or Mark 7:6-12).

When a wife refuses to pretend, to placate, or continue the same destructive dance, she is not only doing that for her welfare, but also for his. This is biblical love at it’s best. It’s risky, sacrificial, and acts in the best interests of the beloved.

Once the boundaries and painful consequences are in place, the individual runs to the Christian counselor or pastor. He pleads, begs, and pours on the charm attempting to persuade us that God is doing a great work in his or her heart. Not necessarily true. Listen carefully. Tears indeed are the language of the heart but what exactly are their tears saying? I’m so sorry. I’ve sinned against God and my spouse? Or poor me. I feel devastated because these consequences are painful. There is a huge difference.

In discerning genuine repentance, we want to know: Is he aware of the pain he has caused? Does he show concern for his spouse’s suffering or only his own? Is he aware of deeper heart issues such as attitudes of entitlement, selfishness, laziness, or pride? Or is he focused primarily on himself, his own pain, his own justifications, and on what his spouse is supposed to do such as forgive him, remove negative consequences, and reconcile?

Genuine repentance acknowledges that serious and repetitive sin does have negative consequences on relationships. Is he willing to do what it takes to change and make amends without focusing on the response of the wounded? Like Zacchaeus, once he saw the kindness of Christ, he was changed. We see evidence of this because his first action step was to make amends and offer restitution to those he had harmed. (See Luke 19:8)

If there is no evidence of these things, then their sadness is sorrow for themselves, not godly sorrow. Words won’t show you these things, only actions over time will (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20).


From Shame to Glory: Your Pathway to Freedom

by Kathryn W. Chamberlin

Each of us has had times when we felt mortified, experiencing shame about who we are. For some, a sense of shame is chronic. Others know this experience as an occasional acute attack of shame leaving them devastated. Few Christian writers have delved into this area of unspeakable need. For Kathryn Chamberlin, it has been a life calling to bring healing to shame sufferers, through counseling, teaching, seminars-and now, this book. It is a deeply generous outpouring of Katie's heart and insights into shame, and into the steps toward healing-toward gaining the supreme sense of God-given worth.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! One winner for each book (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of “Finding Hope in Crisis” by Grace Fox is Ellen J. and Tera B.



Want to have Leslie speak at your event?
Click here to find out more information.

Call to Peace Ministry Retreat
May 13 – 16th. 2021
Asheville, NC

The Village Church
December 3rd
Flowermound, TX

Lighthouse Christian Church
Date TBA
Rosemount, Minnesota

Center for Christian Counseling
Date TBA
Madison, WI

My Husband is Stuck in Victim Mindset and is Draining Me

Question: My husband is chronically complaining and often in a bad mood. He finds something wrong with everything and frequently has a pity party for himself. I don’t know how to help him or even how to live with him in a godly way. I don’t want him to ruin our family life for our children. What can I do?

Answer: It is extremely difficult to live with a negative person. I call it victim mindset. People with victim mindset aren’t necessarily victims of anything horrible, (although they can be) but habitually blame everything but themselves for how they feel and the actions they take or don’t take.

Often men who are negative are clinically depressed have this tendency, and I hope you have checked out that possibility with a professional. However, some folks are just habitually negative and don’t understand how miserable they make themselves as well as the toxic effect they have on others. Bad moods and negative attitudes are contagious like COVID and you will need to do some things to protect yourself and your children from catching it.

But you asked if there is something you can do to help him? The answer is yes and no.

What People Are Saying About Leslie’s Walking Conquer Support Group

I can't thank you guys enough for all this ministry has given me. I have finally escaped my abusive husband after many attempts and empty promises of change. I don't think I could have ever had the strength and courage to do it without Leslie and the Conquer program. Thank you again for all you do and please extend my heartfelt gratitude to Leslie as well.

~Dana Lee


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States