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Forgiveness is primarily defined as: “giving up any claim to repayment or punishment along with any feelings of resentment, alienation, or desire for revenge.”

        feelings of resentment: bitter brooding, smoldering ill-will, contempt, open or hidden hatred.
        alienation: unfriendliness, loss of affection for, disinterest in, withdrawal, emotional separation, physical separation (such as divorce).
        desire for revenge: to get even, hurt back, make them suffer for what they did to you.

The primary motivation for forgiveness is a mixture of love and gratitude – love for God and His ways along with love for others like the love we have for ourselves mixed with gratitude for God’s graciously merciful dealings with us. When we love God and others as we ought, we are motivated by such love to place a high value on meaningful relationships built on mutual love and trust. And when we are grateful for God’s gracious forgiveness (forgiveness which enables us to be in a relationship with Him) we are motivated to forgive others so that our damaged relationships can be healed and broken relationships restored.

The purpose of forgiveness is to bring healing and restoration to a relationship that has been damaged or broken through unloving behavior by one or both parties. In other words, forgiveness is one of the healing agents through which a sick, dying, or dead relationship must pass if it is to be restored to a state of health.

The prerequisite for forgiveness is repentance, accompanied by an admission of wrongdoing, an apology, and a request to be forgiven. Repentance is a change of mind which results in a corresponding change of behavior. For example, where once you thought it right or justifiable to behave in selfish, uncaring, or unloving ways, you now believe it is wrong and so you set your mind on behaving in a caring and loving way.

Without repentance – as verified by a confession and an apology, and supported by a sustained change of behavior – there can be no relationship healing or relationship restoring forgiveness. We can give up our claim to repayment or punishment. We can give up our feelings of resentment and anger – and we ought. And we can reject any thought or desire for revenge. But we cannot restore the relationship until the offending party repents, and sustains a change of behavior. Otherwise, the relationship damaging behavior will continue – thus preventing healing and restoration.

However, when the offender repents, apologizes, and asks for forgiveness, it is time for the offended party to give forgiveness. Once forgiveness has been given, it is time for both parties to devote themselves to restoring the relationship. They do this by setting aside any unfriendliness that may have come between them and begin working at being friendly. They do this by replacing whatever animosity, ill-will, or hatred they had toward each other with sympathy, kindness, patience, and love. Where they held resentment or bitterness, they now pursue an openness and honesty that feeds understanding and compassion. Where there was distrust, they each open the door for trust to be restored. Instead of withdrawing from the relationship, they pursue it. Instead of separating, they build unity so love can bloom again. This is the “restore the relationship” part of forgiveness, and it takes both sides/parties to make it happen.

The point being made is that you cannot have a mutually meaningful, mutually loving, trust-based relationship with someone who has repeatedly pushed you away or hurt you or hurt those you love without remorse and repentance and a sustained change of behavior on their part.

However, when faced with someone who seems unwilling to change their relationship damaging ways, you can be honest and clear with them about their behavior without becoming ungodly, unloving, disrespectful, sarcastic, bitter, sinfully angry, hostile, or abusive.

But to remain loving and honest when forced to endure unwanted disappointment or pain, you must (1) make God your primary source of security, (2) make God’s love your primary source of love, (3) and make love itself the deciding factor in how you will think, speak, and behave. Then you must (1) guard your thoughts to prevent thinking the wrong way, (2) guard your tongue so that you do not speak in unloving, unkind, exaggerated, hurtful, or abusive ways, (3) and practice/write out ahead of time saying things in an honest and clear way so that when you are with the person you will speak in ways that tell the truth while keeping the door open for healing and the restoration of the relationship. 

The Scripture addresses these steps Philippians 4:6-8, Ephesians 4:31-5:2, 6:10-13, Colossians 3:1-3, 12-15, and Romans 12:14, 16-21. These scriptures show us the way to right thinking and feeling regardless of the offender’s behavior and/or continued behavior. These scriptures are God’s provision for a healthy, rational way out of our mental anguish and emotional hurts when the offender is unrepentant. 

Now according to the definition of love, you can seek the good of everyone, be they friend or foe. However, seeking a person’s good is not equal to having a shared relationship of trust and love with that person. Seeking their good is simply the act of doing what is best for an individual or group in spite of their behavior toward you or others.

In this, God is our supreme example. The Scripture puts this truth this way.

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 in order 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 5:43-45)

". . .God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (II Corinthians 5:19, NASB)

One-sided love can promote and protect the good of others, including our enemies, but it cannot heal a damaged relationship or restore a broken one. Only repentance on the part of the offender and forgiveness on the part of the offended can create the environment necessary for reconciliation and the rebuilding of a meaningful, mutually loving, mutually trusting relationship. Therefore, the one forgiving must be willing to risk trusting again, and the one being forgiven must be willing to change so as to validate his worthiness to be trusted. 

Forgiveness takes two – two sides working together in healing the damage done and restoring the relationship to one of mutual love and trust.



Work together in resolving differences

Work together

and evaluating progress.

in resolving differences

  and evaluating progress
See the other person’s

Verify our repentance is genuine

words and actions by starting immediately
as truly repentant to make agreed on changes
Trust the other person Free ourselves from
even though it means fear of criticism
risking being wronged so we can be open, honest, and
and hurt again spontaneous again
Open ourselves to Accept the reality
new levels of intimacy of reputation lost
and times together and give the other person time
for the purpose of to grow in trust for the sake
rebuilding relationship of re-establishing relationship





Offers a self-demeaning apology, Offers a full account of why Offers NO defense
grovels. he did what was done.  or excuse.
  This comes in the form Simply admits the
  of an excuse.

wrong done and harm caused.

Degrades self Uses disclaimers. Shows true sorrow
 in an attempt to make self look bad Asks to be seen as being and pledges to work on
so offended party will show pity a good person - generally speaking changing so as to remove
or mercy.   the wrong / hurtful behavior
Makes unclear appeal   Spreads the blame Adds nothing
to pity and mercy. beyond self as if what was done  to the apology.
  would not have been done  
   if the other party had not done  
  what they did  
  or if circumstances were not  
  what they were.  
Is asking for: Is asking for: Is asking for: 
1) Escape from consequences 1) The other party to see their 1) Forgiveness for the wrong done.
or punishment for wrongs done. own part in the wrong doing. Acknowledges that what was done
    was wrong, unwarranted, and
2) Escape from humiliation 2) The other party to be reasonable 2) Restoration of the relationship -
 for wrong choices made. and tolerant since the explanation a reconciled state of mutual love
  given shows the accused is neither  and trust.
  solely nor mostly to blame.  
Seeks acceptance. Seeks exoneration. Seeks reconciliation.
Does not wish to take responsibility Denies responsibility; Takes authentic,
for wrong done,  side-steps having to be accountable obvious responsibility
but does want offended party for what was done; for the wrong done
to accept them as if excuses self due to without any explanation
they had done no wrong. extenuating circumstances. or justification
    or personal defense.
    Accepts the consequences
    without complaint.




STEP 1. Choose to value the person and the relationship. STEP 1. Humbly accept the fact you have wronged another person.
STEP 2. Go to the other person. Ask for a joint effort in resolving the conflict. STEP 2. Value the person and the relationship enough to make restitution and seek reconciliation.
STEP 3. Explain how the wrong affected you. Ask the offender to explain his side. Restate what you hear till both agree on what is said. Listen for hidden fears and underlying concerns. Affirm your concern for the good of both and a restored relationship. Ask what you have done to contribute to the conflict. STEP 3. Admit the wrong you have done. Avoid defensiveness. Try to understand the other persons view of the conflict. Restate what you hear till both agree on what is said. Look for hidden fears and underlying concerns. Be kind but honest about the other persons part if he wronged you
STEP 4. Deal with past wrongs: a) work together for a resolution, b) agree on what each is to do in working out the resolution, c) establish a method for verifying progress, d) settle on a response to failure, e) lay the past to rest. STEP 4. Deal with past wrongs: a)  repent and commit to change, b) seek solutions in a spirit of cooperation, c) pursue methods of verification and responses to failure that will build trust, d) accept forgiveness.
STEP 5. Affirm your commitment to trust. Affirm your commitment to a shared relationship of love and trust. Ask if the other person shares these commitments. STEP 5. Affirm your commitment to re-establish trust. Acknowledge that trust must be earned. Affirm your commitment to a relationship built on mutual love and trust.
STEP 6. Begin again to work on the relationship. Show good faith by pursuing the other person. Do not brood over the incident. Do not remind the other party of their past failure. Do not tell others. Do not allow anything related to this conflict to hinder the growth of the relationship in anyway. Ask for changes to the agreement if needed STEP 6. Begin again to work on the relationship. Prove you want to change by making sincere efforts to change. Cooperate with the verification process. Do what you agreed on when failure occurs. Work at relating in spontaneous, happy ways. Do not let anything get in the way of reconciliation. Ask for changes to the agreement if needed.




What is the difference between unconditional acceptance and unconditional love? ___________________

Why is repentance required on the part of the one being forgiven? _______________________________

What is so important about restoring trust? __________________________________________________

Who should take the first step toward restoring trust? _________________________________________




PSALM 103:8-14 . . . The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. (NASB)

According to these verses, what is God's attitude toward us when we sin? __________________________

What should our attitude be toward those who sin against us? ____________________________________


LUKE 17:3-4 . . . "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him." (NASB)

Is it right to tell people when they have wronged us or someone we know? _________________________

Why is it the loving thing to do to rebuke a sinner when he sins?__________________________________

What condition must the offender meet to be forgiven?__________________________________________

Why must the offender repent?______________________________________________________________


PROVERBS 24:17-18 . . . Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it and be displeased and turn away His anger from that enemy for his offenses against you. (NASB)

PROVERBS 24:29a . . . Do not say, "Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me...." (NASB)

ROMANS 12: 17-21 . . . Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB)

EPHESIANS 4:31-32 . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (NASB)

COLOSSIANS 3:12-14 . . . And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (NASB)

Are we to want harm to come to those who harm us? _____________________________________________

Why? ___________________________________________________________________________________

These verses list attitudes, feelings, and actions that hinder forgiveness and damage relationships. What are they? ____________________________________________________________________________________

These verses list attitudes, feelings, and actions that encourage us to forgive and restore relationships. What are they? ____________________________________________________________________________________

When facing conflict, what are your most common attitudes, feelings, and actions? Do any attitudes, feelings, or actions need changing? ______________________________________________________________________


MATTHEW 6:14-15 . . . For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (NASB)

MATTHEW 18:21-35 . . . Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents (equivalent to $10,000,000.00). But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii ($18); and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (NASB)

MARK 11:25-26 . . . "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (NASB)

Does your forgiving others affect God's forgiveness of you? _________________________________________

How? ______________________________________________________________________________________

Why is our forgiveness of others so important to God? ______________________________________________



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Revised 2020