7 Things Forgiveness Is Not

Forgiveness is not always what we think it is. In fact, when we are faced with a deep hurt that shakes us at our core we wonder if forgiveness is even possible. As we gain a clear understanding of forgiveness, it becomes a lot less complicated.

God’s Word speaks to the topic of forgiveness extensively. Let’s dive into  Scriptures on forgiveness…


What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a Command

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

We are called to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. Forgiveness is canceling a debt. In other words, forgiveness is releasing someone from the punishment or payment of their debt or offense.

Christ paid our debt of sin through His death on the cross. It is through His death on the cross that our sins are forgiven – we are released from the payment of our sins. Jesus did not die on the cross for us because we deserved it. He did it solely out of love for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

There are no conditions that must be met by the offender in order for us to forgive. This is good news. It means we are never in a position that we can’t forgive another person. We are free to walk in obedience. Forgiveness is possible No. Matter. What. Whether the offender is sorry or refuses to change, we can choose to forgive.

Forgiving is a choice

Forgiving someone is not a warm, fuzzy feeling (more on that in a minute), rather we make a choice to forgive. If we don’t believe forgiveness is a choice, the ability to forgive can seem out of our control. But be assured, if God calls you to it – you can do it!

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. -2 Peter 1:3

How we actually go about forgiving is a great topic, too! I cover how to go about forgiving in this article. Don’t miss it!

    7 Things Forgiveness Is Not

    1. Forgiveness is not a feeling.

    The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? -Jeremiah 17:9

    If we wait around to feel like forgiving after a deep hurt – those feelings might never come. Feelings are unreliable guides as Jeremiah points out. Don’t wait on your feelings to shift before you make the decision to forgive. As you bring your hurt to God, your feelings will change. 

    2.  Forgiving does not mean the same as trust.

    The Bible clearly commands that we forgive (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness is offered unconditionally regardless of the offender’s response. This means we forgive with or without an apology or evidence of change.

    Trust, however, is entirely different. It is solely based on tangible evidence of change. In other words, trust is totally conditional. The condition is tangible evidence of repentance and transformation.

    When we tangle up trust and forgiveness, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position and high risk of getting hurt again.

    Another important thing to know… trust can only be repaired after forgiveness has taken place. In other words – it’s impossible to trust someone when you haven’t forgiven them. More on trust and forgiveness in relationships here.

    3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling.

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

    I hesitate to say this because the entire Bible is the greatest love story ever told. A story of reconciliation of God and people through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Saying that forgiveness and reconciliation is important to God, would be an understatement.

    Yet, people (you, me, everyone) are sinful. Some are unrepentant. As a result, these are relationships that can’t be repaired. It may be unsafe (physically or emotionally) to attempt reconciliation.

    In the end, reconciliation is the goal, but reconciliation isn’t necessary to forgiveness. Prayerfully seek God for discernment on reconciling your relationship.

    4. Forgiveness does not heal everything in a single moment.

    He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3

    When the pain of a past hurt still stings, we tend to think we haven’t forgiven the offender. While we make the choice to forgive, it doesn’t mean we instantly feel better. Healing is a journey best done with our heavenly Father. But know this… forgiveness is a necessary ingredient in the healing process.

    Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment begin to take root. That same bitterness and resentment will slow, possibly even stagnate the healing.

    5. Forgiving is not forgetting.

    Our brain is simply not built to forget. While forgetting would certainly make forgiveness easier, we wouldn’t be relying on the One who can heal our broken hearts.

    6. Forgiving is not excusing the offense. Nor is forgiveness condoning the offense.

    Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “it is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. -Romans 12:19

    Many think forgiveness somehow excuses or condones the other person’s offense. Not so! Rather, you are entrusting the outcome to God. Putting the consequences of another’s sin in the hands of God is a demonstration of obedience and trust in God.

    I even wonder if forgiveness actually has more benefit for the person who has been hurt. Without forgiveness, the offense has a hold on us, usually more so than the person who actually did the offense.

    “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. -Ephesians 4:26-27

    When we hang on to anger, bitterness and resentment, we are actually giving the enemy the ability to make progress in that area. The anger, bitterness and resentment will only grow. Forgiveness is the antidote. More importantly, it’s God’s best for you.

    7. Forgiving is not tolerating.

    Forgiving an offense does not mean tolerating behavior that is hurtful. On the contrary, we are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This is for the good of the offender and the offended. In doing so, we mature as the body of Christ.

    Wrap Up

    When we become clearer on forgiveness, it becomes a lot less complicated. We don’t ave to wait around to feel like forgiving. We can make a choice to forgive, obeying God’s instruction to do so. Forgiveness can be granted without excusing, condoning or continuing to tolerate the behavior.

    It is also understood that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. The choice to forgive doesn’t mean trust is restored or reconciliation is part of the deal. Finally, choosing to step forward in forgiveness will not heal the hurt instantly. But God, can heal the broken-hearted.

      You might also like these articles on forgiveness…

      Why is forgiveness important?

      Can you forgive and still be hurt? (watch the video)

      Can you forgive and still not trust?

      How do I heal from bitterness and resentment?

      Forgiveness is not tolerating

      Do you have anything to add to the list? Leave it in the comments!


      1. Barb on August 14, 2019 at 6:52 am

        Thank you, I love that each statement is met by a scripture. This is a subject we all struggle with and need the word of God to lead us and teach us. Thank you for this very balanced look at a very real issue.

        • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:48 am

          Thank you Barb, I appreciate you taking the time to leave encouraging words:)

      2. Carmen Brown on August 14, 2019 at 8:57 am

        I recieved so many different nuggets from this post. Two of my favorite: Forgive is unconditional and you will never be in a position where you can not forgive. Great post!

        • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:49 am

          Thank you Carmen!

        • Marcus on February 19, 2024 at 5:07 am

          Hi God has been waiting on me for restitution towards others when He showed me His Word in the bible. I just think it is an uphill struggle for someone to be trying to make restitution to others. Thanks for your post. It clarifies a lot of areas. Not sure on how much restitution is considered enough though. In any case, I started doing what God asked of myself several months ago.

      3. April on August 14, 2019 at 9:19 am

        Such a great post, wonderful points on forgiveness! There are so many people that struggle in this area and I know that the guidance you’ve provided with the truths from God’s word will be a help to a lot of readers!

      4. Rebecca Jones on August 14, 2019 at 2:55 pm

        I think that you have described it very well. Going back over things is the worst, I do think the devil will accuse us of not forgiving, especially because we just don’t forget. But God knows hearts and that we have. That seventy times seven, add up to even more doesn’t it?

        • Letty Deloris Bailey on November 29, 2020 at 3:27 pm

          Yes Rebecca!!!!
          Your response gave me a revelation of forgiving and not allow my mind to be attack by the devil and allowing him to be the accuser of the brethren. The battle is in my mind. According to 2 10:3-5 I must pull down strongholds, cast down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge (that I have forgiven the offender) of God, brining every through into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Thank You All
          Grace and Peace

      5. […] {Also check out “what forgiveness is not” here!} […]

      6. Sheryl Gregg on August 16, 2019 at 7:05 pm

        You turned a hard task into a pet puppy or kitten. There is much work required in the subject of FORGIVE. We put our own spins on every detail. We let our emotions become bigger than the insult sometimes. It is confusing and hard.
        I worked through reading The Shack, sermons, Bible studies, and mostly the New Testament Gospels. There are many examples in the OT. But topping to all was, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus forgave Judas in a loving way. He counted to ten with the woman accused of adultery. I love the reward of Joseph in Genesis. What you meant for evil God meant it for good. Many chances to “feel” what forgiveness is. It shows you love yourself, the self that God created you to be. Jesus is love and daily I strive for that. Be Loved.

      7. Ruthann Bond on August 31, 2019 at 9:36 am

        Thank you so much for this!!! Forgiveness is crucial to living in freedom! I sent this to my 2 girls that are going through hard times in their marriages. I believe that if there is not physical abuse in the marriage, then the emotional abuse can be reconciled. That’s where the “choosing” to forgive comes in! Thank you Jesus for healing our broken places and setting us free!!!

        • Laura Lowther on October 29, 2019 at 11:21 am

          I really don’t like to be negative. However physical abuse is seen by others. Emotional abuse is the hardest. Others don’t see what you are going thru. The effects of emotional abuse never go away. It is thought about everyday by those who suffer thru it. It cycles over and over for years.

          Please don’t let your girls suffer. As it says forgiveness is not.forgetting
          Ypu cant forget about the emotional abuse. The scars are there even though you can’t see them. Abuse in any form is still abuse and can hurt for many years. It never goes away. I pray that the abuse.stops and that they no longer must suffer thru it.

        • Holly Fuller on December 24, 2019 at 5:43 pm

          Emotional abuse is just as violent and leaves deep scars. Often forgiving an emotionally abusive spouses sets you up for continued gas lighting.

        • Valora Morris on July 12, 2022 at 9:09 am

          I am continually confused when people hold this position between physical & emotional (which is actually mental) abuse in marriage. Why do so many people think physical abuse the deciding factor? Many mental abusers will intentionally not physically abuse their partner specifically because it’s so much harder to hide. Studies have shown that mental abuse is actually harder to recover from than physical abuse. And yet “emotional abuse can be reconciled”!??!?!?! As a survivor of 30+ years of mental abuse I can tell you that it’s insidious … and that mental abusers take “forgiveness” as a “get out of jail free” card to do it over and over again. As Christians, yes, we are commanded to forgive WITHOUT repentance (changed behavior) of the other party, but you should not – even for a minute – assume that your forgiveness will inspire that person to repent. Even God wants to see his children repent (turn from their wicked ways) when he forgives them. As someone who is no longer with their abuser, I can honestly say that I have forgiven them … and yet because I refuse to live with them, there are people who think I have not forgiven. They don’t understand what forgiveness is.

        • Babyface on February 2, 2023 at 10:33 pm

          I agree with MS Lowther, you say as long as there is no physical abuse it should work out. Speaking from experience emotional abuse over years can lead to physical abuse. My husband can be cruel without cursing or calling me out my name. Calls himself a man of God but no one knows the insensitive things he has done to me and by no means am I saying I have been a perfect wife. Example, I got diagnosed with a blood cancer just before, covid19. I heard him telling my nephew on the phone to come over anytime. Well because it was the beginning of covid and I was afraid I told him in a stern voice please don’t tell anyone to come over here, because of covid. So I guess I was stepping outside of my wifely authority and he stood up and threw a drink at me, now mind you a few weeks early I just got the grim diagnosis of having terminal cancer. This is a perfect example of emotional abuse turning ugly. Eventually I doused a drink on him but both actions were ungodly behavior.

      8. Sarah- Inkblots of Hope on October 20, 2019 at 11:03 am

        I’m so glad this is out there on the web! There are many things that forgiveness is not: a sentimental feeling inside, instant trust, reconciliation, forgetting the offense… But yet, these are qualities we sometimes hear harped on by very well-intentioned believers as a condition to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice to place the burden of an offense onto Christ. Our desire shouldn’t be to get even. Yet from everything that I’ve seen in the Word, it’s also okay to pray for God’s justice if someone isn’t willing to repent, but of course, our desire should be for their redemption. Thank you again for sharing your insights!

        • Sunshyne on November 13, 2019 at 9:24 pm

          Thank you Sarah! I misunderstood forgiveness for far to long in my earlier years- such an important topic in a broken world.

      9. […] Forgiveness does not bring instant healing or a warm fuzzy feeling. It doesn’t mean you tolerate or excuse wrong behavior, either. In fact, there are a lot of things forgiveness is not. […]

      10. […] 7 Things Forgiveness is Not here. […]

      11. 7 Benefits of Forgiveness - Christian Counseling on December 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm

        […] 7 Things Forgiveness is Not […]

      12. Teena Linder on December 28, 2019 at 10:18 pm

        Situation: My older sister has helped to destroy my relationship with my adult children. She feels she was robbed of her childhood because our abusive and neglectful mother expected her to step up and take on the responsibility of the three younger of us siblings. Also recently my older sister and her family were “kicked out” of a nondenominational church for some very bad behavior. I am the oldest of the three younger children. I was singled out, beaten, told how ugly, stupid and anything else negative you can think of. I remember going for many months without any kind of affectionate touch. I’m done. I’m tired of people saying she’s always been that way. She’s never going to change. She will not acknowledge any wrongdoing–her feeling, why apologize, it won’t change anything. Another thing–it’s not a lie if you’re protecting yourself. I cannot do this anymore. Forgiveness, forgiveness, please. I never want to see her again. And how am I supposed to reconcile myself with my Savior? How, oh how can I get back to the one who died for me?

      13. Janis Myers on March 25, 2020 at 1:01 am

        You don’t have to see her again! Cancel any expectations and let God deal with her. Forgiving means you no longer dwell on what a wretch she is. It does not mean she is no longer a wretch. Concentrate on your own health and well-being and bask in God’s love. He loves you as he did at the foundation of the world. It’s hard to accept that when the people who SHOULD have loved you as a child did not, but you can trust Him!

        • Sunshyne on March 25, 2020 at 5:29 pm

          You are right, Janis!

      14. […] Check out these articles on “Scriptures on Forgiveness” and “7 Things Forgiveness is Not”. […]

      15. Healing through Forgiveness - Invisible Wounds on September 24, 2020 at 11:17 am

        […] The sheer number of lies that are associated with the concept of forgiveness keeps many survivors in chains. I first want to address what forgiveness is NOT. […]

      16. D. on November 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm

        Thank you for this I believe that forgiveness and trust were being mixed up with me.
        It does say in
        Matthew 7:6
        “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

        So now I can say I am on the process and have done everything I can to forgive, praise God!

      17. JOHNSON C O UGORJI on July 23, 2021 at 4:42 am

        Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!! May i have permission to reference these topic in my book: THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS AND BEEN MADE WHOLE.

      18. Healing Heart on August 12, 2021 at 8:12 pm

        A leader at my church was hostile towards me in the church sanctuary and literally threw a chair! Then he was at the altar anointing people with oil, laying hands on them, and praying for them during service! I’m being told to forgive him and the pastor since no one can make the pastor do anything, and the pastor doesn’t like confrontation. ?????!!!!!!

      19. Ann MCGETRICK on May 21, 2022 at 6:08 pm

        Thank you for thoroughly explaining this topic. Your words are so helpful!

      20. Rlo on June 10, 2022 at 8:25 am

        Recently i was told by family members i was pit of the group because of something my husband said and that he wanted to apoligize and they deemed he did not deserve the opportunity and necause i was his wife i could no longer be in the family.

      21. Joseph Hons on April 14, 2023 at 7:25 pm

        I enjoyed reading this and it did help in organizing my thoughts. I like the “what forgiveness is not” because there seems to be a lot of misconception about what forgiveness is and is not.

        I do have to say that because you included forgiveness is a command and forgiveness is a choice and very briefly brushed on those, I feel like I need to add a little. You are right in saying that nothing is required by the offender for you to forgive them, but it’s implied that it’s a commandment for you to forgive them if the offender doesn’t repent. God doesn’t forgive everybody unconditionally because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, you are commanded to repent and believe. Likewise in the passage of Luke 17:3-5 Jesus specifically says “if he repent”.

        I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose to love them even if they don’t repent, and of course not be bitter, angry, or have malice toward them…but not treating them those ways is not the same as forgiving someone.

        Just a thought. 🙂

        • Joseph Hons on April 14, 2023 at 7:39 pm

          Actually now that I’m reading through Ephesians, 4:31-32, it says to put away bitterness, wrath, malice and so forth and contrasts that with the next verse which tells us to be kind to one another and to forgive one another. I wonder why the repentance part is talked about in Luke 17 then. Perhaps Luke 17 is more of a reconciliation/restoration forgiveness while Ephesians is speaking more general in our behavior toward the offending party regardless if they repent or not.

      22. After Love Comes Forgiveness - Part 1 - Rise! on April 20, 2023 at 7:51 pm

        […] 7 Things Forgiveness Is Not – Christian Counseling (sunshynegray.com) […]

      23. […] Christian forgiveness goes beyond merely excusing or condoning wrongdoing; it involves freeing ourselves from bitterness while still holding accountable those who have […]

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        […] Read the full thing by clicking this link:  https://sunshynegray.com/forgiveness-is-not/ […]

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