Tips For Understanding and Practicing Forgiveness

We often hear about the importance of forgiving others – and that’s true. Practicing forgiveness is beneficial to emotional well-being and even to physical health. But too often, we have a limited understanding of forgiveness that doesn’t go much beyond feeling better about a person or situation.

Forgiveness is not about excusing someone. It’s not about saying what they did was okay. Forgiveness is a process that involves letting go of the need to seek revenge or pay someone back for the harm they did to you or someone you care about. It’s important to understand what forgiveness is and what it isn’t so that you can truly recover from life’s painful circumstances and move forward in your relationships.

You Can’t Truly Forgive and Forget

“Forgive and forget” is an old adage that sounds nice on the surface, but can be responsible for an unhealthy, harmful concept of forgiveness. Why? Forgiving others is not about pretending nothing ever happened, or acting like something painful doesn’t bother you.

Forgiveness isn’t an excuse for toxic relationships, or a pass for abusive behavior. It’s okay to remember something that caused you pain and to feel that pain when you’re around the person who wronged you. In fact, it’s natural. Feeling pain doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven, or that you will be unable to forgive.

What Does It Mean to Forgive?

Forgiveness goes beyond feeling that you have forgiven someone, or feeling like you should be more forgiving. The meaning of  the word “forgive” includes the following deeper ideas:

  • Letting go of resentment: You don’t have to have warm feelings for someone in order to forgive them, but you should be working toward letting go of resentful or bitter feelings.
  • Giving up the need for payback: If you have forgiven someone, they are no longer in your debt. Payback is not necessary. You don’t require that they pay you back for something they owe you. You don’t insist on getting even, or having something harmful happen to them in return.

Healthy Forgiveness is a Process

As with any healing after pain, trauma, or the fracturing of a close relationship, learning to forgive takes time. Even if we acknowledge we forgive someone, the painful feelings we have about what they’ve done won’t immediately subside. In some cases, those feelings will always remain.

There are a few things to remember as you work on forgiving others:

  • You’ll have to confront the deeper issue. Particularly if you are working to forgive deep hurts like abuse, abandonment, or betrayal, it helps to work with someone who can help you navigate that pain and help you come up with specific ways you can practice forgiveness while feeling emotionally safe.
  • It’s a decision, not a feeling. You can decide to forgive each day, and that decision may come easier some days than others. Give yourself time, space, and kindness as you work to forgive.
  • Forgiveness is an act of self-care. Even if you struggle to forgive someone fully, any effort to let go of resentment is going to help you heal and create more space for the healthier relationships in your life.
  • You can ask God to help you forgive. God has forgiven each one of us and He wants us to exhibit that same forgiveness to others. Praying to forgive can go a long way toward helping you find peace.

TheHopeLine can help you make a path to forgiveness, even when it feels impossible. Forgiveness looks different for everyone and we all need help to forgive. Chat with us to discover how you can free yourself from bitterness and practice forgiveness without re-entering a toxic or abusive relationship.

Learn more about forgiveness by searching our library of blogs, ebooks, podcasts, and more with questions like:

  • How Do I Know if I’ve Forgiven Someone?
  • I’ve Forgiven My Ex: Should We Get Back Together?
  • Why Should I Forgive My Parent for Their Addiction?

FAQ on Forgiveness:

How Do You Forgive Someone Who Lied to You?

One of the most valuable things I've ever learned about forgiveness is that it’s not about forgetting. And it’s not about “everything being okay” between you and the person who hurt you. You can forgive the person who lied to you without continuing the relationship if you don't feel comfortable or safe doing so.

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Most Recent Blogs on Forgiveness

How to Forgive Someone Who’s Been Lying to You


There are a lot of challenges in life that test our friendships, and some seem to bring them to the breaking point. Lying is particularly disruptive and destructive to otherwise strong relationships. After all, we get close to people based on trust. And lying violates that trust, leaving us feeling..Read more

Relationship Challenges: Should I Forgive and Forget?


When I talk to people about forgiveness, they often repeat a popular saying: forgive and forget. If you’ve been hurt by someone you care about, you might be wondering: how do I forgive and forget? But have you ever really thought about that phrase? For me, it doesn’t ring true. Yes,..Read more

Faith and Forgiveness: Does God Forgive Everything?


Sometimes my decisions hurt people, and sometimes I hurt myself with my choices. When things go wrong, I sometimes feel so ashamed that I can’t help but wonder: does God forgive everything? The short answer is yes. God forgave King David after committing murder and adultery. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness..Read more

Tough Relationships: How God’s Love Helps Us Forgive


Maybe you’ve got a tough relationship with your parents. Maybe you’ve recently been through a breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend and it still stings. Whatever your relationship challenges are, I know it can’t be easy to hear people talking about “letting go” or telling you to “forgive and forget.” You may..Read more

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Stories on Forgiveness :

Finding Hope After Abuse from Her Father


My Story Leaving Abuse Life of Abuse I was raised in a very dysfunctional family. My parents fought all the time and my dad was very abusive in all ways. My mom took this abuse all through the marriage for 32 years. I had no choice but to live with..Read more

God Forgives


I had a struggle for a long time but at the very moment I’m typing this I know I’m free in Jesus Name. Before, I always thought that God was getting tired of forgiving me because I always fail him and I would always do that sin over and over again...Read more

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Free eBook: Understanding a Relationship with God

Free eBook: Understanding a Relationship with God Do You Feel Like Life is Meaningless? Are you wondering what your purpose is? Do you have questions about what Christians believe or what it means to be a Christian? At TheHopeLine we believe real and lasting HOPE can only come through a relationship with Jesus. And this […]

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