How to Forgive to Heal Your Heart and Relationships

How to Forgive to Heal Your Heart and Relationships

by Wyatt Fisher Psy.D.

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts both within and beyond the walls of the church. Therefore, it’s important to develop a well-rounded, thorough understanding of the term so we can apply it appropriately. Among all possible relationships, romantic ones tend to be ripest for offenses because of the continual close contact we have with our partner. Moreover, since we are all fallen by nature, we will eventually and inventible offend our partner and they will offend us. Some common examples could include using hurtful words during an argument, neglecting our partner’s needs, breaking a promise, etc.  Therefore, those on Christian dating sites are wise to learn about forgiveness because it will most likely be relevant to their future romantic relationships.


1-Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our faith


Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our faith with Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross as the forgiveness of all sins. In addition, God tells us to, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13, NIV).  Forgiveness can be defined as no longer holding the offense against the offender. Our natural desire is to retaliate against someone who has hurt or offended us. However, forgiveness is letting go of that desire and placing it in God’s rightful hands.


2-What forgiveness is not


It is also important to clarify what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not forgetting. We can eventually forgive people of their offenses but it’s much more difficult to forget. Also, periodically remembering the pain someone has caused us does not mean we haven’t already forgiven them in our heart. Next, forgiveness is not a destination. Most people mistakenly believe forgiveness should happen once and the hurtful act should never bother them again. Instead, forgiveness is usually a process where we must continually choose to forgive someone as memories of their offensive behavior surfaces.  Last, forgiveness is not permission. Many people worry that forgiving someone communicates that their hurtful behavior was acceptable, which is false.  Forgiveness releases our desire to retaliate, but it does not release the perpetrator’s responsibility for what they have done.


3-Seventy-seven times


Most people are familiar with the place in Scripture where “...Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mathew 18: 21-22, NIV).  Clearly, Jesus wants us to forgive others on a regular basis. He knows we will be hurt often in this fallen world and so we must also forgive often. However, forgiving someone does not mean making ourselves vulnerable to being hurt again. As many have heard “hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me.” Therefore, when someone repeatedly hurts or offends us, it’s wise to set healthy boundaries to minimize our risk of being hurt again.


4-Empathy must come first


One of the most effective methods for facilitating forgiveness is empathy. Empathy is being able to see a situation from another person’s perspective. It’s being able to fully immerse ourselves in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Empathy is being able to feel the motives for their hurtful actions. Some helpful questions to foster empathy may include, “Were they getting triggered from ‘unfinished business’ from their upbringing? Were they reacting to something I said or did? Were they already distressed from something else?” etc. Unfortunately, most people are so consumed with their own pain they rarely listen to the reasons for the hurtful behavior. However, fully listening is critical for developing empathy. The more we listen, the more empathy will emerge, shifting our hearts automatically in the direction of forgiveness.

In sum, forgiveness is no longer holding the offense against the offender. It’s also not forgetting, not a destination, and not giving permission.  In addition, we must establish healthy boundaries to minimize our risk of being hurt in the future. Lastly, developing empathy is one of the best ways to cultivate a forgiving heart.


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Wyatt Fisher Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D. is a psychologist and faculty member at Liberty University. His blog can be found at /relationship/



- See more at: /relationships/why-am-i-single.html#sthash.0MKwwLDv.dpuf

Wyatt Fisher

Dr. Wyatt Fisher is a faculty member at Liberty University and owner of, which aims to be the most authentic platform on the web for believers to connect and develop God-honoring relationships.




What's the hardest part for you with forgiveness and why?

Comments (8)

Thanks for this wonderful piece, Dr Wyatt. Forgiveness is a command from the Lordwe don't have an option if we truly want to please Him.I really like the empathy part - it helps us to make make excuses for the other person. That's the spirit of Jesus!
By on December 10, 2014 @ 3:47am MT 35

Dr. WyattThanks chinaza1977....yes, the empathy part is paramount...without it forgiveness becomes really difficult.
By Dr. Wyatt on December 11, 2014 @ 4:19pm MT

In Matthew 5:38-40 Jesus commands believers to put aside their personal belonging, and personal agenda as well as their course in life to be disciples of His. That is a demonstration of forgiveness and the fundamental to Christianity. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. The dictionary defines forgiveness as, “to put aside or give up payment or restitution or revenge.” And yes there are times to run as Joseph did when placed in a compromising situation. But the willingness to forgive and invest in the lives of people and family is foundational to being a Christian and making disciples. Furthermore this commitment or choice is often contrary to our feeling and social norms. We want to set up walls and boundaries to protect ourselves when what Christ calls for and commands is to sacrifice and persist. Forgiveness is an up-close and personal battle, like hand to hand combat in the trenches, but against the forces of Satan and his kingdom not family and friends. A spiritual battle that we too often make personal and let our feelings and emotions rule the day instead of coming together and petitioning heaven and our Heavenly Father. Forgiveness is a function of prayer! (Also Forgiveness brings healing. Read Mark 2:8-12)
By on November 20, 2014 @ 6:47pm MT 35

Dr. WyattThank you for the thorough response GreenGrass2020. Yes, you bring up great points and very relevant Scriptures.
By Dr. Wyatt on November 20, 2014 @ 6:52pm MT

Forgiveness is not always the easiest thing in a relationship, yet it’s essential to need GOD’s approval for our relationship. Once we are convinced that GOD is central to the relationship, we have to forgive to keep close to GOD’s resources. Because not forgiving will only restrict GOD’s hand and limit our joy and enjoyment in the relationship. No matter how bad it feels, we have to forgive; sometimes relief only comes after we have swallowed bitter pills. Thanks Wyatt.
By on August 5, 2014 @ 7:05am MT 35

Dr. WyattThanks Nzolasani...yes, we must move towards forgiveness no matter how difficult it may be at times.
By Dr. Wyatt on August 5, 2014 @ 10:20am MT

Wyatt, Thank you for this piece. Ooohh, its awesome. I am actually going to keep it and pray that it will change me especially the bit about empathy. If only I could practice this, I believe things would be different in my life. Keep me in prayer and God richly bless you and release to you more insights for life and sharing.
By on August 5, 2014 @ 12:29am MT 35
Dr. WyattThanks BornAgainGirl....yes, empathy is definitely a core piece to effective forgiveness....God Bless You!
By Dr. Wyatt on August 5, 2014 @ 10:22am MT

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