Man sitting on a rock watching a sunset over the ocean.

How Do I Forgive?

- by Joyce Meyer

For many years, I carried around a heavy burden of anger and unforgiveness because of the abuse I suffered as a child. Instead of moving beyond my feelings, I chose to stay locked up in a prison of my own negative emotions, living in a spiritual pity party. 

However, one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the willingness to forgive. In fact, learning to forgive quickly and generously is the cornerstone for all emotional health and a powerful key to controlling our emotions. 

What Forgiveness Does for You

Forgiveness spoils the enemy’s plan to destroy your relationships. It disarms the sting of bitterness, invites the peace of God, and brings healing power to your soul.

Now, I can tell you one thing for certain: If you wait until you feel like forgiving someone, you will never forgive! Our decision to do what God’s Word says goes beyond our feelings. There are times when we will simply have to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. However, obeying God’s Word away brings a reward.

Two Very Important Questions 

Take time to ask yourself: How do I respond when someone hurts my feelings? Do I allow my emotions to run wild and let it to rob me of my joy? 

It’s easy to allow our feelings to control us—it doesn’t take the power of the Holy Spirit to do and say everything we feel like doing and saying. However, when we cooperate with God to do what His Word says, even when our emotions are screaming, we invite blessings into our lives and into the lives of those around us. 

What to Do When Someone Hurts You

Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28, …Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (GNT).

I can tell you right now that you’ll most likely not feel like doing this! But God will honor your obedience if you do. 

Let Me Encourage You to Pray:

Lord, you know how I feel right now, and I’m honestly not sure if I want them to be happy. But I know what Your Word says to do, so I’m taking a step of faith and doing this out of obedience. Father, I ask You to bless their life and everything they do. Please work in their heart—change them and bring them closer to You.”

Again, when we choose to forgive someone and pray for them, it helps us as much or more than it helps them. It’s difficult to stay mad at someone if you are actively praying for them. Also, our feelings follow our decisions. If we make a quality choice to be good to someone, it’s only a matter of time before our feelings will catch up. 

Yes, You Can Do This!

Whenever I teach on forgiveness, I can almost imagine what is going through people’s minds. Joyce, you’re asking me to forgive? You have no idea what I have been through!

Trust me, I do understand. Your hurt, your pain, and your desire to see others pay for what they’ve done makes forgiveness seem like a difficult choice. But here’s the truth: It is harder not to forgive. I often say that staying angry is like drinking poison and hoping that your enemy will die. The person you’re really hurting is yourself!

Trust God to Give You Justice 

I’m not saying you should let people abuse you. But the Bible says we need to let God be our vindicator. Forgiveness is simply a choice you make to trust God to be the judge, not you. When you give God control over the situation, it opens the door for the love, power, favor and peace of God to flow in your life.

First Peter 3:9 (AMPC) says, Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. 

Learn to Love Your Enemies

God has given us His grace to be good to people—even to people who aren’t being good to us. He has given us the power to pray for our enemies and not be mad at people who have hurt us or attacked us (see Matthew 5:44). 

Jesus says in Luke 6:35, But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (NIV).

Real Answers About Forgiveness

Now, let's get practical about how to do this. If you have a coworker who gets the promotion that you've been believing God for, the minute you begin to feel jealousy and envy, the greatest thing you can do is choose to be happy for them and go out of your way to bless them.

You see, when we do this, it breaks the power of the enemy over the situation. Satan wants us to get mad, offended, and bitter. He wants to drive a wedge between us and everyone else. His ultimate plan is for a root of bitterness to grow inside of us, because he knows it will poison us! However, Romans 12:21 tells us that we overcome evil with good. As we do, it diffuses anger, strife, bitterness, and negative emotions.

Yes, there are times when action needs to be taken or someone needs to be confronted about what they did. But even then, God doesn’t want us weighed down with bitterness and unforgiveness. 

Look for the “Why” Behind the “What”

The truth is so many people don’t truly know what they are doing—they’re just reacting out of their own hurt and pain. Remembering this will help us to forgive and press past anger and unforgiveness.

I really don’t believe my father understood what he was doing to me emotionally or how he would affect a good portion of my life. He was doing what many people do who are not born-again—living selfishly and satisfying their own desires, with no regard for the consequences of their actions. 

Remember what Jesus said as He hung on the cross: 

...Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do...(Luke 23:34 NIV).

See Things Through a Different Lens

It is easy to judge, but the Bible tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement (see James 2:13). I don’t mean that abusers are not accountable for their sins—we must all be willing to take responsibility for our own wrongdoing.

However, the Lord showed me that mercy sees the “why” behind the “what.” Mercy and compassion don’t just look at the wrongdoing, they look beyond to the person doing the wrong—to the childhood, the temperament, the entire life of the individual. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. 

Choose Freedom and Forgive

I may not know your story or the pain you’ve been through, but I do know the only way to experience everything God has for you is to forgive.

I know it won’t be easy. It takes courage and faith to forgive and to make a fresh start in your life and relationships. But if you will ask God, He will generously supply His grace and everything you need to obey Him and lead you into a place of emotional freedom.

It is a marvelous place to be when we can look at people who've hurt us with compassion and pray what Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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