4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Deciding To Forgive Someone

Forgiving has nothing to do with approving of their choice, it's about how you'll move on.

Forgiving your partner for yourself and them PeopleImages, skynesher | Canva 

When you have become emotionally close to another person, you have become more vulnerable. Vulnerability opens the doors for a person to do things that hurt, which often comes out when conflicts arise. At the same time, you can develop higher expectations about what the other person does and how they should act towards you.

This also can lead to unfulfilled expectations which could result in resentment or even anger, even without the other person knowing they have done something to hurt you. So, how are you able to forgive someone you love — and when should you offer that forgiveness to them?


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Four questions to ask yourself before deciding to forgive someone

1. Explore how your spirituality allows you to be forgiven for things you have done

If you come from one of the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), forgiveness is rooted in history based on how God has forgiven humans over time. If you come from traditions out of the Indic family of religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism), forgiveness is rooted in an understanding of interconnectedness and cultivated from a philosophy of peace.

If you come from aboriginal or indigenous religions, forgiveness may be in the work of the spirits — though I certainly am not an expert in every indigenous tradition. Regardless of where these roots are, at your essence, you have needed forgiveness as well as the reasons why you have been able to be forgiven.


finding peace

Photo: Nadya-Korobkova via Shutterstock

2. Explore how you need to be forgiven for things you have done.

If you honestly reflect on the history of your relationship, you have done things (intentionally or unintentionally) that you needed forgiveness from the one you loved. What allowed you to receive forgiveness? What allowed the one you love to forgive you? When you have needed forgiveness, what allowed this to occur? What effect did it have on both of you and your relationship?

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3. Explore how not forgiving is affecting you.

Is refusing to forgive and allowing the anger and resentment to spread or affect other areas of your life or relationship? Are you being changed in negative ways because of your emotions or focus on having been wronged?

Consider whether all of this is getting in the way of being the person you want to be. Also, consider whether you have allowed yourself to be in touch with your emotions about what has happened. Pay attention to how you are being affected and how you will be changed by letting go of your anger and resentment.



4. Explore what you can learn from the situation and how it manifests in the relationship.

Is the situation impacted by your part of a pattern of comments or behaviors that needs to be discussed? Is there something you need to do differently to protect yourself from being hurt again, or is there something you need to act the one you love to do differently? Pay attention to what can be done to be less likely to have the situation recur.


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Studies have shown people with increased spirituality have improved mental health, in part because of the role of forgiveness. The person forgiving gets as much benefit, if not more, from the act of forgiveness as the person being forgiven. In forgiving the person you love, you set aside anger and resentment. These elements can eat away at you and detract from the wholeness of your relationship.

In looking at this understanding of forgiveness, it is crucial to recognize it does not preclude being angry or resentful. Recognizing and feeling your reaction to what happened is vital before you can forgive. Similarly, there is a difference between forgiving and forgetting — forgiving is not about approving what the other person has done. It is all about how you relate with the other person especially, inside of yourself.



Focusing on these things can help you get to the point where you will be able to forgive. Learning from your spirituality can enable you to get to the point of forgiving. When you forgive, your mental health will be helped and you will have the possibility of restoration within your relationship. As a result, you will find the peace and wholeness you seek.


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Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, as well as a licensed counselor with extensive experience as both a counselor and as a supervisor of counselors. He is President and Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom, a counseling service.