There are five reasons why you need to forgive those who hurt you (even if they don’t deserve it or aren’t the least bit sorry). Personally, I used to think about offenses done to me about a thousand times and wallow in self-pity.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know this particular coping mechanism was wrong. Since it was happening in my thought life, I thought I was good because it was contained. No one was getting hurt. (So I thought.)
It wasn’t until I got sick (really sick) that I realized replaying scenes over and over in my head was another form of unforgiveness. And it was hurting me, my family, and those who came into contact with me. I put myself in my own hell. (Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart for more details.)
Here are five reasons why God says to forgive no matter what has happened. Additionally, learn how to do it successfully. It may seem impossible right now to let go, but with God all things are possible.
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What Does the Bible Say About Forgiving Those Who Hurt You?
Here are five reasons why God says to forgive those who hurt you. In fact, these reasons aren’t just random ideas, they are commands from the Bible. I know forgiveness doesn’t make sense right now, but trust God on this one (really, everything). He knows what is best for us despite what we feel or think at the moment.
1. Forgiveness is required by God
God says to forgive those who hurt you. Unforgiveness is a sin, plain and simple. I always found this commandment to be pretty straightforward.
What I didn’t realize is forgiveness isn’t just an outward act, it includes all internal feelings too.
This is where I stumbled…my thought-life. I continued to obsess over my pain while trying to hide my anger and bitterness. My hurts were like a blanket. Think Linus. It was a part of me; I couldn’t let it go.
That is until God convicted me of my internal sin a while back. I wasn’t fooling anyone.
He showed me I needed to forgive internally as well as externally. For me, it was a process. I had to keep forgiving until I no longer held a grudge in my heart. (God is after your heart too.)
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times'” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV).
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2. God won’t forgive us
What does God say about not forgiving others? This sounds harsh, but the Bible says God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others.
If you want to be forgiven by God, then forgive those who hurt you no matter how bad the offense is. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions written in the Bible. God knows it may take a while to forgive some things, but if you keep working on it, one day it will be put behind you.
So what does Jesus say about forgiving others? The Bible says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” Matthew 6:14 (NIV).
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3. Forgiveness is for yourself
Forgiveness is for your own well-being. When you don’t forgive those who hurt you, you become tormented. Matthew 18:23-35 talks about the wicked servant being turned over to the torturers because he wouldn’t forgive. I can relate to this all too well.
I lived with unforgiveness for so long that I became blind to its presence. It was just a part of my being. Truthfully, it colored my actions and altered my behavior.
Eventually, the pain became so great it started affecting my health. It poisoned me until I was tortured. My sickness (Crohn’s disease) became a living hell.
Sadly, I could not get control of it because I was constantly angry. It wasn’t until I started forgiving those who hurt me that I healed not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. ( I no longer suffer with Crohn’s disease).
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4. Forgiveness releases God to work
When you choose to forgive those who hurt you, it releases the other person to God. It means you trust Him to mete out justice in His way and in His time.
There is a court of law for crimes committed, but in the end, you still need to release the offense(s) to your Heavenly Father.
Your offender may be off the hook with you, but he is not off the hook with God. God won’t forget. I guarantee it. Check out this verse on forgiving those who have wronged you.
Romans 12:19 is one of the best Bible verses about forgiving others. It says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
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5. Forgiveness allows you to move forward
When you don’t forgive those who hurt you, you stay stuck in the past mulling the situation over and over again in your mind. All of that self-pity keeps you from moving forward with your life. (This is how you stay a victim.) Furthermore, unforgiveness takes life-giving energy away from things that could be more productive.
For instance, once I stopped thinking about my situation and forgave, I started sleeping better, creative ideas came to me, and I put my energy toward ministry. This wouldn’t have happened if I stayed stuck in the past.
When you choose to forgive those who hurt you, it takes away the power of your offender. They no longer control your actions or take up energy or space in your brain.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
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How Do You Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You Emotionally?
You may wonder how to forgive those who hurt you emotionally. It is not easy, but it can be done if you ask God to help you. In fact, it’s a choice. Feelings come later, way later. For now, choose to do it because it’s the best way to heal.
Here are some suggestions to start the process:
Confess the sin of unforgiveness to God. This may take time. Don’t rush it.
Everything in your sinful nature wants to rebel, hate, and hold onto grudges. You will need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you do something unnatural to your DNA.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)
Choose to stop thinking about the offense. I have a picture of an actual stop sign in my head when I notice the “bad tape” playing reruns.
If I still can’t stop it, I play songs about God to distract me. I love Hillsong Worship/United. It gets my mind off of me and on to Him. FYI: Some people get stuck in this phase because it feels good to wallow. Beware!
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Talk to a counselor, pastor, or godly friend who can help you process your anger and bitterness if you can’t forget those who hurt you on your own. It is much easier to forgive and release the pain once you have unscrambled all the feelings.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks is learning how to forgive someone who isn’t sorry. When this is the case, talk to an empty chair, write a letter to the person, or even journal your feelings. This will help you get all your anger out. Tear up the letter once you are done.
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Renew your thinking. Start telling yourself the truth that you can forgive. God’s word is true. You can always count on this one thing. Make notecards or memorize verses that reinforce who you are in Christ.
You may not believe the scriptures at first. Just keep saying them every day. One day it will start to click and become truth. Your goal is to start a new “tape” in your head to replace the old one. It is a slow process of rewiring your brain.
Philippians 4: 8 tells us what we should be thinking about in our minds. It says to think about things that are true, noble, pure, just, and good.
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Release it. Let go of your past hurts. It is gone. You can never get back what you lost. No matter what you do to get even, it will never be enough. Even jail or the death penalty, which may be deserved, will not be enough.
Visualize yourself laying all the pain down at the cross, and then running to Jesus as a child runs to his daddy. See yourself in His arms holding you, maybe even cradling you if you are really wounded.
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Use prayer to forgive those who hurt you. If you are having a hard time praying for your offender, pray for God to give you the desire to pray. Hint: Pray whether you feel like it or not.
This one act will help you to forgive faster.
Make a prayer to forgive others that you can use over and over again. Ask for God to bless the person and his or her family, and to help you love this person even if he or she seems unlovable.
While you are at it…pray for God to convict your offender of any wrongdoings. And convict you. You may actually be at fault too.
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Why Forgive Those Who Hurt You?
You may wonder why you should choose to forgive those who hurt you. It is not so much for the other person, it’s for you! Not forgiving causes not only your heart to be fractured, but it also fractures your relationship with God.
You may think your offender does not deserve the gift of forgiveness. However, you don’t deserve the same gift either. Let it go. It’s just not worth it to harbor bitterness.
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
God says to forgive those who hurt you. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Here is a forgiveness checklist to help you examine your heart. Ask yourself these questions. If you say “yes” to any of them, then keep forgiving.
- Do you feel angry every time you think of _______?
- Do you have a secret desire for _______ to pay for his or her offense?
- Can you pray for ________ without resentment?
- Do you tell everyone how _______ hurt you?
- Do you talk negatively about ________ when his or her name comes up?
It takes time to forgive those who have wronged you. It is not a “one-and-done” kind of thing. Forgiveness is a process. Sometimes a long process. Trust me, it’s worth doing.
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How Do You Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Deserve It?
The person who hurt you may not deserve forgiveness or even be a safe person, but God still requires you to completely let the situation(s) go.
Forgiving doesn’t make the situation okay, it just makes you okay. No one is saying that what happened to you wasn’t horrible or wrong. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God knows every gory detail, and He will avenge it in His time.
Can you forgive someone if they are not sorry? Yes, because forgiveness doesn’t require repentance or reconciliation.
Don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. They are two very different things.
Forgiveness focuses on the offense while reconciliation focuses on the relationship. Forgiveness is something you chose to do despite your feelings; it is extended, not earned. It only requires one person–you (plus God).
Reconciliation is different. Reconciliation involves two people who are committed to working on the relationship; it is a slow process of trust that is gained over time through repentance and change.
Bible Verses About Forgiving Others
Check out these Bible verses about forgiving others. If you look at them closely, you will notice there are no exceptions. I know firsthand. I have looked for loopholes. They ain’t there.
Colossians 3:13– Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Psalm 32:5–Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Luke 6:37–“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Ephesians 4:31-32–Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Matthew 6:14-15–For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
These are just a few verses about forgiveness. There are many more. God says to forgive those who hurt you plain and simple. It’s time to do the hard thing and let go so you will be free.
How do you forgive those who hurt you? Comment below.
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34 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Forgive Those Who Hurt You (Even If They Don’t Deserve It)”
I read all of the comments that were sent to you on forgiveness. I am so pride of you . You have brought forgiveness to so many. As i read the testimony of so many people that you have touched i realized how i have hurt you in the pasted when you were a child. I am so sorry. Thank you for forgiving me and renewing our relationship.
Your earthly father
Dad, that is so sweet. I forgave you a while back but am always so glad to renew the words as forgiveness is an ongoing heart matter. I love you and pray for God to bless you and mom as you are living out your later years. I am grateful God has restored what the locusts have eaten.
YES, ITS CAN BE PAINFUL LIFE TO HAVE THE SHADOW OFF ESTRANGEMENT OVER YOUR LIFE…. ITS CRUEL AND THOSE DOING THE ESTRANGEMENT MUST BE VERY HARD HEARTED, BUT YOU MUST AS I LEARNED FORGIVE THEM AND YOURSELF BECAUSE WE TEND TO BEAT YOURSELF UP AND THAT IS NOT WHAT THE lORDS want FOR USE
Valerie, it sounds like you are really hurting. I am so sorry. I know your heart is broken. I totally get it. I would encourage you to read my book. It may help you understand what is going on in your family. While every estrangement is different, there are some things that are the same. Addictions, control, threats, money, narcissism, abuse, and life choices can play a huge part in families. Another book called When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas may help you too. Estrangement isn’t that simple. There are times when things get so toxic that it is impossible to stay in the relationship without sinning. Hopefully, your relationship will get healed with some counseling, prayer, and deep forgiveness. In the meantime, I pray God gives you the grace to wait until something changes. I would encourage you to work on yourself. It is the only thing you have the power to change. Take a good look at how you can own your part.
Forgiveness is hard, but so worth it. Thanks for a wonderful reminder. It’s something I’ve been dealing with lately and that release is truly a great feeling!
I agree! It is a weakness of mine, but I really work hard to release things. Otherwise it eats at me. Thanks for your comments.
I so love your candor in sharing. Yes, there are so many deep wounds we carry from our family relationships. I so relate because up until recently, even though I thought I was okay, I had to rise up and confront the issues. Family dynamics are an interesting thing, not so great when you are at the receiving end of dishonour and disrespect; treated like you don’t matter, others are more important or more special than you are. Who God says I am did not line up with these lies, so I had face it and deal with it. It is still a work in progress but I am so grateful that I got real with God about it. Thank you for sharing
Yaa, I am so glad you stopped telling yourself lies. This is something I am really working on. Satan is the accuser, and we fall for it hook, line, and sinker. He’s been using these same tricks since Eve, and we haven’t caught on! You do matter. God loves you. Stand on that. Thanks for your comment. Prayers for you.
Forgiveness is so powerful! For me, it’s all about entrusting myself to God. When I do that, I know that I am loved and treasured by him, so I don’t have to worry about the little slights from others.
Erin, yes, I keep going back to forgiveness every day. It is the only way to live a full life. I also don’t put myself in the crosshairs of those who do not respect my boundaries. Thanks for your comment.
What a good word. That part where you have to forgive internally as well as externally…were you reading my spiritual mail ? Ha ha! This reminds me it’s time for some self examination.
Faith, what a wonderful name! Yes, forgiveness is internal as well as external. It is really about the heart. And God knows, doesn’t He? I thought I was fooling Him. Not so much! Thanks for your comment.
This is so good Julie. I also coped with it by keeping it to myself in my thoughts and my heart, thinking it wasn’t hurting anyone. But harboring unforgiveness made me bitter and those closest to me were always affected in one way or another. Forgiveness was for me more than for the other person. Thank you so much for your beautiful post! ❤
Donna, I am so glad you have been able to release the anger and hurt. Wallowing in the pain does feel good, but eventually, it comes back to bite us. I don’t think we realize how many people it affects when we harbor unforgiveness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
It’s easy to think that once you decide to forgive that nothing else needs to be done. In some cases we must learn to forgive the same offense each day. Forgiveness is a process that really requires God help.
Brandi, you are so right. We make a choice, sometimes daily, to forgive those who have hurt us. Otherwise, we can fall into bitterness. Thanks for your comment.
You are so right, forgiveness truly is for ourselves! My cute grandma always says, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This is a beautiful and timely reminder for me.
Yes, I put that quote in this post! Forgiveness is better than harboring bitterness and wallowing in self-pity.
What’s interesting is that a lot of these tips also apply to forgiving ourselves. I especially like the tip to picture an actual stop sign instead of continuing down the rabbit hole!
Colleen, I think we can be very hard on ourselves when we mess up. I went from taking all the blame to not taking any blame. I think we have to own our stuff and then forgive everyone, including ourselves.
You make some great points about forgiveness! I always find that when I don’t want to pray about a person or issue, it’s because I know I’m holding a grudge and need to forgive. Praying about it always makes it that much clearer (which is probably why I don’t want to do it haha).
I know. It is hard to pray for someone who has hurt you. That is always the litmus test for me. If I can’t pray, then I know I need to do more forgiving. It isn’t easy forgiving and letting go of the past but it is worth it. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for this great reminder about forgiveness. I often find myself saying I have forgiven someone but still holding that grudge, which doesn’t feel good. Letting go and actually forgiving someone feels so freeing!
Ashley, holding a grudge actually takes a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is much more freeing to let go of the past and forgive those who have hurt you. I am glad you are watching yourself to make sure you keep working until the forgiveness is in full.
Your post is such a great reminder of why we need to forgive those who have hurt us! I, too, used to have a really difficult time forgiving others, especially in replaying the bad tapes in my mind and holding anger over and over again against them. There were several periods of time in my life where I held unforgiveness for several years, and I then I wondered why I wasn’t really growing in my faith. When I finally let go of that anger and bitterness and forgave, as God had commanded me, in many cases the broken relationship was better than before the hurt ever occurred!
That is a really neat testimony. I hate those bad tapes. I am sorry you have them too. They are just garbage. It is amazing how something so quiet like bitterness and anger can get out of control. It is important to forgive those who have hurt us for our own benefit. We can let go of the past and move on even if we don’t go back to a destructive relationship.
Thank you for reminding us about the importance of forgiveness. And I liked that you mentioned teaching our children how to forgive as well. Such an important healthy thing to learn. ❤️
Jenna, oh my goodness. It is amazing what our kids pick up from us. It is hard when you see a reflection of yourself walking around every day. You hope it is good, but those little things like unforgiveness can slip in and eat at the soul…of everyone. Thank goodness we can forgive those who have hurt us and let go of the past.
I once heard that bitterness is like a poison you drink hoping your enemies will get sick. (Or something like that.) It is so true that it can have real impact on your physical and mental health. Thank you for this post!
Ha ha! Yes, I know. That saying is in this post. Unforgiveness is like poison. It only hurts us when we hold on to the past and don’t forgive those who have hurt us. I am glad God gives us second, third, and fourth chances to forgive others so we don’t poison ourselves.
extacly,,you are very right..thanks for relating that we should forgive as learnt from the almighty
Shubhanjalee, it is important to forgive those who have hurt us and let go of the past. When we don’t, we hurt ourselves. The other person doesn’t even know when we wallow in pain most of the time. They can’t possibly fix all the pain either. We have to release the person and move on. “I’m sorry” is a nice bonus though.
Such a good reminder to forgive because God forgives us. Prayer is usually the last thing I want to do when someone has offended me but I know it can help release me from carrying the weight of the hurt. God is so good in that way.
So true. Our sin is much greater than anything we have done here on earth. Jesus forgave us, so we must forgive others. Not doing this goes against everything the Bible says. Forgiveness is for us. It helps us to move on with our lives and live freely. Thank the Lord we can forgive others and let go of the past.