How do you actually forgive someone? Forgiving my offenders in a heart-deep way so that lasts has taken time and repetition of the 7 steps I will share today. Think of this as a how to forgive anyone kind of section. Remember, however, that all we have discussed before this is required for it to actually work.Full disclosure: Learning how to forgive and heal is a sacrifice to God that comes with tears. Click To Tweet
Before We Learn How To Forgive…
I wrestled with how to title this one because really, the last part we discussed was absolutely critical for learning how to forgive. Forgiveness must flow from a humble heart.
Whether you are trying to learn how to forgive cheating or just better understand the psychology of forgiveness you need the beginning parts of this lesson, especially the last part. Without those 5 pieces of Spiritual clothing that come as we mature in our walk, forgiveness just won’t stick easily.
You must be leaning into Jesus, asking Him to grow you for this to work. Today as I share the steps to forgive, remember they are dependent on a foundation of humility in Christ…
Heart-deep Forgiveness in Marriage is Hard
As God worked this discipline into my heart, it was through a difficult marriage. Honestly, I had read so many books on how to forgive, and still I was failing.
There were so many things to forgive… and I just wasn’t. I was so fed up with being hurt by the people who were supposed to love me, that I stopped trying. Can you relate?
But in that place, in that stuck place, I also was not experiencing the joy God promises, the abundant blessings He spoke about. Unforgiveness was destroying me and my faith. But I learned I was not alone in the struggle.
Difficult Marriages in the Bible
Have you ever thought about the couples that are mentioned in the Bible?
- Adam & Eve
- Abraham & Sarah
- Moses & Zipporah
- Jacob & Rachel
- Samson & Delilah
- Hosea & Gomer
- Joseph & Mary
They all had a story. Most of their stories were messed up enough that today they would make a good soap opera. Some of our stories are just as bad.
Some of them have been used in sermons about how to forgive someone who hurt you, and how to forgive yourself for something terrible. However we view these real stories, the one thing that stands you to me is that none of them got it perfect. They all messed up, and still, God loved them, used them, and shared their story to help us learn and grow!
Are You Stuck?
Sometimes our story gets stuck. Our faith walk gets stuck. Most of the times that I have been stuck were right where there was great pain. It seemed like I would never be able to move forward… like God would never answer my prayers again.
It is easy, in those stuck places to feel like this is all there is. Pain and heartache are just a natural part of life for a Believer. But the reality is so far from that. God wants abundant life for us, BUT, we can do or say things that interrupt His plan for our lives.
Yes, I believe we are the culprit. We are the ones getting in the way of our abundant life!
We know we need to forgive. Forgiveness is the only way to get rid of the bitterness and resentment that prevent abundant life, but forgiveness is hard. Forgiving is so hard that we often just don’t do it, thus forfeiting our chances at all the beautiful wonderful blessings God has for us.
The Holy Spirit Teaches Us How To Forgive
Hearing that could cause us to spiral into hopelessness. I get in my own way so often. I mess up and can’t get it right. But I am not alone in this journey. Neither are you!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)
The Holy Spirit can set us free from that stuck place of hurt. Yes, leaning on the Holy Spirit is the only way to learn how to forgive yourself and others. But it depends on prayer, it depends on asking Holy Spirit for help.
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”~ Corrie Ten Boom
And truth be told, I have seen God use the hurt of my past to bring me to my knees. To remind me that prayer is supposed to be my first response, not my last. When pain teaches that lessen it hurts. But the pain often helps move me to a place of healing. How about you?
The Fog of Busyness
So often, we get stuck in this sort of fog. We allow the busy demands of life to keep us from making time to work things out. Busyness is a tool the enemy loves to use to keep us stuck! We have to push through the fog to create time to work through forgiveness! God wants to help!!!!!
“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB)
No, it may not look like all the other Scriptures on how to forgive, but love all that it says!
Related Post: Powerful War Room Prayers for Spiritual Battle
How Clear the Fog of Busyness
Do you trust God? He says we can do some things differently to clear that fog if we trust Him!
- Seek God for clarity from busyness.
- Ask Him to re-set priorities.
- Be sure your heart is completely His.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be someone God can “strongly support.” Don’t you?!?!?!?
“If you cannot trust God’s good work on your behalf, then you will be a candidate for… bitterness, anger, anxiety, discouragement, worry, criticism, resentment, cynicism, and even hatred toward those who have hurt you. Not being anchored by God’s sovereign care of your life will make you like a kite in the wind.” ~ Rick Thomas
Let’s begin to pray for God’s sovereign care over our lives and our marriages because nothing can stand against God and win!
Related Post: 7 Different Types of Biblical Fasting
You Need To Start At The Beginning to Succeed at Forgiveness
People ask me all the time, “What are the 5 steps to forgiveness?” and “What are the 7 steps to forgiveness?” I tend to laugh out loud when asked that, because I can’t narrow it down to just 5 or 7 steps. Hence the need for a long series on the topic of how to forgive.
The truth is, you need all of these tools to forgive others. You need to know why forgiveness matters, what the benefits are, and what the consequences are of missing the mark. You need humility and patience and you must trust Him.
When you are asking things like, how to forgive the unforgivable or how to forgive when you are still angry, I have to point you back to the beginning. It matters that you start in the right place.
7 Steps To Genuinely Forgive: How to Forgive Anyone
You asked how to forgive someone you love, how to forgive and forget. My answer is to remember:
- God says to forgive.
- Forgiveness brings abundant life.
- Unforgiveness leads to misery.
- God is the great judge.
I know, I know… you’ve heard all of this before. It sounds nice and you probably agree with most of it, but how do we really forgive when it hurts so badly? I mean, some of the hurt from my past is so deep that even though it happened a while ago, it is still bleeding. Can you relate?
How do we even begin? These are the 7 steps to forgiveness that help start the process of genuine forgiveness.
- Stop telling your story as the victim
- Assess the injury
- Value your offender
- Intercede for your offender
- Own your part
- Release their debt
- Test your heart
Step 1 How To Forgive: Stop Telling Your Story As The Victim
How do you forgive when you are still hurt? Switch your perspective. You are not a victim! When looking for Bible verses on how to forgive and forget, Romans is packed with goodness!
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 NASB)
You are not a victim, you are a conquerer. Stop replaying the events in your mind as the victim. Remember that your thoughts dictate your attitude. God’s word says we are victors – NOT victims. Own that identity.
In order to get a different outcome for the future, one that is healed, whole, and holy, your mindset has to change.
Step 2 How To Forgive: Assess The Injury
There was a wrong done to you, maybe many wrongs. Take an inventory of them. Beside each one, note where you hurt or seriously injured?
Think it through because you will need to forgive specifically. List each hurt/injury and note which they are. You will need to pray about it specifically so take your time here.
Not sure if an offense was a hurt or an injury? This is the difference between a bruised knee and a broken leg if you fall. One hurts while the other is an injury requiring medical treatment.
- My first husband cheated
- This is an injury.
- It broke my heart, it destroyed any chance of trust.
- Learning how to forgive a cheater required more than a perspective shift and prayer to forgive.
- I needed help from a good counselor and help to set godly boundaries.
- This is an injury.
- My second husband refused to take any interest in the things I am passionate about for a season.
- This is a hurt.
- That does not lessen its importance. It does hurt but didn’t require help to forgive.
- This is a hurt.
Talk to God about what happened and seek His discernment if you are still not sure how to label each offense.
Step 3 How To Forgive: Value Your Offender
Every human on the face of this planet has value to God. They are more than what they did or are doing. That’s how Jesus treats us.
How often do I sin and offend my holy God? Yet He forgives me. The Bible assures me that when God sees me, He sees me as covered in the righteousness of God (Galatians 3:27; Hebrews 8:12). The Lord values me even though I offend Him, daily!
“For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12 NASB)
This is one of my favorite how to forgive Bible verses because it reminds me of God’s great grace and mercy. It is easy to look at my offender and only see how they hurt me. They become a monster, undeserving of forgiveness. But we are called to love others as God loves us, which means we have to see them as His children too.
Step 4 How To Forgive: Intercede For Your Offender
The hardest offense I ever forgave was rape. My childhood was filled with horrible things like that… When I began to my attacker as a person, loved by God things shifted for me. And God tells us, not just to value those who hate us and hurt us, but to pray for them.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB)
It is hard to hold onto anger and resentment toward someone you are praying over. Yes, the Bible tells us to pray even for our enemies. Can I be honest with you about this one? It hurts the first few times to pray for their salvation, to pray for their healing, to pray for God to move in their lives. When the offense is an injury, expect the process to hurt. Learning how to forgive and heal is a sacrifice to God that comes with tears.
Do You See Your Spouse as The Enemy?
There was a season when I was struggling to forgive Bud. Most of the offenses on my list about him were just hurts, but they add up. After a while, when there has been hurt after hurt with no change, no acknowledgment, no apology, it feels like an injury. Like if you fell down and bruised your knee every day, eventually you need a doctor.
You have to take that to God and ask Him to help you stop seeing your offender as your enemy. Instead, ask Him to help you start to see them the way He sees them.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against…” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV)
Remember who the real enemy is in your life. It is not the person in front of you, but the devil and his minions who are experts at camouflage.
God will often give you a new perspective while you are praying for your offender. He can allow you to see both sides which helps ease the tension a great deal.
Step 5 How To Forgive: Own My Part
We all sin… right?
I mean I have a list a mile long at the end of each day of my sin. I am not an innocent party in most situations (Romans 7:15, 19, 24-25). Here’s the time to deal with that honestly.
I stay stuck when I can only focus on the other person’s part. For me, in my marriage, I have to let God deal with my husband about his part. I have to see my own sin struggles and work through them with God.
Now, in the case of offenses that are injuries, this may not be true. For example, rape is not my fault. I had no part to play in that. Being cheated on is not my fault. No sin on my part played into either of those situations.
However, most of the things on my list are not injuries. They are hurts where my pride pushed his pride, my insecurity fed her fear, my sin bumped up against someone else’s sin and we both were wrong. That has to be dealt with in this process.
Step 6 How To Forgive: Release Their Debt
This. This right here. To release them of their debt seemed like the hardest part to me. If I release my offender from the debt of this hurt, it feels like I let him get away with it. Even knowing He is the great judge… my mind just struggled here for a long while.
But we serve a just God. He will deal with things in His way and His time. He does it so much better than we can in our humanity.
Give it to God. Let God deal with it.
Forgive 7 Times 70
In Matthew 18, we are told to forgive 7 times 70, or every time.
Our forgiveness should know no boundary just like God’s forgiveness. He ends that chapter by telling a parable of a servant who was forgiven much. A debt of money we wouldn’t earn in a lifetime was just released. He, however, went out to demand someone else repay him a much smaller debt. Unbelievable.
This parable is a striking reminder of how God feels about my unforgiveness. I don’t want to be like the unforgiving servant. Do you?
Step 7 How To Forgive: Test Your Heart
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”~C.S. Lewis
The last step in how to forgive others is a test. To know if you genuinely forgave, you need to ask yourself some questions.
- When you think about the situation do strong emotions still well up?
- If you still feel raw emotions, you are not healed yet.
- If that person approaches you, what do you feel?
- If you panic or feel anger when they approach you are not done yet.
- When you pray for that person, do you mean it?
- When you pray, if it is still forced, you need to keep working through the process with God.
These are some basic things to test if the process of forgiveness has gone heart-deep.
Disclaimers About Forgiveness
People often ask me how to forgive and forget. Honestly, I don’t see where forgetting is Biblical. Learning how to forgive someone for cheating, for example, is a situation where forgetting would be unwise.
Some hurts are deep and you may never forget them fully. You should, however, be able to get to a place where you can talk about the situation without feeling the raw emotions.
Also, there will be situations that return, like a bad penny, they just won’t go away.
It is important to repeat the process of forgiveness each time. But the truth is, it is hard to keep forgiving the same offense. God said, “7 times 70,” but that stings.
All we can do sometimes is pray God will change this behavior in our husband when the offenses are small hurts. But when the offenses are injuries we must learn about godly boundaries and Biblical counseling.
Related Post: How Good Boundaries Provide Hope for a Broken Marriage
I Do Not Have Control Over His Change
One thing is true learning to forgive, as with anything else in human relationships. I am only responsible for my part. The other person is in charge of their own part.
I can only do what God has asked of me. Nothing I can do can force someone else to change their hurtful behavior. Yes, we can work with counselors and set boundaries and make changes to ourselves, but ultimately, they have a choice.
While we can’t force them to change, we still must forgive. This goes back to trusting God. Even if they never change, we still forgive to please God.
Abuse Needs More Than Forgiveness
I want to take a moment to address abuse. There is never a just cause for abuse of any kind. If you are involved in domestic abuse, it is imperative that you seek professional guidance. These steps will not replace that.
Forgiveness helps free you from the bitterness and resentment that come from hurt but forgiveness on your part is for your soul’s health. Abuse can be forgiven but should never be tolerated or lived with. You need help, boundaries, and probably distance.
You may never be able to reconcile in these situations. Forgiveness does not mean staying in harmful situations. Reconciliation requires trust, built back slowly over time through repeated believable behaviors. What forgiveness does however allows you to live in freedom as a victor in Christ rather than a victim.
My Example Of How To Forgive
Can I share with you an example of how I walked through the 7 steps of forgiveness a while back?
I am going to be very open with you and share what this looked like for me in the form of a prayer written in my journal.
My Journal Entry
“Restore my hope in Your sovereign will,” was prayed over me. What does this look like?
Tiffany, you need sovereign clarity. You are at war. The enemy is clouding your perspective and you need to do some things to adjust.
Remember I Am your anchor. Don’t be blown around by emotion every time something new and bad happens.
When you tell this story, no one is at fault or the victim. I AM in control of this battle. I AM has declared victory in it, not victims.
Lord, change me. I confess it to You as sin… self-serving, seeking glory and sympathy. Please forgive me.
Please change me.
Tiffany, you were hurt by this, not injured. Shake it off and get back to things.
Yes, Lord, I forgive Bud. You. Me. Everyone I have been busy blaming. It hurts… badly. I have to re-hash the hurt often as we deal with the consequences. I need help with this one BIG TIME. Change me, please.
Tiffany, see value in Bud again. He is more than what he did. Everyone messes up. Don’t hold him to a higher standard than everyone else around you.
I Mess Up Too
God, I have messed up big time and far worse than he ever has. He is not the sum of his mistakes, just as I am not.
Lord, I surrender this feeling of superiority to You. Please forgive my sins of pride, self-righteousness, and judgment. I release Bud to You. This mistake is forgiven. Help me treat him like it is behind us.
Bud Is Your Son
I don’t fully know what this has done to Bud. There is evidence of stress he won’t admit. I see him standing still in fear of failure. Lord, I pray You would teach Bud to distinguish between Your voice and the enemy’s lies. Bud needs to see that fear is the enemy’s trick or he won’t be able to move beyond it. Please train his ears to know Your voice.
I have been wallowing in the hurt instead of encouraging and really interceding for Bud. That is where the real war is… hard and strong over that man. Arm him, Lord, give him endurance, physical health, clarity of mind, and wisdom.
Lord, I release Bud from all the debt I felt was entitled to because of this and many other hurts in our marriage. Show me how to start fresh with him and be the wife that you want me to be.
Teach me how to be content… to develop trust in your sovereignty. And teach me to accept. Contentment nor trust are not natural for me, but I see I will need them to make it through this storm. Amen”
Will You Use These 7 Steps to Forgiveness Today? Learn How To Forgive Through Practice
It is your turn now to practice how to forgive.
Take your time walking through the steps. Don’t rush this. Allow quiet and stillness as you wait for the Lord to answer your prayer. He will!!!!!
Which of the 7 steps of forgiveness do you need more help walking through?
- Stop telling your story as the victim
- Assess the injury
- Value your offender
- Intercede for your offender
- Own your part
- Release their debt
- Test your heart
Next, we will talk about learning how to choose forgiveness – before the offense. Some call it pre-forgiveness. Then we will finish up talking through reconciliation. Spoiler alert, I don’t believe all relationships can or should be reconciled.
in HIS love,
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