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How to Forgive

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. Problematic and complex because we, by nature, are so demanding. Self-centered. Proud. I probably shouldn’t speak for you, but I can speak for myself and I’ve been in many situations that required forgiveness. The truth is we don’t know how to do it. How to forgive. We aren’t sure how to ask for it. We fail to realize we can offer it when it wasn’t even asked for. Those times where it seems an apology wasn’t even considered.

Times when forgiveness wasn’t about the other person at all, but to set yourself free.

Relationships are hard. Be it parent/child, sibling, spouse, friend, co-worker, acquaintance we are bound to have conflict. We are going to have misunderstanding, offense, strain, and, sometimes division. But that is never the end of the story.

When the apology never comes BQ

I believe we have three choices when it comes to how to forgive. Positions for those situations where relationships get sticky. In, out, or wait.

In: You dive in and do the work. You gather and speak truth in love. Harvest the soil in the attempt to nurture tiny seedlings into new life.

Out: You walk away. Sever communication, cut ties, pack up your bags and go home.

Wait: For something…someone…some word or act, apology or occurrence. A period of time to pass. Something for which you feel you cannot proceed without.

In, out, or wait. Where do you find yourself?

I ask because I know you’re in the midst of something and you find yourself in one of these places. Or you’re uninvolved but trying to help from the periphery. So you’re involved. You’re kind of in. Watching. Waiting. One foot precariously close to the line. Praying for both parties to be all in. But one is in…and one is out…and it’s delicate. And yet so fierce.

As I stand on the sideline I wonder how can you “not care” and yet be so vicious? Hurt so deep it’s difficult to touch. History. Pain. Tender wounds. Fragile, violent, angry, seething, malicious words cut like a knife. Moving on, getting out, waiting, supposedly indifferent and yet bitter to the core. Silently poisoned.

More often than not, we just throw rocks at each other until nothing remains but a banged up, dented in, gnarled vestige of a relationship. An artifact. Something that was once of great value, destroyed by our very own hands.

Forgiveness is hard. It’s even harder when the person who hurt us never says they’re sorry. But we can still forgive them for ourselves. There are three choices in relationship conflict and deciding how to forgive: in, out, or wait. Find out where you are and how you can move on to find peace. As you consider your place in the struggle of relationship and forgiveness: in, out, or wait; I have a few suggestions for the road:

1.  Don’t say or write anything you will regret.

If you’re not ready to work on the relationship then say so. Ask for time. Have the courage and integrity to ask for what you need so you don’t do further damage. You are not the only one with feelings.

2.  Be honest.

No relationship can even hope to move forward if you can’t be honest. Pick three specific hurts or challenges in the relationship to address that move the relationship forward. Quite possibly you will have to choose to overlook many offenses because they’re quicksand. Either they’re not essential, there’s no way you’ll come to agreement, or discussion or resolution of the issue will not move the relationship forward. Pick your battles.

3.  Find accountability.

If you’re married, hopefully your spouse can hold you accountable for your thoughts, words and actions. In my marriage, there is no way my husband lets me get far with a bad attitude let alone bad action toward another person or family member. It just isn’t acceptable. He is strong enough to not be persuaded by my interpretation and holds me to a higher standard than my circumstances or irritable mood. Find someone who will not be influenced by your side; who can be objective and tell you when you’re out of line. Someone who will encourage you to pursue peace, even if that means walking away in a way that is respectful and kind. Not all relationships work, but you are responsible for your behavior on the way out.

4.  Grow up.

Consider that your grudge or withholding of forgiveness may simply be prideful, selfish or childish. I don’t think I need to elaborate. If this applies to you I’m sure you already know.

If you’re in and the other person is out, or waiting for something from you, you might have to forgive them for yourself and move on.  Forgiveness isn’t really about the other person at all. I’ve been blessed with the unfortunate luck of getting to forgive a few people things for which they’ve never apologized. I remember initially thinking it was impossible to forgive someone without them realizing their fault and asking for forgiveness.

But after years of waiting I realized I was only punishing myself as I waited for something they were literally incapable of doing. The waiting kept me small. Stuck in the victim role where I allowed the anger and hurt to smolder. The longer I held it the more bitter I became. It infected my spirit.

And I realized forgiveness doesn’t excuse the offense. It doesn’t mean you relinquish the pain or say it was okay or doesn’t matter. Quite the contrary. It merely takes the heavy burden of waiting, convincing, and punishing off your back. It sets the other person free to come to you on their own but, more importantly, it sets you free to boldly move forward.

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Not excusing the offense, but letting it go nonetheless. That is true strength.

If you’re out and you’re punishing someone who is trying to work on the relationship: Be honest. Grow up. Ask for what you need and be kind. You don’t do yourself any favors being mean.

Choose your place: in, out, or wait and be happy.

Don’t choose your place and be mad about it and punish the people around you. It’s your choice. If you’re miserable where you are then try another choice. There’s only three. Move. Have the courage to be honest. Ask for what you need and be respectful and kind. You teach your children and others around you who you are, and what you value, in the way you deal with conflict and difficult situations. And whichever place you land, seek peace.

This post is taken from an excerpt in my recent book: Pretty: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life where I share my journey of coming to terms with the reality of my own past and how I was going to use it to boldly design my future.

Pretty: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life from Tammy Strait

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{ 64 comments… add one }
  • Les February 12, 2014, 3:33 am

    i found your post on pinterest this evening.
    this is just what i needed to read.
    thank you for your simply truth and push towards moving–making a decision.
    relationships are tough, especially when there is conflict.
    forgiveness is neccesary no matter the choice.
    thank you for the pointers and reminders, too.
    namaste

    • Tammy February 12, 2014, 5:12 am

      mmmmm, you’re welcome les. so glad to have you here. namaste.

  • Jackie February 22, 2014, 3:48 am

    I am quick to forgive these days… I had to learn to forgive myself first though. Ive gotten caught so many times in the frustration and the anger, too afraid to speak my mind… waiting & hoping for people to change. Now a days I step back and try to see the other person point of view… And forgive both ways because a lot if the times it’s just a miscommunication. Im also learning to “jump in.” Im ready to work things out and grow from it. Wonderful post, I just found you today on Pinterest. Ill be following for more inspiring posts 🙂

    • Tammy February 22, 2014, 5:32 am

      that’s so great jackie. i think it’s one of the hardest things to do, to step back and try to see a situation clearly because you’re right. so much is miscommunication. happy to have you here!

  • Tina February 22, 2014, 9:27 pm

    Hi Tammy! Great post we can all learn from. I just found you via Pinterest and I know I will be back. Keep up the good work!

    • Tammy February 22, 2014, 11:23 pm

      thank you tina! welcome! 🙂

  • Sharon March 1, 2014, 9:27 am

    Actually, I do not agree. Luke 17:3 specifically says , rebuke thy brother and IF he repents, THEN forgive him.

    • Tammy March 3, 2014, 2:26 pm

      Sharon, there is so much room for us to disagree. Ultimately we each run our own race with Christ and He knows the depth and character of our heart first and foremost. I err on the side of grace & love but that doesn’t mean I allow someone who has hurt me back into my life. To me, those are different things. Blessings to you as you journey through life and faith with a God who loves you so, so much.

  • Marie Bride March 7, 2014, 7:46 pm

    This has been on my mind since I read it.
    I am sharing it, & using it to reflect on during Lent.
    Thank You & Blessings
    as I journey to the Resurrection of Easter!

  • ali March 18, 2014, 12:03 am

    Thank you . I recently found out the man I was in a 3 year relationship with was engaged to another women . I really have been praying for god to help
    Me with all these feslings . it was helpful and a comfort to read your inspiration .

    • Tammy March 19, 2014, 3:40 am

      Oh Ali, I’m so, so sorry. Praying for God’s comfort and healing for your heart. Lifting you up in prayer. xo

  • Cristina March 26, 2014, 4:01 am

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much this applies to my life. I have been holding back forgiveness from someone who doesn’t even realize I am so desperate to give it! Over the past two years, they seem to overlook their offenses and ignore our broken relationship (which has slowly occurred over the years). I have concluded that I will never get the SINCERE apology that I have been coveting. However, this realization did me no justice. My lack of mercy has caught up to me and I have seen myself grow bitter and more and more angry from not simply forgiving their careless comments and actions. I have been taking this to prayer for quite some time now. This past weekend I also received prayer from friends as well, which seemed to help quench my dry spirit. Now, after reading this, it felt as if some lightbulb just went off in my HEART. It went off in my head a long time ago, I knew I needed to just forgive, but it was my heart that I was having trouble with. I feel a sense of peace and excitement for what is to come from this new momentum. I felt like God just said, “It’s time”. Thank you so much for sharing on this most sensitive and always relatable topic! Blessings!!!

    • Tammy March 27, 2014, 1:49 am

      Oh Cristina! I’m so excited FOR you and the new freedom you will have in letting go and releasing this person to God. He is the only one who can soften hardened hearts. Thank you for your honesty & vulnerability, it shows such a tender spirit. We are all prone to bitterness and I’m so honored I could be a small part of you finding peace and forgiveness in your heart. Blessings!!

      • Kelli ogle April 20, 2014, 11:49 pm

        Tammy sweet friend another wonderful and meaningful post. So proud of you and your ability to share your words. They are powerful and helpful to so many. I heart you beautiful girl!
        Kelli

  • Emily May 1, 2014, 11:29 pm

    So happy I found this post on Pinterest. I tend to forgive quickly just to get it off my back, this is a nice reminder that that is okay 🙂 thanks for sharing

    • Tammy May 2, 2014, 12:56 am

      Welcome Emily! Happy you found us. {hugs}

  • nikki May 26, 2014, 11:24 pm

    Thank you

  • Robin E June 6, 2014, 2:50 pm

    You NAILED it. Thanks so much for being able to articulate some of the thoughts swimming around in my head. I was trying to help a friend who is going thru a difficult time related to this. However, I feel that I’m like Moses (slow of speech) when it comes to relaying such concepts. THANK YOU!

    • Tammy June 8, 2014, 7:07 am

      I’m so glad I could be of help Robin! Sometimes I’m slow of speech as well! I write to remember what I know. So glad you’re here.

  • judy Belmont June 13, 2014, 12:53 am

    Awesome post – very beautifully put – Thanks! I just made up a Self-Help Forgiveness Test. Let me know if you would like to send it on to you. Best, Judy

    • Tammy June 14, 2014, 7:36 pm

      I would love it Judy! Yes, please do!

  • Terri August 1, 2014, 4:13 pm

    What if I have forgiven someone that is emotionally abusive towards me, I have done the work to be able to forgive, and I have chosen to be “out,” but loved ones around me want me to be back “in?” I have forgiven, and realize the situation is not for me with no ill will towards the other person, but family feels affected by choice (which I suppose, in a way, they are). I am being asked to put myself back in the emotionally abusive relationship. Do I need to do that for it to be considered forgiveness?

    • Tammy August 2, 2014, 1:12 am

      Dear Terri, I am so sorry for the difficult situation you find yourself in. With all my heart I encourage you to seek counseling and the help of a Christian or faith-based professional. That said, forgiveness never means walking back in to an abusive relationship. Emotionally, physically or otherwise. Forgiveness is about you, and setting yourself free. Praying for you. xoxo

      • Terri August 4, 2014, 1:40 pm

        Thank you 🙂

  • Helen November 1, 2014, 5:57 pm

    A wonderful post I needed to read today. Thank you.

  • Katie November 9, 2014, 4:03 am

    I’m not going to lie. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in quite some time. It really helped me to forgive when I never got an apology. It’s terrible to live with anger and just waiting for an apology when it’ll never come. Life is too short for those bothers. Thank you so much.

    • Tammy November 10, 2014, 5:39 am

      Awe, thank you so much Katie! I’m so grateful to know it was of help to you! Blessings. xo

  • Fatima November 15, 2014, 9:55 am

    I can’t believe how clean your heart is
    What comes from from the heart enters the heart.
    It’s about time ppl encourage love forgiveness and good heartened and pureness of rection. We have all got enough of people pouring petrol on fires and encouraging walk outs, when all we need when we are hurt is forgiveness, graceful considerations and consolidation.

    I can’t wait to read more of your writings

    Thank you
    From The United Arab Emirates with love and grace.

    • Tammy November 17, 2014, 5:50 am

      I’m so honored you’re here Fatima. Thank you for your encouraging words. Blessings! xo

  • Julie November 26, 2014, 4:20 am

    Had a heated battle with someone years ago, and since then I have forgiven her but she has not accepted it, its hard and such a long wait, I just know it has to be God’s timing and not mine. Thanks for sharing this…

  • Cindy December 3, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Thank you for this information. I have a person in my daughter’s life that is”mean” and self absorbed, arrogant to say the least. He says and does many mean things. I pray for a softened heart for forgiveness to be there and just when i feel like i have forgiven him he does something else and I feel like i have to start all over again. Is there a good easy to handle this. ….. My husband just won’t even talk too him any more and doesn’t want him at our house at all. ….

    • Tammy December 3, 2014, 9:26 pm

      Oh Cindy. Unfortunately there is no easy way. It’s hard, hard, hard all the way around it, over and over again. Especially when someone hurts our kids. It’s an ache we can’t fix. I’m so sorry and I’m praying for you to find peace and forgiveness in your heart. Remember forgiveness is for you, not the other person. I have a post on that too…if you search forgiveness you should find it. Much love, xoxo

  • Amanda January 2, 2015, 10:49 am

    Hi, I found you on Pinterest by searching how to forgive someone. Your page was first to show up. I clicked thinking I was going to get advice on how I can finally let myself go but instead I read reality. You see my current boyfriend was madly in love and our relationship went faster then we planned but yet everything felt right. 6 months later we found out we were pregnant. Me being in college working towards my dream was out on the back burner. I started to loose self confidence and started to point fingers at everyone else but myself. After she was born I hoped our life would began in our madly I love state. Well it didn’t… Things only got worse and we started throwing rocks at one another until we decided to spit 2 years later. I felt great about my decision until he realized he never wanted me to leave. I couldn’t forgive him. It’s been 3 months since we split, he has not only admitted to his mistakes but has also has been thinking deeply and has found more mistakes and has actually fixed them. Yet I’m wanting to give him a last shot, because I know we will work but I can’t let myself go. I expected him to tear down what he built, but instead I need to be the one that erases everything. As I held back the tears from crying reading your post I just want to say your completely right! He cannot fix anything until I let him in. I need to be the one to take a step forward. Thank you so much for this post! I will be printing and keeping this post and refer to it when I need it.

    – Amanda.

    • Tammy January 3, 2015, 8:25 pm

      Oh Amanda, I am so honored to know it was a blessing to you! Praying for your family as you move forward in grace, love and forgiveness. xoxo

  • Nic January 14, 2015, 8:25 am

    My husband and I have 5 kids and one on the way. Not sure why but I have always loved him to the core. Last year one day he vanished which became a daily habit for a few hours each day. Swearing there was no one else. He wud come home each night even being sexually active with me. He went from being a great gather to a stranger. Some days apologizing for his disapearing asking to fix it and other days telling me how ugly I am and I shud die. I don’t act like I’m a super model but many men and women comment on my looks of being quite pretty. Yes the stress I myself think is starting to take a toll but judging from others noone else seems to think I look any worse always commenting I shud b a model. Not really the point more about how cruel the words became til I believe them . Low and behold 3 a.m. Christmas morning I was able to sneak and break into his phone while asleep to see the messages and pictures of the woman he was running a double life with. She thought what they were putting my kids and I through was a joke. Worst Christmas of our lives. He came back 2 weeks later begging for his family I found out he continues to talk to her still til March tho I don’t believe seeing her. Talking was bad enuf he wud swear he wasn’t but I saw her and confronted her. As we stood fave to fave in a walmart me wanting so bad to hurt her like I was hurting but she had already had me charged on Christmas when I immediately sent her a message upon finding out threatening her. He called my phone looking for me I made her answer my phone. This k he was panicking he came quickly to walmart he never looked at her he begged me for 3 hours as she walked away. At first he was sorry but not as sorry I guess as I believed he should be but as the following Christmas rolled around and the flashbacks came strong I was human and when we argued I continue to throw how cruel he was to his family. He now became mean saying I deserved it,blaming me,or of course I’m ugly. I don’t want to live life without him buy without showing the sorrow my heart believes he should it’s hard. I kn I q I’m not helping continuously helping bringing it up but the pain is incredible. I’m 5 months pregnant the kids are weary of him do not trust him and protect me but love their daddy and are so happy on the days he not acting wild and angry but playing around with me. We have always been very sex u ally active together before it even during it and still after it. I think I’m making him hate me. I want to be enjoying my pregnancy as I have always felt the best pregnant bit I’m making myself miserable and everyone around me. How do I forgive and stop expect g him to be sorry. In my head I tell myself it’s his defense so he doesn’t feel the pain of how he hurt us but really if that is what ge is doing it really only hurts more. Please help me see happiness again before this new baby is born into my world of self created sadness

    • Tammy January 14, 2015, 9:52 am

      Nic, I am so sorry for what you are going through. No woman should ever go through this, especially carrying his baby. I cannot encourage you enough to seek counseling. Seek help in some way – whether that is through a Christian counselor or a church. I know many churches have counselors you can see for free. I strongly urge you to seek help not only for dealing with your marriage issues but for yourself. Ultimately you can only change yourself and first, you have to love yourself. Praying for you and your family. xoxo

  • Perfectly Anonymous January 21, 2015, 11:52 pm

    I just landed here via pinterest …. i am in love with this site. Just read how to forgive without even getting a sorry from the other party. I loved the way You described and told the process. Thanks for sharing your stuff. I will keep coming and i will surely share your stuff on my facebook page… my personal blog with the name of PERFECTLY ANONYMOUS [3S] . Do visit if you got some time. Thank you and take your good care. https://www.facebook.com/3sasyf

  • Justine February 8, 2015, 4:37 pm

    I want to know how you choose one of the three choices, i could choose all three at different moments in time, what gives you the ultimate decision choice?

    • Tammy February 18, 2015, 9:48 pm

      I think it’s so personal Justine. I’ve chosen all three options at different times in my life too. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong, it’s just where you are. And hopefully eventually we find ourselves IN. Even if that just means forgiveness and walking away in peace.

  • owlwise February 10, 2015, 4:32 am

    Forgiveness is such a tricky concept. I agree that it mostly serves those who have been offended than those who did the offense. When it comes to my forgiveness I think it really just shows the point in my life where what you did or said really is understood by me and I no longer feel grief or disheartened for it… regardless if you still do.

  • Judy Kellaway February 10, 2015, 9:10 pm

    I am finding it so hard to forgive and move on. I really don’t know how. I try to not think about it and find myself just crying and crying because this situation is one I have absolutely no control over. I want to hurt the people that hurt me, then I want to beg them to love me again. But I can’t seem to get beyond the pain. I am so sad. Just so very sad.

    • Tammy February 18, 2015, 9:44 pm

      I’m so sorry for your pain Judy. Praying for peace and freedom that only come through the power of forgiveness.

  • Becca February 25, 2015, 10:18 pm

    This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much.

  • Sherry February 26, 2015, 4:25 am

    Great post!

    i am in a situation where I have in laws who hurt me in very passive aggressive ways. My husband makes excuses for their behavior and expects me to deal with it to keep the peace. It is incredibly painful for me to allow myself to be put into these negative situations repeatedly. I want him to have time with his family but I don’t feel like I really need to be there, or that it’s right for him to continually minimize my feelings. It’s a hard situation to be in when you want to choose to be ‘out’ but it effects other people.

    • Tammy March 26, 2015, 10:58 pm

      It’s so hard. Relationships are complicated. Praying that whatever the situation brings that you can find His peace. Blessings. xo

  • Mary April 11, 2015, 9:42 am

    im being treated for sever child abuse. Which has made me act Bradley. But I’m gaining on that and still going for treatment. So I know I ve miss saying I’m sorry because of deep anger and pain. But was truly sorry when I d stop and think about my actions. I need to get that out in the open. Have hide that forever. Thank you for the door to do that. Really appreciated.

  • Anuksha October 3, 2015, 1:49 am

    You are a beautiful soul Tammy.

  • Adriana October 13, 2015, 2:07 pm

    This was helpful. I am grateful that I found out this on Pinterest. I’m trying to keep save an old friendship that its past is followed up by everything. He is my best friend since many years and both made many mistakes but I have noticed that I’ve been making my own storm and now I don’t like it. The last time we talked he said he was going to try to forget me and his feelings for me, also that it felt better since I was busy for my commercial week in school. I thought he would comprehend that I was very stressed.. nevermind. My fear is that when I decide to talk him, he maybe not care anymore. I hope I can fix this problem. God has a lesson for me. I’m still waiting for the multiple answers beside the ones he already showed up.
    TL;DR 🙂 Saludos♥

  • Kim December 19, 2015, 9:19 pm

    Oh Tammy what a timely message for me to find via Pinterest, there are people from my past who have hurt me deeply, they changed the course of my life. Your article on forgiveness just put my whole life into perspective…. I had forgiven intellectually and somehow God has helped me to move on a little , however this (you) have reached my heart. Thank-You Tammy.
    You do have a beautiful soul. I can’t wait to read more of your truth and what comes from your heart.
    May God Bless You with your deepest hearts desires.
    ~Kim

    • Tammy December 20, 2015, 8:50 am

      Oh Kim, I’m so deeply grateful this reached your heart. Blessings to you. xoxo

  • Evelyn December 31, 2015, 8:54 pm

    I stumbled upon this post and I have to tell you that it has brought me the peace of mind and heart that I have been searching for. Thank you for your unique perspectives. They have lifted a burden that I just couldn’t figure out how to handle on my own. Thank you.

  • Amy January 4, 2016, 2:28 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article 🙂 I found it on Pinterest and I am so glad it did. I really felt my whole perspective shift with a situation I’ve been dealing with. What divine timing!

  • Anita June 23, 2016, 11:22 pm

    Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, I to have been there and had to learn the hard way to let go and let God, you can’t function as a mother, wife or woman if you don’t forgive and move forward

    • admin June 24, 2016, 5:25 pm

      Absolutely Anita. Blessings!

  • Mette Forstad September 30, 2016, 10:43 pm

    Living with a narcissist is crippling. My kids could see it and my family could. Finally, I could too. Learning to live without now. And learning to forgive – for my own sake and the kids. “How can you ‘not care’ and yet be so vicious?” really says it all. It just hurts so much!

    • admin October 3, 2016, 5:51 pm

      It does hurt. I’m so sorry for your pain, and the fear and punishment that comes from living with a narcissist. Praying for you as you heal and forgive so you (and your children) can be free. Blessings. xo

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