Why do I always have to be to one to forgive?

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As I have counseled people through the years to forgive, I’ve heard them reply something like this, “Why me? Why do I always have to be the one to forgive? Don’t you know what they did to me?”

When you feel that way please remember, even in the middle of your pain, forgiveness is the key to YOUR freedom.

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As you process your hurt and disappointment, the reality is, you can’t change what they’ve done, but you can change you. How your respond to the hurt can bring healing to your heart or cause you greater pain. You are only responsible for you.”

Peter’s Question

I wonder if that feeling is what prompted Peter’s question for Jesus. I would love to know his back story or at least his feelings behind his question, “Lord, how many times do I have to forgive a person that does me wrong? Seven times?” Sounds like a lot of times to me!

Knowing Jesus like I know Him, I wonder if He smiled and shook His head as He answered, “No, not 7 times. 70 times 7.”

I can almost see Peter’s jaw drop in response to Jesus’ outlandish number.

Jesus had a story too.

 Jesus continued with a heart-wrenching story that began with “The kingdom of heaven is like this.” Matthew 18 beginning at verse 23 in the Good News Version says:

Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.

Are you still with me?

28“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

Why should you forgive? Unforgiveness imprisons you

I want to zoom in on verse 34. The way the story is worded here it sounds like jail was this servant’s punishment; which would be bad enough when you realize he would never be able to get out because he wouldn’t have a way to make any money to pay back his debt if he was in jail, especially a sum that big.

But, when you look at version after version they all read closer to what the NIV says. The NIV says, “In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured….” So not only did the servant have to endure unending imprisonment, he was tortured. 

According to Matthew 18:34; What were the consequences of un-forgiveness? Prison and torture.

Jesus continues in verse 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

That is exactly, exactly what I see repeated in the hearts of people everywhere I go. Un-forgiveness makes you a prisoner. And every time you think of that event or that person, you will be tormented. But that’s not the end of this toxic choice, it will poison you thoughts and your heart. 

If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15 NLT

If you want to receive forgiveness, and EVERYBODY needs forgiveness, then you must give forgiveness.


I know! I know! It’s hard!

 And the truth is there are some things you can’t forgive! There I said it…does that make you feel better? But, let me finish that sentence with the bigger truth, There are some thing you can’t forgive without God’s help. Did you forget living for Jesus is not one more self-help program? He never intended for you to do anything alone. He wants to help you in ever area of your life- including forgiveness.

Ask God to help you forgive.

I don’t mean one of those quick, in between commercials on TV, prayers. Open your heart to God and deeply and sincerely ask for His help.

Choose, as an act of your will, to forgive.

Forgiveness is not an emotion. We will talk about the emotion in a minute, but chose to forgive.

Forgive from your heart. You are the only one that can forgive for you; no one can forgive for you

It is a deeper place than your mind. HELPS Word-studies calls the heart “the affective center of our being.”

Give your hurt to God.

It is toxic in your heart. When you give your pain to Him, a Divine Exchange can take place- He gives you wholeness.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalms 147:3

Psalms 147:3NIV “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

It may take some time for your emotions to heal, but they will if you don’t feed them by rehearsing the situation over and over in your mind. This is a prime example of pulling down every thought.

Process the emotion through the lens of truth.

Don’t inflate the situation.

Seek understanding.

Ask for wisdom.

Why did this action hurt you? Is there something deeper in your heart that needs to be healed?

Sometimes a reliable person can help you process the situation.

Choose mercy instead of judgment.

Choose love instead of resentment.

Pray for them.

Still Praying Circles Around You

So many people miss this step in the process of forgiveness. It is critical! If you refuse to pray for them, then you won’t get whole.

Matthew 5:44 NIV “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

When you pray for the person that offended you, the situation becomes a key in God’s hands to release you from the prison of offense and heal you. But, the process doesn’t stop there because you are praying for them. God is able to go to the root of the offender’s heart and heal them too. Hurting people hurt people. God wants to use the situation to bring life to the offender.

Support your choice to forgive with your thoughts.

When a thought comes up about the person or the incident that occurred, capture that thought and replace it with one that builds up instead of tears down.

Don’t let your thoughts become toxic.

Remind yourself “I’ve forgiven them of that” and then pray for the person. If you feel pain at the thought of that person, then take it to the cross again.

I pray something like this; “Thank you Father for healing my emotions and if there is any little bit of un-forgiveness left then, I repent Father. Heal this hurt. Take the sting out of this memory.”

Remember that emotions are signals.

What is the signal telling you? “Father, I choose to love them. I release them and believe that you are transforming them into the image of your dear Son.”

Your thoughts are like a stream of water.

When it is pure, it nourishes your soul, body and spirit. But, when it is polluted with un-forgiveness, bitterness and anger, it poisons you at every level.

Guarding your heart begins with a single thought.

Big Take Away– Remember, forgiveness sets YOU free. Forgiveness is a decision. Choose to forgive. Forgive quickly. When a bad thought comes to mind about the person or situation. Remind yourself they are forgiven, pray for them and move deliberately to a different subject. If the memory is painful, ask God to heal that memory and take the pain out of it.

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This article is part of a series on what the Bible says about your thoughts.

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