Why Is It So Hard To Forgive?

Written by Lynette Hoy NCC, LCPC

forgive-pgHuman behavior suggests that people are “hard-wired” to retaliate when they have been hurt by another person.  Our pride or self-esteem is injured. Our expectations or dreams are disappointed.  We lose something very valuable to us.  We want recompense for the damages.

But there are other resistances which block our motivation to forgive.  Automatic thoughts or beliefs impede us from forgiving others.  We tell ourselves, “I won’t forgive because he/she never accepts responsibility for what he/she does” or  “I would be a hypocrite if I forgave because I do not feel like forgiving” or  “Forgiving is only for weak people”.

Explanations for behavior can also get in the way. When someone hurts us or lets us down  we tend to assign internal causes for behavior to others.  We argue that it is based on personality or character traits.  We tell ourselves, “he’s just so forgetful or careless” or “she doesn’t appreciate me” or “she did that purposefully”.   We judge them harshly.

But when we do something wrong or hurtful/disappointing we tend to excuse our own behavior by attributing external causes. In those cases we say  “my child made a mess” or  “there was a car accident on the highway.”  We tend to let ourselves off the hook and give ourselves permission to fail.

This is what psychologists call the “Fundamental Attribution Error”. We assign total responsibility or blame to others for their behavior while explaining away our own negative actions in terms of situational factors.  In other words, it’s not our fault because….

It’s important to note that understanding and accepting the error in behavior does not relieve the offending person of moral responsibility.  Forgiving someone does not cancel out the consequences of their actions. The goal is to promote empathy and forgiveness and look more realistically at the hurtful events from their point of view.” This involves thinking the best of people rather than jumping to harsh conclusions about their character or intentions.

Lack of empathy (empathy is the psychological highway to forgive others) for others can also get in the way of our ability to forgive.  We can develop empathy for others by beginning to change our way of thinking.  It is impossible to fully know why a person acted the way that they did.  Make room from grace.

When have you been able to have empathy for someone who has hurt you?  Ask yourself “do I want things bitter or better?”  Forgiveness has a huge impact on our own health and feelings.  Forgiveness is not so much about the other person as it is about our own hearts.  Forgiveness is for our benefit, but so often things get in the way.  Think of a time when you have needed forgiveness.

Don’t let resentment imprison you for life, it will destroy you and your other relationships. Lewis Smedes wrote:  “To forgive is to set the prisoner free…and to discover that the prisoner was you.”   Let go of the pain.  Give it to God. For God alone understands more than anyone the pain and humiliation you feel.  Jesus felt more pain, rejection and humiliation than any person.

Letting go of your hurts is often not an overnight experience.  It takes time, but as you work toward it you’ll find that it is worth the effort.  Ask God to give you the grace to forgive.

The ability to forgive is rooted in being forgiven ourselves. In the Bible it says that God loves the world so much that he sent his only son so that we could be forgiven.  As people we all make mistakes, not one of us can live up to the standard God set on our own.  But God promises that if we accept what Jesus did for us, we can be forgiven. The slate can be wiped clean no matter what has happened in the past.  God promises us strength for today and bright hope for the future.  Whatever happened in your yesterdays God can take care of all of your tomorrows.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of woman you want me to be.

If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, pray it right now and Christ will come into your life as He promised. If you invited Jesus Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.


54 Responses to “Why Is It So Hard To Forgive?”

  • lizzy says:

    People don’t forgive because of pride, they think that their status is so important than forgiving, but we are not the same, some can forgive now and others is takes a long time to heal that scar.

  • Shelley says:

    Thank you Jesse for your comment. I just want to encourage you and anyone who is reading this, that God is a forgiving God and He loves both YOU and me, but He dose say that if we make a mistake we are to ask Him for forgiveness, when someone dose something to us we are to for give them, as God will take care of that person, but we are accountable to Him.

  • Jesse says:

    I’m very confused about this:
    “Forgiving someone does not cancel out the consequences of their actions.”

    I don’t think you can say “I forgive you” then suddenly punish him/her anyway due to the past.
    God said he forgive sins, and that means letting the past go and starting a new; Jesus cleans out our sins, and gives us another chance to heaven.

    Saying “forgiving sin” but then still must be punish doesn’t really sound like Jesus.

    Unless your talking about responsible to avoid further sins rather than putting someone in jail when the person already changed and wants another chance.
    Forgiving of course doesn’t mean it’s “ok” to re offend, but I do believe forgiving is to also let go of the charges too from you. Otherwise if not, that’s like saying Jesus will punish you anyway when you die.
    That’s what it just sounds like to me. Haha

  • Chris says:

    erinsfire…while its true that the bible does teach us to forgiven unlimited times, we cannot be in a situation where our own lives are being threatened or hurt by the same person over and over again. common sense tells us we need to distance ourselves from danger and harm. without knowing more details about your situation, those would be my general suggestions. if you would like to share more in detail, feel free to do so. blessings!!

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