How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Forgiving

two women sitting on couch with crossed arms looking upset and angry, how to forgive when you don't feel forgiving

How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Forgiving

It’s easy to talk about the importance of forgiveness, until the need for it happens to you.

Over the last year, God has taken me on a necessary but uncomfortable journey. Different relationships were strained, ranging from family members to mild acquaintances. The result was a glorious mix of compounded wounds and unanswered questions. While I tried to resolve conflict as much as I could, some rifts were beyond my ability to repair. Slowly I found myself replaying past behaviors and conversations, all in attempts to make sense of things and wrestle my way through pain. But it was a match I couldn’t win. I still felt angry. I still wanted justice. I still hoped for reconciliation, even when the circumstances didn’t point in that direction. Psalm 73:21 says, “I realized my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.” (NLT) My body felt this entirely.

Up until recently, I realized I was still allowing my emotions to sway my behaviors. I relied on my feelings as a quasi-indicator. If I was going to forgive, then these negative feelings had to be gone, and if I was trying to forgive, then these bad feelings showed me I had failed. But God is too kind to leave His children unhealed. And He is too good to let us believe what’s not true.

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<strong>Are Forgiveness and Feelings Related?</strong>

Are Forgiveness and Feelings Related?

As a deep feeler I can attest that feelings have power. They have the ability to influence our thoughts, which in turn, affect our actions. So in a sense, our feelings can deter us from forgiving if we allow them to. But we need to remind ourselves that feelings do not have the final say, even if they sound convincing. They may try to tell us what’s real, but our Jesus is the One who reveals what’s right. And the Bible says forgiveness is a foundational undercurrent in a Christian’s life. “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 NLT). God paved the way to our rescue with forgiveness. He modeled how it should look, and it wasn’t a two-way street. God purchased our freedom long before we had a chance to respond. Before we decided to ask, God’s mercy was already on the table. The only feeling God fell back on was love.

Honestly, we can wait for those who have hurt us to meet certain prerequisites before moving into forgiveness, but that is not how God treats us. We are responsible for our actions alone, and we can choose what we will follow—our feelings or our Father. This can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when the wounds are deep. But it is also incredibly liberating! We are not dependent on anyone but Jesus to help us move through our pain. We are free to pursue wholeness anytime we please.

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<strong>The First Person We Need to Forgive</strong>

The First Person We Need to Forgive

Sometimes when we struggle to forgive others, we ignore an important person in the mix. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If we are called to forgive others like our Lord, then experiencing the forgiveness of Jesus needs to happen for us first.

It’s taken me years to understand that the anger I have toward others is often first directed at myself. We are our harshest critics, our worst accusers, our biggest faultfinders. We are experts at shaming ourselves into corners and sometimes we don’t think we deserve the forgiveness our good God gives. But here’s the catch: We don’t have the right to decide if we are worthy of grace. God took away that right at Calvary. He nailed our sins to a tree. He called us His own. And because this is true, we get to rely on God and His decision to distribute His unconditional love as He sees fit.

Whenever we feel unworthy of grace, we need to remember what’s already been done. Together we stand before our Maker without a single fault. We are holy. We are blameless. We get to look in the mirror and embrace what’s already ours. Because once we accept our position, we will be in a better position to love on others.

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<strong>4 Reasons We Should Forgive Regardless of Our Feelings</strong>

4 Reasons We Should Forgive Regardless of Our Feelings

Once we forgive ourselves, it’s time to shift toward those who have caused us pain, even if hurt feelings still linger. Here are four reasons why God asks His girls to be brave and forgive.

1. Forgiveness Is Our Choice

It’s an act of free will and a step of obedience. God never makes someone forgive. He tells us to do so for the sake of His kids and His Kingdom. But ultimately we get to decide how generous we will be with this gift. When we practice forgiving (because it takes practice!), our feelings will be reframed. We will help our emotions defer to our actions instead of allowing our emotions to determine our actions. God will fill our hearts with peace as we choose to follow Him. And it will get easier.

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<strong>2. Forgiveness Brings Healing</strong>

2. Forgiveness Brings Healing

Bitterness is called a root for a reason. If the root of a tree is diseased, the whole tree will become infected. When we open our hands to the power of forgiveness, we allow our entire selves to undergo healing. Bodies experience physical release when forgiveness is present. Our minds suddenly have space to be consumed with God’s restoration instead of our resentment. If we hold on to our right to be angry, we also hold on to our right to refuse healing. We may long for justice and not want to let others ‘off the hook,’ but God does not want us to carry bitter loads in our lives. He wants us to lay our heartache at Jesus’ feet.  No one can bind up our wounds like our Savior can. And no one wants freedom for you more than Him.

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<strong>3. Forgiveness Prevents the Enemy’s Foothold</strong>

3. Forgiveness Prevents the Enemy’s Foothold

A foothold is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “a secure position from which further progress may be made.” And while that sounds wonderful if that position is secured by someone caring, our enemy also wants to make further progress in our lives. He wants us to hate. He wants us to crumble and suffer. He wants to spread the contagious roots of bitterness so it infects every area of our existence. He wants us destroyed, and unforgiveness is one of his favorite tactics.

Dear Reader, you are too important and precious to fall prey to Satan’s tricks. You have too much to do for God’s glory to allow the enemy to mess with you. Right now, you can choose to send him to the curb and forgive. The feet of God’s children are not meant to be ensnared in a pit of lies. We stand tall on the solid foundation of the gospel and with Christ, we are already victorious.

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<strong>4. Forgiveness Helps Us Connect More Intimately with God</strong>

4. Forgiveness Helps Us Connect More Intimately with God

When we choose bitterness, walls go up. If walls go up in our hearts, they will naturally affect our relationship with our Creator. When we allow the Spirit to knock down the protective barriers we’ve constructed, we will find our true Protector waiting with open arms. God wants us to come to Him in our hurting moments. He wants us to trust Him as He looks after us and defends us. We don’t have to guard our hearts from Him.

God Will Not Waste Our Pain

I was listening to a sermon recently and the pastor encouraged us to pay attention to the pain. When we are hurt by others, we can view pain solely in a negative light. But pain in relationships can actually be an opportunity to go deeper with our Healer—someone who never wastes our heartache. Pain lets us know when something isn’t right. It shows us when something needs extra attention and support. We should never ignore our feelings of anger, sadness, grief or guilt. Instead, we can choose to enter into a sacred conversation with God. There He will show us who we truly are and invite us to see His Kingdom—a place where forgiveness always reigns.

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Becky Beresford lives in Huntley, IL and is happily outnumbered by her husband and three wild boys. She is a writer and speaker with a Master’s Certificate in Discipleship from Moody Theological Seminary. Becky loves encouraging God’s Daughters to embrace their truest selves in Christ and walk out the gospel truths empowered by God. She would love to connect with you online at, where you can grab a FREE copy of the Brave Woman Manifesto: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Feel free to follow her and the weekly Brave Women Series on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.