The Bible says that God commands us to forgive those who have hurt us, but it's not always easy. What if the offender doesn't apologize? What if they're unrepentant and just keep hurting me over and over again?
When you have been hurt, the last thing you may want to hear is that you need to forgive. The pain is intense. You have been betrayed, rejected, lied about, or perhaps even physically, mentally or emotionally harmed.
Yet, God’s will is that you forgive without regard to the circumstances and He gives you 6 reasons that forgiving those who’ve hurt you matters.
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Forgiving Those Who Hurt You
I grew up with an alcoholic mother who took me away from my Father and all my family. When I was 13, one of her many husbands and boyfriends sexually abused me. I told her about it, but she didn’t believe me.
In addition, she was a narcissist whose cruelty was both mental, emotional, and physical. I hated both of them for many, many years and felt completely justified, even after becoming a Christian.
Then one day, I was told by my Pastor I had to forgive her and the man who abused me. I was furious but said nothing. I prayed the prayer while filled with anger. I was not the one who had done something wrong – they were.
Why should I forgive them? I wrestled with it for months because I was right – they had harmed me and I did not deserve it. I did nothing to them.
What Does the Bible Say About Forgiving Someone Who Has Harmed You?
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV, “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.”
Even though I knew that verse of Scripture, I still hated my Mother and the man who abused me. I was an adult – married with three children and had been a Christian for over five years at that point. But I held on to the belief that I was justified in hating them because of the pain they had caused.
The Bible is really very clear about forgiving others. Although I'd read that Scripture, I attached my own viewpoint to it. I had not sinned. Since I did not need forgiveness, I did not have to forgive them!
I had other areas of sin in my life, but in regard to my childhood and the sexual abuse, I had not sinned so those Scriptures did not apply in this situation.
I was absolutely wrong but was not ready to see or admit it.
A few months later, I was alone and praying. I was telling God all about how awful my Mother was and how justified I was in hating her! I had learned to hear His voice and He spoke. What He said, made me angry. He said, “What about you, Fleda?”
I quickly responded, “This isn’t about me, I’m telling you what my Mother did to me.” Again, “What about you?” I had the same response and then, the third time, “What about you?”
I broke, realizing my own sin in the situation. Had I been the one who sinned all those years ago? No. I was innocent. However, I had plenty of other sin God had forgiven me of and was still forgiving me for every single day of my life. Yet, here I was – the Judge and Jury for my Mother and the man who abused me.
Can You Forgive Someone and Still Be Hurt?
I can answer that with one word – Yes. Is it easy? No. That day, I forgave the man and my Mother. I asked for forgiveness for myself as well. I had judged and refused to give the same forgiveness to someone else that was freely given to me by God. I wanted the cleansing of Jesus' blood for my sins but did not want these two to find the same cleansing.
I prayed that day thinking that this would heal all the hurt. But, days, weeks, months, and years later, there was still pain. At first, it confused me. Then I realized that healing comes in many ways.
Sometimes it is instantaneous and at others, it takes time. I had to continue to stand on that prayer of forgiveness no matter how my feelings raged. Gradually, my feelings became obedient to the Word of God.
There is no scripture that says you don’t have to forgive if you were hurt. In fact, Jesus, who was hurt more than anyone ever has been or will be, forgave fully and completely. He sacrificed His life for everyone who hated Him. He had been hurt – He felt our pain. He experienced separation from God the Father.
He cried out on the cross –
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” Matthew 27:46
I can’t imagine the pain and agony He endured. He was innocent yet He took my sin, my pain, my rejection. The process of forgiveness and healing taught me much about myself and forgiveness. It required time, prayer, and humility. Eventually, I was able to pray for and love those who had harmed me.
Bible Verses About Forgiving Others
All throughout the Bible, we find scripture about how Jesus died for our sins. He forgave us even though we didn't deserve it. These Bible verses about forgiving others make it very clear that to live in the image of Christ is to forgive others for their transgressions.
- Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
- Matthew 18:21-22, “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 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
It is not our place to withhold forgiveness from others. God forgave us so who are we to not do the same?
Related: Bless Those Who Persecute You
Reasons to Forgive Those Who've Hurt You
Forgiving those who've hurt you isn't always easy. And it is usually something you really don't actually “want” to do. But here are some very important reasons for offering forgiveness to others despite the situation or circumstance.
Forgive Others as You Were Forgiven
There are many reasons to forgive those who’ve hurt you. The first is this – because God forgave you. Forgiving is powerful. When I forgave, it released me from the past. To live with unforgiveness is like tying a big bag of rotting garbage around your neck and then dragging it with you wondering why life stinks and you are constantly burdened!
The garbage doesn’t care. The garbage is not the person, it is the unforgiveness itself. It has power over you because you won’t let go of it. The incident rules your life because you allow it. Your bag of garbage does not affect the other person in any way.
It only harms you. Forgiving allows you to be free of the incident and find healing. All of its negative effects can be turned around for good in your life if you will just let go and forgive.
I know that’s true because it happened for me and I am just like you!
Forgive Others Because God Has Commanded Us To Do So
Here is a great reason to forgive – because God asks us to. He knows it is for our good. He doesn’t want us to stink!
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.”
We want forgiveness. We want to be reconciled to God and to be one with Him through Christ. We can’t do that if we harbor unforgiveness. The refusal to forgive is pride. Are we better than Jesus? That’s what we are saying when we refuse to forgive. He forgave those who betrayed and rejected Him and we must do the same.
Forgive Others So That Bitterness Cannot Take Root
Unforgiveness is holding a grudge against someone. It is probably based in hurt and, like me, you may believe you are completely justified. However, people who do not forgive become bitter. What happens to rotting garbage? It is bitter; it stinks; it poisons whatever it touches.
Hebrews 12:14-15, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
I was bitter, particularly toward my Mother. I believed I was justified in feeling this way and that she owed me an apology. However, no apology would ever change what happened. Instead, when God said, “What about you Fleda?” I knew what He meant.
Related: Give God Your Worries
I was self-righteous, imagining her to be less than me because of her failures as a Mother. What can you call that other than pride and bitterness? The only cure was to ask for forgiveness for my own failings and realize that, while my Mother was not a good mother, she was still the woman God had chosen to bring me into this world. I needed to honor her, not judge her.
I had to make a choice as to how all of this was going to define me and I did.
Forgive Others Because You Are Not the Victim
Was I a victim of sexual abuse? Yes, but I decided that was not going to be how I defined myself or allowed the enemy to define me. In Christ, I am the victor over every circumstance. My circumstances had been hard but I could choose to be made better by them rather than bitter!
Romans 8:35-37, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
When you are the victim of a horrible incident, you need to find healing and restoration. Who you were has been changed and it takes time to find the redefined person you will be. You have the ability to choose what that person looks like. You have the ability to end up being the conqueror – the victor.
When my husband was killed in an accident, my life and who I am was permanently changed. Of course, most things about me remained the same but some very deep areas of my spirit and soul are different. I see life differently.
Things that used to upset me don’t anymore because my perspective changed. What is most important to me has also changed dramatically. I am stronger and far more purposeful than I used to be. My life looks tremendously different.
I made choices where I could. I had no choice but to grieve but I could choose to limit its hold on me. I chose not to give up on life. I chose gratitude for what I had over remaining in sorrow for what I lost.
I forgave my mother and the man who molested me because I decided not to live as their victim for the rest of my life.
Forgive Others Because Forgiveness Brings Life
Unforgiveness is judgment. I had judged my Mother. I was even willing to bring accusations against her before God! The Word has some pretty clear admonishment about that.
Matthew 7:2, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
To me, this is a frightening Scripture. I was pouring out buckets of bitter judgment against my Mother and the amount I was pouring out was the amount that was going to come back on me.
Please, dear friend, don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap of the enemy – self-justification, judgment, and bitterness. If these are the seeds you are sowing into your life, you will reap a painful harvest.
The point is, this doesn’t have to happen. We are meant to have life and have it more abundantly; be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit; and, live in the faith that overcomes the world. This is our heritage, but we must choose it.
Forgive Others Because You Will Find Peace
There is no peace when you are in a constant battle with anger and negative thoughts. You are a prisoner of the past and there is no peace there. Peace comes in God’s presence. It comes through obedience.
In the beginning, I said that God has commanded us to forgive. Why does He do this? He knows what is necessary for us to live a life of peace, contentment, and joy regardless of our circumstances. Forgiveness is one of those things.
Isaiah 26:3 The Voice, “You will keep the peace, a perfect peace, for all who trust in You, for those who dedicate their hearts and minds to You.”
There is no peace where bitterness and unforgiveness live.
If you are a Christian with the Holy Spirit living inside you, you know this:
- Romans 14:17 NLT, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
- Galatians 5:13-15 The Voice, “Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love. For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” so why all this vicious gnawing on each other? If you are not careful, you will find you’ve eaten each other alive!
Praying for the Person Who Hurt You
When I first started praying for my Mother and the man who abused me, I felt awkward and torn. I was still hurting and, while I had forgiven, I still remembered and was in the process of finding complete healing and restoration.
So, I prayed very simply. I prayed for them:
- To find forgiveness in Christ, like I had found
- To come out of the darkness and into God’s light.
I gave them and the past over to God and found myself truly desiring the best for them. As I set them free, I was set free from the bondage of the past.
When the hurt is deep, the healing may take longer. But keep your heart open to learn from God as you go through the process. Don’t let unforgiveness make you blind and deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Lay it down at the foot of the cross and walk in forgiveness, peace, joy, beauty, love, and the fullness of hope in Christ.
Forgiving those who've hurt you not only honors God, but it also sets you free from the bondage of the pain that was inflicted and allows you to breathe life again.