What to do when you don’t want to forgive

Who do you need to forgive? 

You probably don’t have to think long when this subject comes up. You can already visualize the person. And just in case you come up empty, let me ask you this question.

If you were walking down the street and you noticed someone coming towards you, who would you NOT want it to be?

Sometimes we resist admitting our struggle with forgiveness. But the truth is, forgiveness is difficult. Here are 3 barriers to forgiveness.

Forgiveness seems like we’re condoning the wrong done

Often we struggle with forgiveness because we see it as a free pass to the person we don’t think deserves any free passes. We think if we forgive them we are saying, what they did was okay. And if we struggle with forgiveness it’s about what someone did that is NOT okay.

Forgiveness is not blindly glossing over what was done. Instead, it is acknowledging it 100% and making a decision to NOT hold it against the person who offended you.

More than anything, we don’t want to give the message that the offense was no big deal. So we dig in our heels and make the decision to not forgive, or at the very least, to hold onto our resentment for a designated period of time. The problem is, there is no chart for offenses, and often when we choose to do this, we get stuck in it.

Sometimes we have to forgive more than once

Sometimes we are talking about repeat offenses and if we struggle with one, then forgiveness just multiplies when the offense is repeated. And it’s more like exponentially affected.

But even so, we’re not given the right to withhold our forgiveness if we have been wronged repeatedly. In fact, in scripture, this question was even asked of Jesus. And we can guess that the one offended was hoping the answer would be more in the favor of the person wronged.

Jesus was asked, “Seven times? Shall we forgive seven times?”

He responded, “Seventy times seven.”

And we struggle with being wronged two times.

Is Jesus serious? And the answer is yes. Serious enough that he lived what he talked about. When Jesus went to the cross, it was for some who would not believe. Now that’s serious.

Forgiveness is impossible

I’ll go a step further. I believe forgiveness is at times, impossible. 

How do you forgive someone who accidentally killed a loved one? And what about if it wasn’t an accident?

Forgiveness is something that requires God’s strength. I do not believe we can forgive some things without God’s help. But God‘s specialty is impossible things.

He even says the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. He knows what he’s asking us to do is impossible. But he is not asking us to do it in our own strength.

No. He’s right there. He’ll give you the words, he’ll change your heart.

God empowers us to do the things he asks of us.

So how do we get past the barriers?

The only way to do what’s impossible is to rely completely on God. Here are 
3 steps to forgiveness.

1. Pray

Anytime we undertake something beyond us, we need to take it to the Father. Forgiveness is his area, he will help us. And first he will work on our hearts. You see, it’s possible to pray even before you have the desire to forgive. 

2. Decide to be open

There is an order to these steps. You don’t want to make the decision without prayer. Your heart will not be in the right place. The place where you’re ready to forgive. Forgiveness is not something to be check off your to-do list. One of the hardest parts of forgiveness is deciding to do it. 

3. Move toward the person

If you are cringing at even the thought of being with the one who has wronged you, then you are hearing me right. It is scary. Except that you are doing something God asks you to do, and you are not doing it alone. He promised he would be with us.

Let God be the one to open doors for you. God can also work on someone’s heart. Just like he worked on yours.

What if it doesn’t work?

People ask, what do I do if the person will not be responsive to me? And the truth is, it might happen. 

We are individuals who think and act differently. You could very well forgive the person and they could respond, 

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The good news is, we are responsible for following what God asks us to do, but the results are not our responsibility.

God tells us as much as lies within us, to live peaceably with all men. Why did he say that? Well, he knows some are harder to live with than others. After all, he made them.

Forgiveness. It’s impossible. Some will not respond the way we want, but we will still know we did what God wanted us to do. And nothing compares with that.

What follows?

This is an area that only God knows about. You can do all the right things and still not get the results you hoped for.

What do you do if you forgive someone and they close up to you?

You move on. 

But don’t write them off. You are in a very unique position. You can pray for this person. And God can put them on your heart if you’re willing.

God is in the business of restoration. He restores relationships. But he will never force someone to do something. Because he’s given us a free will to choose. Just like you made the choice to forgive. 

We don’t mind free will if we’re talking about our free will, but we’re not crazy about it when it refers to someone else.

I’m glad God promised to always be with us. That he loved us so much he forgave us. Because the truth is. We didn’t deserve it.

And that’s how we’re told to forgive. Just as Jesus did. 

Call to Action:

You do you need to forgive?
What did you find helpful in forgiving others?
I’d love to hear from you.

Writer. Poet. Speaker. Married to Michael, grandmother of 5. Author of 14 books, including Broken: A story of Abuse and Survival. AnnePeterson.com
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Writer. Poet. Speaker. Married to Michael, grandmother of 5. Author of 14 books, including Broken: A story of Abuse and Survival. AnnePeterson.com

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