How To Forgive

Forgiveness. It is one of the most misunderstood benefits we have been given. Why should I forgive? How do I forgive when I’ve been hurt so deeply? What if I can’t forgive? How do I know I have forgiven someone? How do I forgive when people continue to hurt me?

These are all good questions, but let’s first determine whether we have any unforgiveness in our hearts. Oftentimes, we have uttered the words ‘I forgive you’ but in our hearts the ugly thoughts and pain of the betrayal are still there. Forgiveness and unforgiveness are both states of the heart. When we don’t forgive from the heart, then unforgiveness grows roots of bitterness, resentment, hatred, anger, and retaliation. We chew on the offense; we relive it in our mind; we tell others about how badly the other person hurt us; we plan ways to get even; we even wish ill on the person. Bottom line, reliving the event over and over leads to hatred for the person who hurt us. Bitterness, resentment, hatred, anger, and retaliation are all indications that forgiveness hasn’t taken place. (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 12:15)

Have you heard the sayings that unforgiveness is similar to drinking poison yet hoping the other person will die or that it’s like letting the offender live rent-free in your mind? These are fitting pictures of unforgiveness. It only hurts us, keeps us in bondage and opens the door to health problems, oppression, and depression (source: Mayo Clinic: Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness, 11/22/22).

Before we move on to how to forgive, let’s address some of the common misconceptions about forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean what they did wasn’t wrong or hurtful. It does mean letting go of the hurt and pain so it doesn’t hold us captive any longer.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciling with the person. Reconciliation requires a change in both parties. If the other person doesn’t change, we can’t reconcile. Keep in mind that the other person may never be ready to change. It does mean making peace in our hearts towards them. (Romans 12:18)
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget what happened. With God’s help, forgiveness takes the sting out of the hurt and pain and removes the sin of unforgiveness.

So then, what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is first and foremost, a choice. It’s a choice of life and blessing! It’s a choice to give the hurt and pain to Jesus and let Him take it; after all, He paid the price on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. It is a choice to be obedient to the scriptures that tell us to forgive. A lifestyle of forgiveness keeps us in harmony with God.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

In His great mercy, God redeemed and forgave us

(Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 86:5)

God forgives us as we forgive others

(Matthew 6:14, Colossians 3:13)

We forgive as part of prayer so that our heavenly Father will forgive us

(Mark 11:25)

God tells us to forgive extravagantly

(Matthew 18:22)

There is a beautiful story of forgiveness in Matthew 18. A servant owed his king hundreds of millions of dollars. The king was ready to throw the servant in jail, but the servant begged for mercy and the king had compassion on him and forgave his debt. The servant was free!

Before we finish this account, just imagine for a moment if you owed such a debt. There is no way you could work enough in your lifetime to pay it back. The enormity of the debt hangs over your head every day. Each morning, you think about how to pay off the debt. Every night when you drop in bed, the weight of the debt is pressing down on you. There isn’t a way to be free.

But then, there is a great King who has compassion on you. He sees there is no way for you to get free on your own and from the compassion and mercy of His heart, He forgives your debt and you are FREE! Imagine the rejoicing and lightness of your heart as the chains of this debt are removed from you. Best. Day. Ever!

But, the Bible account doesn’t stop there and this is where we often find ourselves. This servant, who is now free from such a huge debt, goes back and finds a fellow servant who owes him just a few hundred dollars, a mere pittance to what he previously owed the king. He ‘seized him and started to choke him’ (verse 28). This servant begged for mercy but the forgiven servant was unwilling to extend forgiveness to his fellow servant for this small debt. The king found out about the first servant’s lack of mercy, after he had been shown great mercy, and threw him in jail.

We are like the first servant. God has forgiven us everything, yet we hold on to the sins others commit against us and refuse to forgive them. And we carry the weight of the unforgiveness in our soul. So then, how do we forgive?


We have to be honest with ourselves and God about the unforgiveness we are holding on to.

(Psalm 139:23-24)


We repent for holding on this unforgiveness

(Proverbs 28:13)


We make the choice to forgive. We need God’s compassion to help us forgive

(Ephesians 4:32)


We pray for the person, asking God to bless them with every good and perfect gift. As we pray blessings for them, our heart begins to heal

(Luke 6:28)

Take a moment to quiet your heart before the Lord. Ask the Lord if there is anyone you need to forgive. Write down the name(s) and pray the following: “Dear Lord, I know unforgiveness displeases you and keeps me tied to the offender and the offense. I want to be free from the pain and bitterness I’ve been carrying. Please forgive me for holding offense in my heart towards (name). Jesus, I give you all the hurt and pain. Please take it from me. Lord, I release (name) to you now. And Lord, please bless them in their spirit, soul and body and help them walk in peace with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Maybe you’ve said this prayer before, but you can’t seem to let the bitterness go. Perhaps this is a person who, because of their own brokenness, hurts you over and over. How do you really experience forgiveness? This is the time to pray for the other person and bless them. Each day or when they pop up in your mind, ask the Lord to give them the blessings you’d like for your own life. Do this every day and our God will begin to work in your heart so you can truly forgive them.

We also need to determine if there is anyone besides the offender we should forgive. We often hold unforgiveness towards ourselves; we regret decisions we’ve made that may have contributed to the hurt. We live in the ‘if only I had done things differently’ mentality, which keeps us tied to the past. When you forgive others, remember to forgive yourself.

We often need to forgive God, too. Although God is good and doesn’t make mistakes, we want to blame Him for our disappointments in life. We may blame Him for not preventing a difficult time or for letting us experience something painful.

In closing, forgiveness is ultimately for our good. It frees our minds and our souls from the corruption of the world’s ways.

If you would like help with forgiving yourself, God, or others, we recommend going through the Moving Mountains workbook (teen and adult editions available). You are not alone. Most people struggle to forgive. Moving Mountains will help you uproot unforgiveness and process past hurts and wounds with Jesus, so that you can release the people who have caused them.

Testimonies from the Moving Mountains workbook

I would like to thank my daughter for inviting me to go through this workbook with her. As a matter of fact, both of my daughters and I took this together. My oldest is in Montgomery, AL. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. The Lord showed up for me each session. I received FREEDOM in a lot of areas some of which I thought I was already free in. But God revealed things that were hidden, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get them right. I’m choosing to share this piece because it’s what has been holding me back my entire life. Here goes. I’ve struggled with feeling insecure and not good enough for as long as I can remember. I do not trust anyone easily. My parents got divorced when I was sixteen years old then went on with their lives as if my sister and I didn’t exist. I’m the middle child of three. I have an older sister and a younger brother. This breakup left me homeless. When the divorce was finalized, my mom took my brother and moved back to her hometown in Georgia, my dad reenlisted in the army for another tour. My sister had been taken out of the home a year or two earlier and was in foster care so that left me. My senior year in high school was not enjoyable. I didn’t go to the prom or the senior trip etc. Over the years of walking with the Lord I thought I had forgiven my parents for leaving me and not taking care of me or protecting me. But this course revealed the real truth about my unforgiveness and my dislike I secretly felt towards my parents. I never thought my insecurities were due to being abandoned. Honestly, I didn’t even know that I was abandoned until this course. This explains a LOT. I THANK GOD FOR HEALING, DELIVERANCE, AND FREEDOM!!
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