QUESTION: What is a definition for forgiveness?
A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life.
The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace.
How we act toward that person may change. It doesn’t mean we will put ourselves back into a harmful situation or that we suddenly accept or approve of the person’s continued wrong behavior. It simply means we release them from the wrong they committed against us. We forgive them because God forgave us (Ephesians 4:31-32 and Romans 5:8).
What does God say about forgiveness?
- The Bible gives us much instruction when it comes to forgiveness.
- We forgive because we have been forgiven by God (Ephesians 4:32).
- We forgive in obedience to God (Matthew 6:14-15; Romans 12:18).
- We forgive others to gain control of our lives from hurt emotions (Genesis 4:1-8).
- We forgive so we won’t become bitter and defile those around us (Hebrews 12:14-15).
What if I don’t feel like forgiving others? There are times we don’t feel like forgiving those who have wronged us. It is easier to act our way into feeling than to feel our way into acting. Having a nature of not forgiving others brings about bitterness, and bitterness has been linked to stress-related illnesses by some medical researchers. By forgiving others, we free ourselves spiritually and emotionally. Forgiveness is an act of our own personal will in obedience and submission to God’s will, trusting God to bring emotional healing.
How can I help those struggling with forgiveness? People who have experienced abuse, trauma, or loss need time to sort things out and let God bring them to the place of forgiveness in His time. God’s timing is always the right time for each individual. The act of forgiving others is between us and God. The only time we need to forgive a person face-to-face is at the moment we are asked by that person to forgive them for the hurt they have caused.
There are things we can do to help those struggling with the forgiveness of others. We can support them with encouraging words and by listening to them. Taking our time and being gentle with them will allow them to progress through the steps of forgiveness the way God wants them to proceed.
A prayer of forgiveness Dear God, I choose as an act of my will, regardless of my feelings, to forgive the person who has wronged me. I release them, and I set myself free to Your healing. With Your help, I will no longer dwell on the situation or continue to talk about it. I thank You for forgiving me as I have forgiven them. I thank You for releasing me. I ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions
Whether we are seeking forgiveness for our own sins or asking God to help us forgive others, prayer is the first place to start when seeking restoration and healing. The below prayers can help guide your thoughts and words as you seek being forgiven or help in forgiving others. It is a big step to seek out forgiveness and you have taken a bold step in faith!
Before we jump into specific prayers for forgiveness, you may want to take some time to consider what God commands of us concerning forgiveness and why it’s so critical to be able to forgive. Visit our article: What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/DedMityay
This article was co-authored by
Paul Chernyak, LPC
. Paul Chernyak is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago. He graduated from the American School of Professional Psychology in 2011.
There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
In this Article:Article SummaryPreparing to Ask for ForgivenessAsking For ForgivenessDealing with DisappointmentCommunity Q&A13 References
Asking for forgiveness when you know you should is not a simple matter of uttering a few words. It is a way to show that you accept your mistake and have learned from it. To ask forgiveness of someone you need to spend some time thinking about your actions and how they affected the person you have wronged. Then you need to approach the person with sincerity and a willingness to be rejected. Asking forgiveness is not always easy, but you can learn how to do it by following some simple steps. Keep reading to learn how to ask for forgiveness.
Method 1 Preparing to Ask for Forgiveness
- Think about what you did to upset the person.
Before you can develop an apology, you need to identify what you did to upset the person. It is important to know which of your specific actions led to the person being upset with you. If you are uncertain about why the person is mad at you, you should ask what specific things upset them.
- Example scenario 1: I embarrassed my friend by making a scene at his party.
- Example scenario 2: I snapped at my spouse and was irritable and short all day
- Understand why you did what you did.
In addition to understanding what you did to upset someone, you also need to understand why you did it. While you don’t want to use your intentions as an excuse, your reasons may help you develop your apology by helping you to take responsibility for your actions.
- Example scenario 1: I made a scene at the party because I was feeling left out and wanted more attention.
- Example scenario 2: I treated my spouse this way because I did not sleep well the night before and I had a lot of things on my mind.
- Empathize with the person you wronged.
It is important to develop a sense of empathy for the person to whom you are apologizing. Having empathy means that you understand why your actions hurt the other person because you have put yourself in their shoes and imagined their pain. Without empathy, your apology may end up sounding empty and insincere.
Before apologizing to someone, take the time to develop your empathy for the person. Imagine if the same thing had happened to you. How would you feel? What would you do?
- Example scenario 1: If my friend made a scene at a party I was giving, I would feel angry and betrayed.
- Example scenario 2: If my spouse had snapped at me for no reason and treated me badly all day, I would feel hurt and confused.
- Remember that your mistake does not make you a bad person.
Apologizing can be hard because it requires you to admit that you have done something wrong. Just remember that by apologizing, you are not admitting to being a bad person. One study found that taking a few moments to affirm your good qualities (in private, before you apologize to someone) can make the apology easier.
- Try taking a moment to yourself before your next apology, look at yourself in the mirror, and say three things that you like about yourself.
- Write out your apology.
If you have many things that you need to say to the person, you may want to write out your apology before you apologize. By writing your apology out, you will have an easier time knowing what you need to say. You can also keep the notes with you when you actually apologize to remind yourself.
- By taking the time to write out your apology, you will demonstrate to the other person that you have thought long and hard about your mistake. Your apology will be understood as even more sincere as a result.
- Apologizing in person is preferable. But if you cannot reach the person by phone or in person, you can still email or snail mail your apology to the person.
Method 2 Asking For Forgiveness
- Apologize to the person you have wronged.
The first thing you need to do when you ask forgiveness of someone is to express remorse for your actions. In other words, you need to make it clear that you feel sorry about what you have done. This can be accomplished easily if you start out by saying, “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize.”
- Strengthen your statement of remorse by saying exactly what you are sorry about. For example, “I am sorry for making a scene at your party.” Or, “I apologize for snapping at you and being so short with you yesterday.”
- Explain why you did what you did, but don’t make excuses.
It is important to reveal the motivation behind your actions, but you have to be careful not to use your motivation as an excuse. Simply tell the person what caused you to do or say the things that you did. Keep this portion of the apology short and make it clear that you are not trying to use it as an excuse for your actions.
- For example, “I made a scene because I was feeling left out and wanted more attention, but that’s no excuse for my behavior.” Or, “I acted that way because I did not sleep well the night before and I had a lot of things on my mind, but that is not your fault and it was wrong for me to take it out on you.”
- Demonstrate empathy.
In addition to making sure that the person knows you are accepting responsibility for your actions, you should also make it clear that you understand how you made them feel. Tell the person how you imagine or know that you made them feel.
- For example, “By making a scene at your party I know that I embarrassed you in front of your new friends from work.” Or, “By acting that way towards you, I probably made you feel unappreciated.”
- Try to make things right.
Once you have addressed what you did, why you did it, and why it was wrong, you need to make things right. In other words, you need to tell the person what you intend to do in the future to prevent another similar situation. This may be accomplished by providing a plan for future scenarios or by saying how you will respond differently in the future.
- For example, “In the future, I will talk to someone about how I am feeling rather than acting out.” Or, “The next time I am having a bad day, I will take some time to myself and try not to project my anger onto you.”
- Show them that you’ve changed.
It is important to demonstrate the amount of time and effort that you have put into your apology and the efforts you are making to avoid a similar situation in the future. If you took the time to correct the mistake you made, tell the person about how you corrected it. It shows a willingness to admit you’re wrong, as well as a sincere desire to atone for a mistake.
- Example: “I’ve even changed after that incident. I’m trying to find productive outlets for my anger. I’m going to the gym and taking kickboxing classes. I’ve even talked with a therapist about confronting some of my anger issues.”
- Ask for their forgiveness.
Once you have apologized, you can ask the other person to forgive you. This may be the most difficult part of the apology because there is always a chance that the person will not forgive you. In fact, you should demonstrate your understanding by allowing the person that option. Just keep in mind that you can try again if the person is not ready to forgive and try not to get discouraged.
- Example: “I care about you a lot and I value our friendship. Will you please forgive me?”
- Try to sweeten the deal.
Compensate for your mistake by doing something good for the person you have wronged. Approach them with a bunch of flowers or a card with a written note. Show them that your actions are not just about relieving yourself of guilt, but making them feel better, too. Just don’t rely on flowers or some other gift as a stand-in for a sincere apology.
Method 3 Dealing with Disappointment
- Expect little, but hope for the best.
If you expect to be forgiven and aren’t, you’re understandably going to be really disappointed. If you expect very little and are forgiven, then you’ll be a lot happier. Prepare yourself for the worst but hope for the best.
- Be understanding.
If the person does not forgive you, show
. Say something like “That’s okay, I don’t know if I could forgive myself either. I just hope that time can bring us closer together again. I really value your friendship.”
- Don’t get mad at the other person for not forgiving you. Forgiveness is a privilege, not a right. Remember that you’re more likely to be forgiven if you’re a likable and understanding person afterward.
- Be patient.
Small transgressions may be forgiven easily, but some wounds need time to heal. Do not expect to be forgiven easily if what you did was especially hurtful. Even if your request for forgiveness is denied, continue trying.
- Apologizing in person is usually the best method, but if that is impossible, reach them through other means of communication. Text them, send emails, but do not give up.
Add New Question
What do I say to my spouse for if they won’t talk to me?
Jessica B. Casey is a National Certified Counselor in Texas. She received her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Sam Houston State University in 2014.
M.A, Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Ask them about their silence and what you can do to fix it. You can even guess by saying something like, “I know you haven’t wanted to talk to me, which I think means you’re still angry and hurt. I really want to make this better and I understand you need time. If there is anything I can do, please tell me, otherwise I love you and will give you the space you need before we talk about this.”
Should I stop trying to reach out to someone who is always making me feel guilty?
First, try to talk to the person and determine why he or she is doing that. If he or she still makes you feel guilty, then that person is not worth your forgiveness and effort.
How do I tell a girl I love her and apologize if she hates me?
Give her a little space, but don’t be too distant. If her friends will let you talk to them, ask them for suggestions for what you should do, since every girl is unique. Always make sure she knows you still care, if she doesn’t, there is no hope in trying. When she gives you the chance, explain your situation and apologize for anything you’ve done. Then give her time to let it sink in.
I had a confrontation with my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend because my boyfriend told me it was over between us. What should I do?
If it’s over, there’s nothing you can do. You need to forget about him and her; they’re not worth your time. You need to move forward. You’ll find the right person eventually.
How do I tell a girl I love her after being forgiven?
Show her you care, and do little things to make her happy. When she starts getting really comfortable with you, ask her out.
I always promise the person I hurt that I will not do it again but somehow my anger always arises. What should I do?
You should apologize and try to explain your temper issues. If your temper is something you can’t handle, you should seek counseling.
How can I be a better/helping son?
Ask your parent(s) every day what they need help with. For most families, the list of chores is endless, and parents do most of them. They would be happy to delegate one or more things to you each day. Do the jobs cheerfully and completely.
My husband lost his temper with my mom and we are now banned from their home and she won’t even talk to us. He lost his temper because for the past 3 years my Mom and 2 sisters haven’t been nice to me and he had had enough. My mom was crushed because he has never acted that way before. What do we do?
It sounds like your husband was justified in losing his temper, as he was trying to defend you from poor treatment. If you’d like to make peace, you and your husband can try writing your mother a letter, apologize for your husband losing his temper and say you’d like to make peace, but also say that you would like to be treated with respect and kindness by your family. You should not let your mother or sisters be disrespectful to you, and frankly, if they have no intention to change their behavior, it’s probably not worth it to even see them.
What do I do if my boyfriend hates me since I broke up with him?
He’s probably just upset and needs some time to get over the breakup. Give him some space and time to recover.
How do I forgive someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven?
The great thing about forgiveness is that it’s something only the forgiver gets to control. You decide to forgive — the other person gets to decide whether to receive that forgiveness. It’s nice when both sides make the right choice, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Express your decision to forgive and give that person time…
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I have said something wrong to my sister and those worlds that I said are painful and I want her to forgive because it pains me too so how do I ask her to forgive me?
What do I do if I want to be forgiven for creeping someone out?
I hurt someone I love so much that things seem unforgivable. Is it possible that I can be forgiven or is it unforgivable?
I have asked for forgiveness, and I was forgiven, but they have also asked me to “make up for it”, what should I do?
What if patience is NOT one of your strong suits and you just want to jump ahead to being forgiven? How do you prevent yourself from failing to gain forgiveness in this situation?
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- Remember, actions speak louder than words. Follow up your apology with an action as soon as possible.
- It is a good idea to practice your apology. Saying sorry is not a very natural thing for many of us and therefore needs to be practiced.
- If the person is very angry and you think you would not be able to handle the situation, wait for a better time.
- Think about how the other person feels and what you would feel like in their situation. Do this before apologizing. When you know how they feel, it is easier to understand why you should ask for their forgiveness.
- Write out your apology, so when the time comes you won’t be lost for words. Writing out your apology will also give you a sense of organization and control.
- Do not blame the other person during an apology. It may cause them to reject the other parts of your apology if you say something to threaten their ego. Just remember that you can talk about these other issues at a different time if you plan to move forward with the relationship.
- Do not exaggerate your feelings of remorse. It might give the impression of you faking it. Be honest and sincere, but don’t be over dramatic.
- Do not make excuses for your actions. It may give the impression that you do not actually regret what you did.
To ask for forgiveness, begin by apologizing to the person you’ve hurt by saying, “I’m sorry.” Then, explain your actions to them and take responsibility, but avoid making excuses for what you did. Next, tell the person what you plan to do to make things right between you and how you’ll act differently in the future. Finally, ask them for their forgiveness by saying, “Will you forgive me?” For tips from our Mental Health reviewer on what to do if your friend isn’t ready to forgive you, read on!
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Forgiveness and repentance go hand-in-hand in a Christian’s life. We must learn to always forgive others and to ask for forgiveness ourselves. Without repentance, we are liable of judgment from God. If we withhold forgiveness to others, forgiveness will also be withheld from us. Here are 7 prayers focusing on forgiveness and repentance. May we all strive to live as holy as possible by allowing the Spirit to convict us of our sins and to forgive others that sin against us.
There are no words to express how filthy I feel every time I break Your heart. The guilt and the shame are overwhelming! Lord, I need Your touch right now. I am so sick of being “born again” and still doing the things I hate doing. Like Paul, I am conflicted. “For I do not do what I want, but do the very thing that I hate.” (Romans 7:15) I am so sorry! Father, I ask for Your forgiveness right now. I am shocked that my life has come to a point where even some sins don’t affect me at all. Father, I have some hard layers on my heart that need peeling. Please give me a 100% heart of flesh. The hardness is a barrier between us that I can’t stand! I love You and I am so regrettably sorry for my selfish actions. Thank You for Your forgiveness, Lord. Without forgiveness I am nothing. With Your forgiveness I am whole again. I praise Your Name! Amen
Strength To Forgive Others
I can’t seem to shake the harm that’s been done to me off my shoulders. I am wallowing in the anger I feel. Lord, I shouldn’t think the vengeful thoughts that I have. You have called me to forgive every single person that wrongs me. I need Your strength to overcome these trespasses against me. Father, I want to forgive these people. Please cast the devil’s evil ways from me. I want to look at these people and see lost souls that need You. I want to forgive them completely so that You can use me however You wish, to be Jesus to them. Father, I am done with holding these grudges! Forgive me for holding on to them. I cast this burden at Your throne now. Do with me as you please Father. I love You and thank you for Your patience with me. Amen
Why do You forgive us? We shout praises to You when we sing worship. With the same tongue we curse other people that are made in Your image. (James 3:9 reference) Why do You forgive us? We say we love You and still keep sinning. Why do You forgive us? We spend time in prayer thanking You for your blessings and then we refuse to bless others. Why do You forgive us? We read our Bibles when we make time for it, but we also read other nonsense that is offensive to You. Why do You forgive us? We praise Jesus for His death on the cross for the atonement of our sins and then we nail Him to it again every time we trespass against You. Why do You forgive us every single time? I am so thankful for your endless supply of forgiveness! I can’t fathom how You do it, for I am only one man. You do this for every single person! The compassion and grace and mercy that flow from You is absolutely amazing and I love You for it! Thank you so much for forgiving me every time I sin! You are worthy to be praised! Amen
Repentance From Unbelievers
Father in heaven,
My heart grieves for those close to me that do not want to know You. They are lost souls wandering wherever the devil takes them. They are fulfilling their own desires of the flesh instead of yearning for the life that You give. Father, use me or anyone that You please to show Christ-like love to them. Father, I love these men and women and to think of them in eternal torment is tormenting me! I pray that the seeds that are planted in them Lord will be grown by You. You make miracles happen every day and I pray that You make one today in the lives of the lost. I praise Your Holy Name! Amen
Forgiveness For Children
Just as Job continually offered burnt offerings to you for the forgiveness of his children, (Job 1:5) I am praying for the forgiveness of mine. Lord, only You know what they have done. If they have sinned against You I pray that You would forgive them. I pray that they would seek repentance to make things right with You. Lord, if there is any sin that needs to be forgiven, I pray that You would soften their hearts and bring them safely into Your arms of grace and mercy. I thank you for Your unlimited love for us! Amen
You are all-powerful! Even Your thoughts produce action. I pray for our leaders in the government. Lord, they also have power, though it is limited. I pray that they would use their positions wisely, for You are the One who has allowed them to lead us. We need strong men and women of faith in these kinds of roles. I pray that our men and women in authority will strive to live godly lives and to repent when necessary. As in Animal Farm, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there is any corruption, I pray that our leaders would repent and ask for forgiveness, so that our country doesn’t fall apart. I thank you for our leaders and pray for their safety. I love you Father! Amen
I pray for pastors around the world. If there is any un-confessed sin active in their lives, I pray that You would bring them to the deepest valleys if that is what it takes to get them back on the narrow path. We need strong pastors leading our congregations. I pray that You would use the people closest to their pastors to keep them accountable, Lord. Accountability is a must in every Christian’s life. I thank you for our pastors, Lord, for they have a huge role to play here on earth. They have many big responsibilities and I am so grateful that they accept the challenges of pastoring. I love You, Lord! Amen
Forgiveness is absolutely necessary in a Christian’s walk with the Lord. “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4) God bless you as you live a life worthy of the calling!
Have you read this other article about prayer?
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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