Why is Forgiveness so Hard?

Forgiveness is an incredibly powerful topic. Choosing to forgive someone who has hurt you can free you from the pain caused by others. Consequently, unforgiveness can shackle you to the past, robbing you of peace and joy. Forgiveness isn’t complicated, but it is difficult. Why is forgiveness so hard?

Why is forgiveness is so hard

Over the years, I’ve done quite a bit of Christian counseling and coaching in the area of forgiveness. In that time, 3 challenges consistently come up…

First, forgiveness is often misunderstood. When we strongly add or take away to the biblical definition of forgiveness, we can’t apply it effectively to our relationships. It’s like trying to use a recipe with all the wrong ingredients – you would end up with a mess.

Second, we categorize sin according to the world’s estimation. Putting the offenses into categories of bad, worse and worst, is not what the Bible says about sin. Either you sin or you don’t (spoiler alert – we all sin). Doing the judging of sin, traps us into believing some sins are forgivable and some aren’t.

Thirdly, bitterness and resentment gets deeply rooted, causing forgiveness to be seemingly impossible as we allow our emotions to drive our ability to let go of the past.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these 3 challenges that make us ask the question, “Why is forgiveness so hard?”

Why is forgiveness so hard?

1. Forgiveness is often misunderstood.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

The forgiveness we receive through Christ is not earned or deserved. Jesus paid the debt of my sin, I could never pay myself. The Bible clearly states that we all sin and are in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23 – 24). Jesus is the Savior, God sent for all who come to Him in faith for salvation from the punishment of our sins (Romans 10:13).

God’s forgiveness means He is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9) and removes my sin as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12).

Now let’s apply this to our relationships. Ephesians 4:32 commands we forgive others, just as God forgives us. It doesn’t add stipulations or conditions. The Bible doesn’t say only forgive if the offender says sorry. Nor, does it say, forgive as long as they don’t do it again. Furthermore, we don’t get a pass because forgiveness is hard.

Forgiveness releases the offender from our punishment. We’re releasing the offense and situation into God’s hands. He alone is Judge. He will settle the accounts. God is the One to whom we can entrust our hurts.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow destructive patterns of hurt into our lives. Nor does it mean we excuse and tolerate the offense. We are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), not ignore hurtful patterns. Excusing and tolerating bad behavior isn’t good for anyone.

Check out these articles on “Scriptures on Forgiveness” and “7 Things Forgiveness is Not”.

2.  We wrongly measure sin as big or small.

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10

 When we view sin through a worldly lens, we determine its “level”. We become tempted to judge the sins of others. The position of Judge belongs to only One (Isaiah 33:22).

I’m not sure where it originated, but I love the illustration of the skyscraper line. When we stand facing buildings they are all different heights. Some bigger, some smaller. We tend to view sin in the same way-different sizes. But God has a top view. Every building is the same size. That is how God sees sin. There is no sin greater than another.

What if we saw sin through God’s eyes? We would no longer determine what is “unforgivable”. We would recognize that all sin is forgiveable. “I can’t forgive”, wouldn’t be part of our vocabulary.

Forgiveness would be offered because we would recognize all that God has forgiven in our own lives. Knowing the freedom we have in Christ would prompt us to choose to forgive others.

3.  Bitterness has already taken root.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

Last winter we moved to a new home. As spring is upon us, we’ve moved to working outdoors in the garden. Several trees have sprouted up in weird places. We pulled at least a dozen out by the roots. Unfortunately, a few have taken root and were not as easily pulled. When unforgiveness develops into bitterness it is also not so easily rooted up.

Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Once bitterness takes root, it gets harder to pull up. Its’ roots choke out joy and peace as anger and resentment spread through our lives.

Forgiveness on the other hand opens the door to healing. Without forgiveness we don’t heal from the pain caused by others. Too often, we mistakenly think we will be able to forgive when we have done some healing. However, I’ve never seen true healing happen before forgiveness has taken place.

For more information about overcoming bitterness and resentment (plus free journaling prompts), check out this article.

3 Reasons Why Forgiveness is so Hard…

Let’s recap challenges often faced when struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you. First, forgiveness is widely misunderstood. When we don’t fully understand what forgiveness is and is not, it will only make it more difficult to move forward with forgiveness. Second, it’s common to view other people’s sins as too big to forgive. This leads us to categorizing other people’s offenses as forgivable or unforgivable. And finally once bitterness and resentment takes root, forgiveness becomes more difficult.

Why is forgiveness is so hard

Why is forgiveness so hard for you? Leave a comment or encourage someone else!


  1. Beth Steffaniak on May 4, 2020 at 7:28 am

    This is so good, Sunshyne! I agree on all fronts and really like the metaphor you used regarding how bitterness can take root like your stubborn tree roots. I can imagine the difficulty of trying to extract those! Working in the yard is not my favorite thing, especially on projects like that! Lol! Thanks for this very helpful post! I’ll be pinning and tweeting!

    • Sunshyne on May 5, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you Beth for taking the time to stop by and share the article:) Blessings!

  2. MICHELLE WARREN on May 4, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    So true. Forgiveness has always been a struggle for me, but as I age I realize that the bitterness only hurts me. Thanks for your wise words.

    • Sunshyne on May 5, 2020 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Michelle! You are so right- unforgiveness hurts us more than it does the offender. Thank you for stopping by:)

      • Quintah winnie on May 12, 2021 at 8:59 pm

        Am trying to forgive my baby dady. He pretended to care until i concieved. Its been pain that i wished him all the bad stuff in the world. He never apologized abd the bitterness i got is destroying me. One day i wake up and i tell myself i have forgiven him. Then i really get hurt on some days and send him offensive messages which he never replies to. Thx for this article it will surely help me

    • Canadian Eh! on January 16, 2023 at 3:23 pm

      Nice read. It sounds so easy, yet it’s so difficult to let go of resentment. I was divorced many years ago, but have alot of resentment and frustration on how my ex used Christianity and the church as a crutch for her immortal behavior. I still struggle to trust and look at other Christians properly. The hypocrisy of her distorted my view of Christians. I’m still a Christian and will always and enjoyed reading your article. But from my experience, I find it really hard to forget emotional and physical pain. As a medical professional, I can say that our bodies are built to not forget pain or bad experiences , it’s what keeps up alive and safe from harm. But it keeps us from letting go, or at least makes it difficult. Thanks for sharing your views.

  3. Frank Castellano on May 5, 2020 at 9:37 am

    Forgiveness is a difficult process. It’s like clearing the slate of a debt that is owed. If it was easy we would all be robots without emotion. What we need to remember is that we all commit offenses that need forgiveness and, like we want those to disappear by being forgiven, we must apply the same process to our debtors.

    • Sunshyne on May 5, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      Frank, I love how you said it would be easy if we were all robots- so true! Additionally, you are right-it’s extending the same forgiveness we desire. Thank you for taking the time to share!

  4. Maria Beckett on May 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    This is a very timely article. I have been dealing with imaginations about hypothetical situations that would cause me fear. In my imaginations a loved one has hurt me and the sin committed against me seems so big it causes me panic to think about it.
    I see now that I really do categories sins for example adultery.
    If I saw this particular sin as just another sin, and really see how however someone could potentially sin against me, my sins are to God just as bad, I would not feel so panicky imagining worst senarios, and the barrier between a certain sin and
    forgiveness of that sin would just be a step away instead of many many steps.
    Thankyou so much for this article! ❤️💕🌸

    • Sunshyne Gray on May 11, 2020 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Maria, Thank you for taking the time to share- fear of unfaithfulness is quite common. You are insightful to pull back and not view one sin as worse than another. I find it is also helpful to shift my thoughts to who God is when I have thoughts that are overwhelming or scary. When I think of His attributes it helps diffuse fear. Blessings!

  5. Naomi Green on May 26, 2020 at 8:06 am

    This is a great article. Certainly re-enforces the act of forgiveness. But what I struggle with is how do you forgive someone that has yet to stop the behavior that needs forgiveness? More specifically how do you continue in a relationship with that person when you don’t have a choice but to interact with them?

  6. Sunshyne on June 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Naomi, You pose great questions! When someone continues to do the same hurtful thing again and again, it usually means that you might consider setting limits to the hurtful behavior. In other words, if they don’t change, then you need to change the access, ability or distance between you the the offender. As far as keeping peace because you have to interact, check out this article… https://sunshynegray.com/forgiveness-reconciliation/

  7. Maria Moore on January 7, 2021 at 11:16 am

    I am having a hard time with forgiveness. My husband has cheated on me on several occasions throughout the years and the trust been completely destroyed to the point that I do not want the marriage to continue anymore because I feel that he is not sincere with what he wants. This has caused intimacy issues for me. His actions have been selfish. I felt like he has never cared about my thoughts and feelings. I don’t even think that he has ever loved me. I have prayed about this because anger and resentment have been in my soul and I don’t know how to release it. Could you give me some advice on how to release it?

  8. Susan on August 19, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Hi…I have struggled with self forgiveness for years and it has al most destroyed me. It has affected my faith and all I can do is cry out to the Lord to help me to forgive me for the past.I have made the decision to forgive me but it is much harder than I thought it would be. I think this unforgiving spirit has taken deep roots within me and I think thats why freedom in my heart and soul is so hard. I think a ger and bitterness has also taken root in my heart. I want so badly to be free. How long does it take to be free from all this. I have been trying to be free from unforgiveness since April when the Lord showed me, so its been 5 months and I have made some progress but feel like I have a long wzy to go yet. Any helpful suggestions would be appreciated. Its not so easy and struggling every day to get my peace and joy back. Ty Susan

  9. Dozie on March 21, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    I just stumbled on this and I must say, what an eye opener. Your analysis are picturesque and on point. The three points are so valid, they have given me a different perspective to viewing forgiveness. Thanks for this!!!

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