The Importance of Forgiveness in Relationships

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The importance of forgiveness can not be overstated. Forgiveness is vital to our spiritual, emotional, and mental health, and the foundation for long-lasting healthy relationships.

In every relationship, offenses happen, because we are all imperfect people. Learning the importance of forgiveness and how to move on means we choose to let offenses go.

Forgiveness is a choice that frees us to determine if a relationship can move on toward growth or if a relationship needs to change or end. The decision to forgive may not feel good at the moment but leads to long-lasting contentment.

Our will forgives and releases our spirit and feelings to catch up and heal.

Accepting the importance of forgiveness in a relationship takes intentionality and effort which is often painful. But without forgiveness, a relationship will be fractured, broken, and stuck.

Unforgiveness leads to the premature death of a relationship or to the continuation of a relationship compromised by building resentment.

Learning how to forgive others is a superpower. It helps us move forward in our life, our relationships, and our faith journey. The art of forgiving is one of the best attributes of maintaining healthy relationships.

Without the ability to forgive, it is difficult to avoid toxic, dysfunctional relationships and it is impossible to have long-lasting healthy connections. But there is hope because learning how to forgive and move on in a relationship is possible through faith and trust in God.

As we grow spiritually, forgiving comes more naturally. When our identity is in Christ and our heart is transformed, we become free and change happens.

daisy with words-importance of forgiveness

What is the True Meaning of Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves and to the people around us.

One of my children is a great forgiver. She is able to release her anger and disappointment and truly forgive the people who hurt her.

On the other hand, it takes most people longer to embrace and choose forgiveness. I am not talking about small mistakes and oversights although those trip us up too.

The big hurts or betrayals cause the most difficulty and confusion over what is forgiveness.

What makes us a good forgiver? Why do some people struggle to forgive the smallest mistakes while others move on quickly? Is there a strategy to grasp the importance of forgiveness and demonstrate it often?

Psychologists answer the question, what is the true meaning of forgiveness with the belief that it is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment toward a person who has hurt you, regardless of whether they actually deserve or have asked for your forgiveness.

They generally believe the true meaning of forgiveness is not forgetting, nor does it mean excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you.

Forgiveness is designed to give the forgiver peace of mind and to release them from destructive thoughts and behavior due to the anger of an offense.

Learning to forgive others is an emotional and spiritual foundational skill that when developed and growing in our lives helps us learn to love others unconditionally.

The problem with unforgiveness is it can be linked to hurt feelings related to our own baggage. Sometimes it feels impossible to release someone when they hurt us.

But when we don’t understand the importance of forgiveness and practice forgiving others, it erodes the fabric of our faith and blocks the joy and freedom we can experience in our relationship with Jesus and others.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 34:18 NLT

The Importance of Forgiveness in Every Relationship

Because everyone experiences disappointment and hurt, we all get to practice how to forgive others. The importance of forgiveness in relationships affects every area of our life but most importantly our spiritual health.

My family was headed on a vacation, so our morning was filled with hectic energy and excitement. When we arrived at our hotel and unloaded the luggage, I realized my suitcase was missing. My first reaction was to take inventory and recheck our surroundings. Still no suitcase. No clothes. No contact solution. No toothbrush.

Since my husband insisted on loading the car, he quickly became the villain in my crisis. The problem with getting angry was his repentant stance and his willingness to admit he made a mistake. (What a beautiful example of how to cut resentment at its core!)

So, I had a choice to make. I could get mad, pitch a fit (which was tempting), throw out sarcastic comments throughout the weekend, or demonstrate the importance of forgiveness and move on.

This story seems like a simple illustration of the importance of forgiveness, but in relationships, it is the little things that can lead to big resentments.

Why is Forgiveness Important?

  • Forgiveness is important because we learn to forget hurts and live more fully in the present

In order to forgive my husband, I had to practice forgetting instead of meditating on the mistake. It is tempting in these situations to overanalyze and connect lies that elevate the hurt.

Did he really mean to leave my suitcase in a passive-aggressive move? Why was my suitcase left behind and not someone else’s? But these thoughts lead to doubt, bitterness, and defeat instead of forgiveness. (unless there is a pattern of hurt or abuse that requires another approach)

When we forget we fail to remember or put it out of our mind. If we are struggling to forget an offense, it may be easier to focus on failing to remember or ceasing to think of what happened.

There are certain hurts we may never completely fail to remember, but we can choose to not dwell on them even when there is a scar left behind.

“A heart that’s planted in forgiveness, doesn’t dwell in the past”

Cory Asbury

  • Forgiveness is important because it helps us move forward to our future instead of looking back to our past.

“Now run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain, run for the hills or you’ll be swept away. But Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.”

Genesis 19:17 & 26 MSG

We won’t be turned into literal pillars of salt when we don’t forgive someone. But our hearts can slowly become bitter and hard to reach if we keep looking back and holding on to mistakes or failures. For some reason as Lot’s wife illustrated, we want to look back at offenses either to nurse the pain or playback the situation with a different outcome.

We will know we are free to look back and possibly help others through our story when we are liberated from the grip of pain connected to a memory. Looking back can be reserved to remember the goodness of God, not the mistakes you or others have made.

  • Forgiveness is important because we become merciful with ourselves and with others.

Jesus offers a better way when we look forward, offer forgiveness, and release the pain to Him. We begin to forgive ourselves and offer mercy to others.

We can see others through the eyes of Jesus’ love and compassion instead of through our hurt. We can love and live in the present armed with the lessons learned from our past. The importance of forgiveness is critical when it comes to the condition of our soul.

“There is no room or time to worry about the things we leave behind in our journey forward with Christ. In order to grow spiritually, we must place our trust in God, not dwell in our past. We must follow God knowing his will is perfect and He will be present with the believer each step of our life’s journey.”

Chad Napier

2 girls laughing-importance of forgivenessHow to Forgive Others: 5 Steps

Learning how to forgive others can be done if we surrender our will and control to God. We must be willing to let the person off the hook and move on.

An open heart is the first spiritual step to forgive others before we can move forward through the more practical steps listed.

That doesn’t mean the relationship stays the same or continues. Accepting how to forgive others means our life is not dictated by the pain the offense caused. Here are a few tips on how to forgive others that can help you move on from an offense.

Step 1 Acknowledge Our Feelings

The first step requires us to acknowledge our feelings and process what caused our hurt. We won’t be able to take steps to forgive others until we acknowledge that there is a problem and figure out why. This is not to rehash the situation but to analyze and process it.

When working through pain, it is tempting to go back to past hurts not necessarily connected to our current situation. But God can help us work on overcoming our past dysfunction or pain.

Being whole helps us resist the urge to keep going back so we can move on and enjoy healthy relationships.

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

Psalms 147:3 NLT

Step 2 Pray and Read Bible Verses about Forgiveness

When we pray and read Bible verses about forgiveness, we can work through discouragement. Most situations can be resolved within our own spirit through prayer.

We don’t always need or have the opportunity to talk through issues. It is a matter of using our faith muscle and focusing on Jesus’ great love for us. The superpower I mentioned is the Holy Spirit enabling us to learn how to forgive others.

Step 3 Communicate with the Person

When we can’t come to a resolution on our own, and when the relationship is important, talking to the person can help. Many times discussing a conflict helps us minimize the offense and work toward reconciliation and growth.

We discover in many situations, the offense was an oversight or meant in love and the person did not mean to offend. But we must watch our expectations and decide to forgive regardless of the outcome. Unfortunately, not all discussions lead to resolution and some relationships end.

Step 4 Set up New Boundaries

All relationships need boundaries. Sometimes we have to communicate or adjust boundaries after a conflict. Overcoming a conflict and forgiving someone can make a relationship stronger and healthier and help clarify our boundaries in the relationship.

“Forgiveness gives me boundaries because it unhooks me from the hurtful person, and then I can act responsibly, wisely. If I am not forgiving them, I am still in a destructive relationship with them.”

Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No

Step 5 Release Our Pain to God

We release the pain to God, even if it’s day by day, regardless of the person or the offense. God is the great physician who is able to free us from our hurt feelings, so we are free to forgive others.

Even when it is painful to be in someone’s presence who hurt you, we can eventually find peace. The choice to forgive others frees the bitterness that is trapped inside.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 ESV

words on beach-importance of forgiveness

The Importance of Forgiveness in the Bible

The importance of forgiveness in the Bible is demonstrated often. The most profound demonstration is Jesus’ forgiveness by dying to save everyone.

“But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!”

Romans 5:8 GNT

The Bible defines forgiveness as the choice to release someone from an offense and love them through the lens of our transformed spirit. When we are struggling to forgive and wonder what the Bible says about forgiveness, it helps to remember that we are to forgive everyone and forgive often just as Jesus forgives us.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Forgiveness releases us from the hold of hurt, disappointment, and discouragement. Understanding the importance of forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person or the offense.

With Jesus as our life partner, the Holy Spirit leads us to grace and mercy. It is hard to walk in unforgiveness and show love and mercy at the same time. If we are to live in peace, we must study and practice forgiveness.

To live whole and pursue our purpose in life the Bible says we must forgive. It is soul care that is non-negotiable and vital for our growth personally and in healthy relationships.

Be encouraged, those who live a forgiving life are free and content!

At that point, Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21-22 MSG

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”

Hebrews 11:1-2 MSG

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Philippians 3:12-14 MSG

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18 NIV

How to forgive others will always be part of our story.  As Paul stated in Philippians, I do not count myself as an expert in forgiveness but I’ve got my eye on the goal of becoming more like Jesus each day. I’ve witnessed the importance of forgiveness to live free and in a state of being transformed day by day.

What about you? Have you experienced the importance of forgiveness in your life? Would love to hear how you have learned the importance of forgiveness and the impact it has had in your relationships!

 

Mary Rooney Armand

Mary Rooney Armand loves to write inspiring, faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. Mary has a Master of Business Administration and is a Life Coach. In 2019 she created ButterflyLiving and wrote a Bible Study titled, “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.

15 thoughts on “The Importance of Forgiveness in Relationships”

  1. Beautiful and much needed post! Forgiveness is so important in our walk with Christ. It may not be easy at times but it’s necessary. After my divorce, it took awhile but eventually I learned to not only forgive him but also forgive myself.

  2. What a great post. Forgiveness is so so hard but as I get older, I find it much easier when I realize how imperfect I am and how I need forgiveness. Also, I can’t imagine going another day of holding all that stuff in an unforgiving heart. So toxic! Forgiveness is more for me than anything else. ❤️ Thanks for posting.

  3. Yes. “Looking back can be reserved to remember the goodness of God, not the mistakes you or others have made.” Forgiveness is such a big topic and does not come easily for us. But if we don’t forgive, it affects us in harmful ways. Remembering that God forgives me, can nudge me to forgive others.

  4. Outstanding article on forgiveness, Mary! So often we think we get to choose whether to forgive or not, but God means for us to forgive every time. Especially in relationships this is a core value for healthy relationships. Thank you for sharing your encounter with the lost suitcase! It was the perfect example of extending forgiveness, and a good lesson for me! Thank you!

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      Donna, thanks for reading & adding your thoughts! I am grateful God continues to help me become better at forgiveness.

  5. This is a beautiful message on forgiveness- well written and backed by scripture. Thanks – I will share this source with many others.

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  10. Greg Brunhoefer

    A beautiful post and just what I needed to read. There is not enough room to tap into my experience with forgiveness, but I can say my faith and spirituality has grown as I’ve worked through my own past situations. I am at the threshold of another situation in which I need to move towards forgiving someone. I know it is the right thing to do and yet I get hung up on the offense and delay moving forward. I know through prayer, I will get there and my faith will improve as well as the relationship. It is just difficult or I should say I make it difficult. Once again, thank you for the post, it is what I needed.

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      Greg, forgiveness is hard but always a choice. I am inspired by your willingness to grow and forgive…Thanks for reading!

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