Why Can’t I Forgive the People Who Hurt Me? Written by: Aaron Welch, LMHC

The ability and willingness to forgive the people who hurt us is one of the more difficult requirements for many Christians. I say “requirement” because God commands us to forgive other people. Jesus also emphasized that we must love our enemies and focused on the fact that anyone can love or forgive those people who are nice to us in return. It takes a truly mature Christian to offer forgiveness to the person that wounds us deeply and shows no remorse. Let me offer two common reasons that many of us struggle to forgive.

First, many people struggle to forgive others because they have never resolved the painful wounds of their past. In my ministry as a therapist, I meet people every day who have been deeply wounded and hurt by past insults, abuse, or betrayal. These hurts run deep and it is often easier to avoid dealing with them rather than face them and work through the emotions that accompany them. However, when we sweep our pain under the rug, it is always lurking there and waiting to come into the light. Because these angry and wounded emotions lie just under the surface, they can easily be triggered by present situations that become hurtful. When someone insults us, betrays us, or we perceive that they are attacking us, all of those buried emotions come to the surface and, often, this person becomes the brunt of years of pent-up frustration and anger. This release often feels great as, subconsciously, we have probably been waiting for someone to give us a reason to vent. Forgiving the person in the present situation seems ridiculous to us because they have hurt us and deserve to be punished. What we sometimes don’t realize is that it is not entirely about that person; our high level of anger and our lack of grace also have to do with the wounds of the past that have never healed. If you struggle with this, you need to seek a professional to help you bring closure to the hurts in your life that haunt you and the pain that you must be carrying around like a ball and chain. It is only when we allow God to enter the most wounded areas of our heart that healing can occur.

Another common reason that people struggle to forgive those who hurt them is that they minimize their own mistakes and magnify the mistakes of others. The basis for God’s command to forgive others is that we remember how much he has forgiven us. Jesus didn’t just die on the cross because the person who hurt us recently is such a horrible worm and a sinner; he died because WE are sinners. He had to suffer and become a sacrifice because WE break the law of God often, whether it is in our works or our attitudes or our fantasies. Many people downplay their own sins and justify it by saying that what they do or say is not nearly as bad as the way OTHER people are hurtful. The only way to forgive and to become a person that God can totally use is to be willing to look in the mirror. If you cannot take an honest look at your own deficiency before God then you will have a very difficult time in forgiving the mistakes or hurtfulness of others. Always be mindful of your own shortcomings and it will help you to show compassion for the mistakes of others. Humble yourself before God and he will help you to grow in this area.

Forgiveness is a struggle for many Christians. Holding on to the anger and bitterness of being hurt, however, it is simply allowing yourself to be under a yoke of slavery. I recently heard the following quote: “Holding onto bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick”. Refusing to offer forgiveness to someone is like allowing your own heart to experience the corrosion of bitterness and anger. The person that you are angry with probably will move on with their own lives, leaving you to carry the weight of suffering that goes with a lack of forgiveness. This bitterness of heart also gives Satan a foothold to get into your heart and life. Don’t give him a gateway to enter. Don’t give the devil room to work. Allow God to mend the wounds of your heart. Face those wounds with the courage that Christ offers. Seek the Lord and request that he shows you a mirror of your own mistakes. It is only through our humble willingness to let the Holy Spirit change us that forgiveness will be part of our lives. When that happens, you’ll be surprised at how free you are and how much more God can use you.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together

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