The other day I wrote about how to apologize properly. The final step in the formula is to ask for forgiveness. That forgiveness should always be extended, however, if you find yourself unable to offer forgiveness, here are six reasons you may want to examine.
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. – Matthew 6:14-15
If you keep score in your relationship about who did what wrong and when, then you may not want to extend forgiveness. After all, if you truly forgive them, then you can’t use it as a weapon later on. Likewise, if you’re keeping track to ensure that you’re always “even”, then you may not want to extend forgiveness, because you feel like wrong-doings balance each other out.
But forgiveness isn’t a matter of how often someone is wrong. After all, God continuously forgives us, regardless of how often we sin. He doesn’t keep track or lord it over us. He just forgives us, tells us He loves us and hopes we’ll do better in the future.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
Requiring change first
If you say “I’ll forgive you if you change first”, then you’re holding on to your forgiveness until they actually become better. You’re saying that an apology and intent to be better isn’t enough. You need proof. You need them to be perfect first. But, that’s not how forgiveness works. That’s not really forgiveness. I mean, anyone can accept someone who has already changed. The difficulty is in accepting that they want to change, on the hope that they will change. That’s what Jesus did for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Not forgiving themselves
Sometimes people have trouble forgiving others if they haven’t forgiven themselves for something. Often this comes from feeling that God hasn’t forgiven them for their sins. The Bible tells us there are two kinds of guilt:
- Guilt that draws us to God. It pulls us towards reconciliation.
- Guilt that causes us to feel that we aren’t forgiven. This is from Satan and pulls us away from God.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10
Just as not forgiving someone can cause you not to feel forgiven, so too can not feeling forgiven cause us to not forgive others. If you’re struggling with this in your life, check out our devotional, Seeking Forgiveness, for a 13 day step by step plan to accepting the forgiveness God has already extended.
The need to be right
If you are struggling to forgive someone, it may be due to pride. You want it known that you are right. That you are better. That they are wrong. This is an issue of pride, and forgiveness requires humility, just as asking for forgiveness does.
Forgiveness means saying “I know you wronged me, and I’m choosing to let it go, because I’m no better.” If you aren’t able to say that, then you may have trouble forgiving someone.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23
Sometimes we don’t want to forgive because we have a 50-50 philosophy of relationships. We feel that gives half and that makes a whole. Therefore if you did something wrong, then you aren’t pulling your weight.
Relationships are a mystery, however. Especially marriages. We don’t both give 50%. We both give 100%. If our spouse sins, or does something wrong, that doesn’t mean we aren’t even. Even doesn’t matter. We should worry about our 100%. Because ultimately, we don’t give our 100% to our spouse, but to God, through that act of serving our spouse.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24
It’s always you having to forgive
Do you feel like your spouse is always apologizing. That it’s always them who is doing something wrong? It it getting tiring always being the “perfect” one? Well, guess again. You’re not perfect.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8
Chances are your spouse is just better at asking for forgiveness. Now, granted, it could be that your spouse’s errors seem relatively larger compared to yours, but that’s now how things are gauged. God looks not at our objective progress in sanctification, but rather our relative progress. That is to say, you can’t just put two people side by and side and say “That one is clearly further ahead.” It doesn’t matter. What matters is where they started, what has happened along the way, and most importantly, where is their heart at?
For example: Your spouse may be struggling with something like porn but really struggling because they want to be free. You, on the other hand, might be struggling with resentment, but not really working on it. Who is doing better? Just because your sins aren’t as obvious, or socially unacceptable, doesn’t they aren’t still damaging the relationship. Both the relationship with your spouse, and yours with God.
If you find yourself not forgiving for any of these reasons, you might want to check your heart. Something’s not right. Offer forgiveness, and then ask for it in return. Then start working together to be better.
5 thoughts on “6 things that stop people from forgiving”
I told my wife one day that “I have forgiven her in advance.” She mentioned that to me several times, and it gives her comfort to know that she is already forgiven for ____________________. It is usually a hormonal thing, or self control issue. With that in play, it tends to deescalate an issue that could cause more emotional pain.
I now apologize and apologize first because I never did that before. It took me a little bit to realize I was being immature. It’s not just about the apology it’s about moving forward towards being in a better place. I now know forgiving means letting go and letting God in to work in our daily lives.
My spouse was unfaithful via porn and messaging ither women privately. I have had the hardest time forgiving him. This articlw really opened my eyes and heart.
I’m glad it could help. Good for you deciding to forgive 🙂
I used to believe that it made me look weak if it was only me, which is the 50/50 mentality. And that apologizing for my part and asking for forgiveness not only meant I was weak but also the one that was always failing. The opposite is actually true. It is the spouse that is more mature that seeks reconciliation first, and regardless of what is going on wants to be authentic with their spouse, healed, and at peace with God.
This was really good JD, thanks.