Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Forgiveness Part 3—How to Forgive Someone

Forgiveness Part 3: How to Forgive Someone—Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

Forgiveness…when freedom is forged where fury once raged.

It is far easier to talk about forgiveness then to walk out forgiveness. The deeper our hurt, the harder it is to forgive. The closer the relationship, the greater the devastation can be. Yet, as we know, forgiveness is a gift to ourselves not just for the other person.

And does time heal? Only if we choose to forgive and let the offense go. When we do so, and with time, there will be less of that raw sting with the fading memory of the details. Pain will begin to subside and memories are far less frequent.

Beyond this, life goes on. There will be lots of other good life events that we will miss if we get stuck in our bitterness. Intrinsically, we know we need to move on. Health wise, it is better by far to let the hurt go. Emotionally, brooding over the offense again and again exhausts us. We must decide to forgive.

Still, forgiveness is a process. It will involve repeated steps of surrender that reaffirm the initial decision to release the person. As memories and reactions jump up like spot fires, you will need to douse the flames for as long as you still smell smoke.

It is critical that you are not anticipating a Hollywood ending to your step of forgiveness. When you attempt to resolve a broken relationship, it may not work out as hoped. They may not see things like you do. They may see no need to apologize to you for their behavior. It is easier to forgive any hurtful oversight that was non-intentional or a plain mistake. It is harder when we know that the actions were premeditated, intentional and not accidental. Still, forgive and move on.

So, whether it’s your spouse, your sister or brother or a friend, let’s walk through what you must do to move on. Here are my recommended steps to forgiveness.


Talk to an objective person to help you see from the other person’s perspective. Get the backing of those who want you to do what is right and move through the forgiveness process.


Forgive them before you contact them. Work it through in your heart. Let your pardon be complete where it matters most….inside you. Then, go in the attitude of forgiveness.


Determine how to best communicate your desire to extend forgiveness. This will be based on the nature of the relationship, how strained things are, and their availability. Your options include a letter or card, a phone call or in person. Though helpful in most cases, you don’t have to do it in person. Whatever route you choose, put your thoughts on paper so you can be clear when you do talk on the phone or in person.


God is a great ally in your forgiveness. Seriously, trying to forgive is hard. Ask God to strengthen you to do what is right. Ask Him to help you let go of the need to get even or find retribution. Many like me have found added strength and conviction when we include God in the equation.


Forgive with your eyes wide open accepting and admitting that the offence really affected you. Share how their choices have hurt you. This may help them empathize with you and see the impact of their actions. They may not. Don’t focus on assigning blame; simply disclose how it affected you.


Release the sense of injustice and right to payback. Don’t try to downplay the pain to make it feel like no big deal. Move ahead to do what you know is right. Let go of your need to know why they did it or how they could have done it. Just let it go.


Kill the need to get their understanding, agreement or apology. Go with an “it’s a done deal” attitude on forgiveness. They may not know the extent of your hurt, not share your view on the issues or that they need forgiving at all. Be delighted if they own their mistakes.


Actually tell them you forgive them. Don’t wait for them to ask. Yes, it is a brave step but a critical step to verbalize it. Weigh the hurt you are letting go against the freedom that you want and choose to forgive from the heart. If they choose to apologize…bonus.


Give them a chance to respond. Sometimes their explanations can feel like they are trying to justify. Be patient and hear them out.  If its clear that your pain is being depreciated rather than validated, it may be time to leave. If they are trying to blame you, simply excuse yourself.


When it is immediate family, you must work at restoring the relationship. Real love always involves forgiveness. Real love always takes work. With those you are closest to, you need to go the extra mile to be gracious and to grind through tough issues. That is life. If an impasse persists, get outside help.

For those outside your inner circle, it is possible to forgive a person and decide not continue in the relationship. This could be the case with a divorced spouse, a co-worker or a friend where after attempts to resolve things, there is not a mutual interest at restoration. Regardless, forgive and move on.

Also see: Part 1: What Does Forgiveness Look Like? and Part 2- Why Forgiveness is a Gift to Yourself

Pass this article along to those in your world who need help with forgiveness and come back for more truth that challenges relationships. And remember, you’ll never regret taking the steps to forgive those who have wronged you. Let me know how the steps work for you.

**NOTE: If you or your marriage/family is in crisis, seek creditable support right away. Our Care Centre has a team of counsellors ready to help. We can counsel you in person, if you are in the Fraser Valley, or via phone or Skype if you live farther away.


© Dr. Dave Currie, May 2010