As much as we would prefer it otherwise, our relationships are marked with conflict, pain, unresolved tensions, and irreconcilable differences. These may be difficult to trace to their source in some instances. In other cases, we know all too well why the relationship has suffered damage but we don’t always know how to forgive.

When a relationship is broken, or when another person hurts you, there are a few choices for what you can do in response. One of those choices is to forgive them. If we’re honest with ourselves, that often isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Our impulses might direct us toward getting our own back somehow, even if that’s just something we fantasize about and don’t put into action. Forgiveness is complicated and hard to offer, but it matters immensely.

How to forgive: Remembering why forgiveness matters.

There are several key ingredients to functional relationships. One of them is good communication and another is forgiveness. Forgiveness makes this list because it’s inevitable that we will cause injury to others that we’re close to. It could be entirely unintentional and the result of miscommunication or a misunderstanding, but it can also be deliberate. Regardless, forgiveness is an effective way to deal with that hurt.

Remembering why forgiveness matters, and what forgiveness is can help motivate us toward it. A few things to consider include the following:

It’s the right thing to do.

From a Christian perspective, forgiveness is the right thing to do. God has forgiven us our many sins, choosing to set aside what we have done and moving toward us to bless us. That is why there are several directives to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6: 12-15, 18: 15-35; Ephesians 4: 32; Colossians 3: 13). We are simply treating others as we’ve been treated.

Just as we are imperfect and need to be forgiven, we can recognize the imperfections in others. This leads us to recognize their need for forgiveness, too. Such recognition allows us to be in relationships with other imperfect people.

It’s for your good.

Have you considered that forgiving others isn’t for them as much as it is for you? To be sure, others benefit from being forgiven. Think about how you feel when someone forgives you for something you did. However, forgiveness is largely something that happens inside you, and then it gets expressed toward others.

When you don’t forgive someone who hurt you, it often feels like holding onto that anger and hurt is a way of punishing them. However, unforgiveness emotionally and physically burdens your heart. That chronic anger you feel can lead to cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of depression and diabetes. Forgiving another person can lead to better mental and physical health outcomes.

Forgiveness may not be what you think it is.

One reason we often struggle with forgiveness is that we misunderstand what it means. Forgiveness is the work we do in ourselves that can pave the way for reconciliation, but the two are not the same. It is possible to forgive someone but fail to reconcile with them, perhaps because they haven’t repented.

Recognizing this difference is helpful because not all situations can or should be reconciled. This is the case when people you don’t know hurt you, or in abusive relationships where reconciliation would not be safe. You can forgive that person for your own well-being, but reconciliation is a further step that may require important safeguards to be in place first.

In a similar vein, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the clock is reset, and all is forgotten. If someone broke trust, forgiving them doesn’t exempt them from needing to earn that trust back, nor should it prevent you from taking steps to safeguard yourself in the meantime. Forgiveness is how you relinquish thoughts of revenge, but it’s not the same thing as forgetfulness.

Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and it can take a little bit of time for your heart to catch up. Sometimes, feelings of anger and resentment can resurface when you see the person. That’s normal. Don’t assume that because you still feel a little raw about what happened it means you haven’t forgiven them.

Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight, and often it requires many consecutive acts of relinquishing vengeance. It may be helpful to think of forgiveness as a process instead of as an event. You can take active steps toward forgiveness today, but that process may take a year or more. This means that you should give yourself grace when you’re struggling to forgive. Take it one day at a time.

Help for forgiveness.

Forgiving another person isn’t always an easy thing to do. Reminding yourself why forgiveness matters and how forgiveness works can help you move toward forgiveness of those who have hurt you. If you’re struggling with forgiveness, don’t allow resentment and ill feelings to set in. Talk to someone like a counselor who can help you process your hurt and move toward healing.

Connect with our office today at Rowlett Christian Counseling to learn how a Christian counselor in Rowlett, Texas can help you find forgiveness.

“Dozing Off”, Courtesy of THIS IS ZUN,, CC0 License; “Walking Toward the Sea”, Courtesy of Arthur Brognoli,, CC0 License; “Looking Skyward”, Courtesy of Yuri Manei,, CC0 License