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Overcome Your Objections to Forgiving

Learn to forgive others, even when it’s hard to forgive

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: What are your excuses for not forgiving someone? Did the apology sound fake? Did they lie? Or do they keep doing the same thing? Learn how to overcome common objections with forgiving others.

Part 3 of a 4-part series on “Forgiving Others”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 4


In the previous Bible studies on forgiveness, you read many reasons to forgive as well as ideas to help you forgive. Yet you still may find it hard to forgive for one of the following reasons. As you read, ask yourself what Jesus would say about each one. Would he think any of them gives you a good reason not to forgive?

“I won’t forgive unless the other person apologizes.”

It’s hard to forgive when someone doesn’t apologize or ask for forgiveness. It’s even harder when the other person says he or she didn’t do anything wrong.

But the Bible doesn’t say to wait to forgive until we hear, “Please forgive me.” Look at Jesus’ example. His executioners did not apologize or ask for forgiveness, yet he forgave them as he died on the cross.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)

Or look at Stephen’s example. His killers never asked his forgiveness, yet as they stoned him to death, he asked God not to hold their sin against them.

Then he [Stephen] fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

Since both Jesus and Stephen forgave their executioners even though they did not ask for forgiveness, you too can do the same thing.

Related: Escape the trap of self-pity

“I won’t forgive because the other person didn’t apologize correctly.”

If someone says, “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt,” it can be difficult to grant forgiveness since they don’t seem to understand exactly how they hurt you. Likewise, it can be hard to forgive if the other person says, “I’m sorry you were hurt.” That can sound like a non-apology.

It’s much easier to forgive if someone confesses that what he or she did was wrong and asks for forgiveness for that specific thing. However, regardless of how poorly or how well the other person apologizes, you are responsible to forgive.

Related: Don’t take things personally

“I won’t forgive because the apology sounds fake.”

Have you ever withheld forgiveness because someone’s apology seemed insincere? That’s a common response. However, it’s not your job to judge the sincerity of an apology. The other person’s genuineness is between him or her and God. Your only responsibility is to forgive.

“I could forgive anything except lying.”

We sometimes define our own “unpardonable sin.” A common example is, “I could forgive anything except lying. If I can’t trust another person, we don’t have a real relationship.” Living with dishonesty is both difficult and unpleasant, but God’s word does not make lying an exception. We are to forgive. (However, in addition to forgiving, it would be good to talk with the other person and ask for honest communication in the future.)

“I won’t keep forgiving if someone keeps doing the same thing.”

You may say, “I would be willing to forgive if I saw genuine sorrow and an effort to change, but that person keeps doing the same thing over and over.”

When Peter asked Jesus how to respond to someone who repeatedly sins, Jesus said to forgive up to seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven times, depending on the translation). Jesus’ point wasn’t to count. It was to keep forgiving.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” [“seventy times seven” in King James Bible]. (Matthew 18:21-22)

“I don’t want to excuse the sin.”

Some people think forgiving means saying the other person didn’t do anything wrong. That’s not the case at all. Forgiving does not mean you are validating the other person’s actions, or saying what he or she did was okay. You simply are forgiving.

“I want revenge.”

You may have suffered painful wounds and want the other person to suffer, but Jesus said to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to forgive others (Matthew 6:12). Leave vengeance, if any, to God.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

You may think that forgiving someone is “unfair” in view of how much you or others have suffered, or that if you forgive someone you are letting him or her get off too easy. Don’t worry about it. Instead, put the person into God’s hands.

Related: Victory Over Grumpiness, Irritation, and Anger

Memory verse

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

Personal application

1. Is it okay to refuse to forgive until the other person apologizes? Why or why not?

2. Is it okay to refuse to forgive because someone did not apologize the right way? Why or why not?

3. Is it okay to refuse to forgive because someone’s apology sounds fake?

4. Is it okay to refuse to forgive because the other person keeps repeating the offense? Why or why not?

5. Is it okay to refuse to forgive someone who lied to you? Why or why not?

6. When you forgive, are you excusing the sin? Why or why not?

7. Is it a good idea to seek revenge? Why or why not?

8. What is the main point in today’s lesson that will help you forgive? Explain your answer.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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