I published this article over a year ago. Many people end up at this blog because of this topic and I believe it’s well worth posting again. 7-26-2010
What follows is wisdom on the topic of forgiveness towards those who have hurt or injured us. There is a freedom to be found through forgiveness. It’s not simple and at times it sems unfair and undoable. Yet God says we are to forgive. I pray you will benefit from the following as you follow the prompting of God’s Spirit. Allan
Definitions And Key Thoughts
What Forgiveness Is and Is Not
Forgiveness is giving up your right to hurt back. It does not diminish the evil
done against you, nor is it a denial of what happened.
Forgiveness does not take away the consequences the other person will face
because of his sin.
Forgiveness is letting go of your right to hurt the other person as he hurt
Forgiveness is an act and a process. Feelings may not be immediate, nor easy; usually it is difficult and uncomfortable.
When you make a decision to forgive, God gives you the grace
and strength to forgive and to keep on forgiving.
Forgiveness is not weakness. It is the most powerful thing you can do. It breaks the hold that evil has on your life. Refusing to forgive allows evil to continue to hurt you; forgiveness helps stop the destructive power in yournlife.
Forgiveness does not depend on the other person’s actions. It is not probationary
(“I will only forgive as long as you don’t hurt me again”).
Forgiveness is not about the offense or the one who has offended you; it is about trusting God to take care of you.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness does not require you to become a “doormat.”
Forgiveness does not require you to open yourself up to the offender to be hurt again. Forgiveness is a gift you give the offender. Trust, on the other hand, must be earned. You must still have boundaries with the person.
Forgiveness does not wait for the offender to repent. It is not about the person who hurt you repenting, it is about you deciding to forgive.
Forgiveness is about how much you trust God to take care of this for you.
Reasons to Forgive
It sets you free to move on with your life.
It refuses to allow that person who hurt you to have any more power in your life.
It opens up your relationship with God (Matthew 5:43-48).
It keeps you from becoming bitter, and thus protects those around you from having to deal with a bitter person.
It keeps you from becoming like the person who hurt you.
Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the perpetrator at all; it only hurts you.
There is a difference
forgiveness and gut
example, when a
person has had an
affair, frequently the
wronged spouse will
choose to forgive
with the head right
away, but it will take
the gut months to
When did Jesus forgive
you for your sin?
Two thousand years
ago on the cross.
Two thousand years
before you came and
begged his forgiveness,
rich, full and free.
—JOSEPH M. STOWELL
Often a person does not forgive because he doesn’t understand what forgiveness is. He doesn’t want to let the person off the hook. He needs to understand that forgiveness lets him himself off the hook and refuses to allow the perpetrator any more power in his life. Forgiveness sets him free to go on with his life.
Using scripture from Biblical Insights, learn that forgiveness is not about the offender or the offense—it’s about you being free from the need to retaliate.
Empathize with yourself and validate the evil that has been done. Don’t minimize it.
Grieve the offense and the losses that have resulted from it.
Human power alone
is not sufficient to
reach full forgiveness.
There is an
element of forgiveness
that is divine. It
cannot be reached
1. Acknowledge the Hurt
Don’t minimize it or deny it. It happened.
Don’t make excuses for the offender. It was wrong.
Write it down. Journaling is a great way to work through anger and hurt. It organizes your thoughts and helps you acknowledge the truth as you see it in black and white. Sometimes writing a letter to the offender is helpful. Do not send it, but writing it is cathartic.
2. Identify Your Emotions
When someone hurts you, you experience hurt and anger. These emotions are not sinful, but are a normal response to an offense.
It is important to identify how the offense made you feel and then to express it. After writing down the offense, write down how you felt when the offense happened and how you have felt since then.
3 Set Boundaries
Decide what you need to do to protect yourself from letting this person hurt you again. This involves how you react to the offender. For instance, you can be polite without being her best friend. You can listen without taking her advice. Write these boundaries down in your journal.
Spend as little time as possible with unsafe people. Unsafe people are those who continue to hurt you without regard for the damage it does in your life.
Don’t continue to look for approval from a person who has hurt you. Just as you don’t pay full price for damaged fruit in the grocery store, don’t pay full dollar for the offender’s approval. Recognize that, in a sense, he is damaged and is never going to be able to give you what you need.
Recognize also that you do not need his approval in order to live a free and fulfilling life. The only approval you need is God’s.
4. Cancel the Debt
Write the blank check of forgiveness. Write in your journal that this day you have released that person from the debt he owes you. You may want to write down the offenses they have done and then write “Canceled” or “Paid in Full” over them. You may want to burn the letter you wrote expressing your grief and hurt.
5. Make “Stones of Remembrance”
After God parted the Jordan River so the Israelites could go through on dry land, God told Joshua to have each tribe choose a stone to be piled up as a memorial to what great things God had done that day. Those stones served as a remembrance for the people and their children in times to come (Joshua 24).
It is good to have something “concrete” to help you remember the day you set your offender free.
6. Remember to Forget
When Corrie ten Boom was reminded of an offense someone had done to her, she responded, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”
Though you never really forget, you can remember that you forgave.
7. Recognize God’s Hand
God is in the offense; you were not a victim of Satan. Offenders are like tools in God’s hand to make you what He wants you to become. God is going to use this offense in your life for His plan.
Ask God to help you figure this out. Ask Him to show you how He will turn this into something good in your life.
Ask God to help you love the offender. Compassion is a type of love that feels pity for the offender and wants the best for him. Praying for the offender will help your feelings for him move from not wanting harm to come to him to wanting the best for him. Then you will know that you are truly free.
When you don’t
in some way that
person is in jail, and
you are the warden.
too, because you
have to make sure
the prisoner stays
He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest. —Leviticus 6:5, 6
The Old Testament offerings were designed so that the offender might receive
God’s forgiveness. But the wrongdoer also had to take responsibility for his or
her behavior by making restitution to the person who had been wronged.
We, too, must take responsibility for the effects of our sins on others. We need
to be reconciled not only to God, but also to those whom we have wronged.
Biblical law holds us responsible for our own behavior.
And when [David] had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom. —2 Samuel 14:33
Despite all that Absalom had done, David allowed for the possibility of reconciliation
by forgiving his son. Absalom, however, had no tears, no repentance,
no change of heart. Indeed, Absalom would eventually try to take his father’s
throne (2 Samuel 15:10).
One person can forgive, but it takes two to reconcile. Forgiveness does not
guarantee reconciliation. Forgiveness, however, does put salve on those who
are willing to let go of the hurt and wrongs done by others.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” —Isaiah 43:25
When the guilt of past sins weighs us down, we must remember that when we
seek forgiveness, God “blots out” our transgressions and forgets our sins.
“Blotting out” sins pictures wiping the slate clean. Whatever sins we have committed,
God promises to erase them. He knows what we have done, but He
treats us as though we have never sinned.
Because God has forgiven us, we must forgive ourselves.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” —Matthew 18:21, 22
Don’t even keep count; just keep on forgiving.
Jesus then told a parable about a man who, after receiving great forgiveness for
a large debt he owed to someone, refused to forgive a person who owed him a
small debt. Jesus was illustrating that we sinners have been graciously forgiven
by God—and are being forgiven daily, over and over again.
We should be just as gracious in forgiving others. To refuse to forgive shows
that we have not understood how much God has forgiven us.
“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus stated that God’s forgiveness of us is somehow related to how we forgive
others. When we accept God’s forgiveness of all the wrongs we have done Him,
we should be so grateful that we willingly offer that same kind of forgiveness to
those who have wronged us.
To refuse to forgive others shows that we do not appreciate the forgiveness God offers us.
but you must work
through all the stages
to achieve emotional
must feel the pain,
feel the anger, weep
for the losses; then
you can forgive with
your mind, spirit and
Lord, you servant has been deeply hurt. I want to let go, to be free of the pain, but I am finding it very difficult. The emotions go all over the place and I don’t want this pain affecting me one more waking moment. Can you help me let this go?
Can you help me to forgive this offender as he has been forgiven by you? Can you give me a free life once again? . . .