Have you ever been so hurt or offended by a friend or family member that you’ve found it difficult to forgive them? Is there someone who is no longer part of your life because one of you carries a grudge against the other? Does someone harbor bitterness towards you because of something you said or did that they refuse to pardon?

Health, fitness, finance, organization, weight loss, and job goals are the focus of most new year’s resolutions, the results of which can be measured with the scales, in the bank account, or on the spreadsheet. I challenge us to adopt a resolution whose results affect our peace of mind and our spiritual wellbeing: let’s resolve to seek or grant forgiveness in our relationships.

Recently I’ve witnessed situations where family members refuse to forgive each other, with almost tragic results. Their families and marriages suffer, not only now but potentially for generations to come. An hour after I thought “can’t they just forgive each other?” in response to one such situation, I got so angry with my husband I could spit over a relatively minor offense.

Sometimes forgiveness sounds simpler than it is.

If we, in our human nature, struggle to forgive small infractions, how can we expect to heal relationships where the offense appears almost unforgivable? It requires a heaping measure of grace.

Dewy Morning Plant

What can create a situation where one person can’t forgive the other?

Pride. My husband values harmony in our marriage and will ask forgiveness if he’s offended me, so we resolved our misunderstanding within a few hours. If he’d been too proud to offer an apology or if I’d been too stubborn to accept it, a minor understanding could have grown into something more. Let’s swallow our pride and ask forgiveness when necessary and do our best not to refuse a sincere apology.

If God can forgive all our sins and sacrifice His own son on our behalf, how can we justly withhold forgiveness?

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” {Psalm 103:12}

Breach of Faith. The people closest to us are the ones who can harm us the most. We care about them and value our relationships. We grant them our trust. I received the following response to this question: “Is there someone now (or in the past) you have had trouble forgiving? If so, why?”

I’ve had trouble forgiving someone because the act they did hurt me so bad. They made me feel betrayed and like I could not trust them any more. And the person that did it was the one person I could trust with anything. I had trouble forgiving them because it broke my heart and I couldn’t believe that person could hurt me so bad, or break the trust I had for them . . . I’ve only had trouble forgiving those that are closest to me.

The closer the relationship, the more harm done by a breach of faith, when trust is broken.

A Resolution for a New Year

Don’t start a fresh, new year holding onto grudges from the past or failing to ask forgiveness of those you may have offended. Let’s clean more than our closets, let’s sweep our hearts free of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit.

Do you owe someone an apology? Can you forgive past offenses even if the offender hasn’t asked for it or doesn’t appear to deserve it?

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  • Anna Smit

    Dawn, these are such important words. As God has been opening my eyes and heart to His Love, I’ve become more open to giving and receiving forgiveness. But I still struggle at times and find myself feeling the sting of pain that I thought I had already released and making excuses for my behavior in front of my kids (“I’m sorry I got so angry, but maybe you could listen better next time.”), rather than living in and extending the abounding grace I have been given. In those moments I catch myself doing this, I’m starting to shout my One Word back at myself internally: BEHOLD…to shift my focus to beholding His Face…and reflecting Him in my thoughts and feelings. It helps me capture the thoughts and words and make them obedient to Christ. But it’s a repeated exercise…I’m slow at learning and so grateful for His Grace. Thank you for this important reminder to us all.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Anna, you’ve zeroed in on one of the most difficult but important aspects of parenting: forgiving—as we’ve been forgiven. Be sure to tell them you’re extending mercy and explain the concept (or they may think you’re a pushover and miss the lesson!).

      • Anna Smit

        It’s funny you say that, as I’ve been wondering how to do this without being a pushover…my kids are 3 and 5 though, so it’s hard to explain things clearly to them at their level! If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    You are right, that often the most deeply held grudges are with those that are closest to us. Though I am happily remarried, I see my son drifting, floundering, procrastinating, and filling his life with things that are not healthy for him. I don’t have to look far to see that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I know my son is responsible for his own actions now, but when I see him doing what he’s doing, flames of bitterness toward my ex rise up. We have a cordial relationship which is good, but deep down I am angry that he was not a better role model for our son. I have forgiven and forgotten much, but when I still see our son floundering every day, the scab is torn open again. Not quite sure how you forgive something that is still ongoing (he still sets a poor example for our son). Your post has really helped me see that I have to pray on this and ask God for the grace and mercy to forgive. Thank you…

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Wow, Bev, this one’s hard. The best I can recommend is talking with your son and helping him take responsibility for his own actions. The better his choices become, the easier it would be to forgive your husband (although that makes it conditional, doesn’t it?). Parenting takes on a whole new aspect when they leave the nest!

    • A

      Hi Bev! Oh how a part of your post resounds with me as I too have situations where the scab is torn off again and again. My heart goes out to you in prayer. Its hard, so hard at times when those feeling occur, but I have seen how the Lord teaches me how to respond out of His love and grace, not the feelings. The Lord is faithful and will help you; we can only ever forgive out of His strength and grace and that is such a joy. Praying for you :)

    • Joanne Peterson

      Bev, my heart breaks for this for you with your son. This is so hard to when you see the damage done to your son from your ex’s actions and the hurt it inflicts on your son. Forgiveness is a process, and comes in stages and is the hardest when our kids are involved and hurt by someone else’s actions. But, it is literally a constant turning over to Jesus at the foot of the cross. I know it sounds like a cliche’, but the more we turn it over trusting God to take this hurt and offense through His Holy Spirit, the less it can take hold of us, our responses and our spirit. Some of the hardest questions to ask God is “How are you going to use this whole situation to bring You glory out of this brokenness and this mess?” “How do you want me to be a part of this, what part do I play?” “Even though I am hurt and offended and feeling bitter, how do I obey my part of this bringing You glory, and forgiving my ex?” “How will my son bring You glory in this mess, and how do I pray for this and love my son through this?” “How do I choose forgiveness over and over again through a choice of my will even though my son is struggling?” These are all grappling questions, and not something that will be tied up with a pretty bow, all fixed quickly. I have to very often ask these same questions I have been posing to you. I have been grappling, and I don’t have this all figured out, and I am not very good at this, but I found myself asking the wrong questions, and having the wrong expectations of God and other people, and ending up in bitterness too. Know I am sending hugs your way, and praying through this valley with you. xoxo, Joanne

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Joanne, these are all great insights and questions to ask myself…thank you, as always, for your wisdom!
        Love you sweet friend,

  • Julie Rogers

    Dawn, I really appreciate you sharing this. I do have a question. I tend to be the peace seeker in my family and oftentimes this leads to me shaking things off and being trying to be the bigger person. This year I’ve been trying to stand up for myself and something happen that I couldn’t “shake off” and I let the person know, in a respectful way, how much it hurt me. I received an “I’m sorry you feel that way” type of non-apology where my feelings were not acknowledged and the hurt cut deeper. Since then it’s been hard for me to be around my family (extended). These instances happen a lot, this is just the first time I have tried to confront it. I’m worried this will cause a rift in my family but also don’t want to bury my feelings. Especially since I’m no longer able to bury them as well.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      I’m a peacemaker too. Once I had a family member who took offense at everything I did. I told my mother, “There’s nothing I can do to make her happy!” and she replied, “Just kill her with kindness.” It was hard, but because of it the relationship healed. I’m now very close to this person.

  • http://sunnyand80.org/ Meg Bucher

    Dawn, I am public enemy #1 at cutting people our of my life when I am faced with just the type of bitterness you speak of. And I was shown exactly where it came from observing people bolt to avoid any sticky part of life all together. God has been after me to release the responsibility of my actions from the influence of others, and to take it upon myself to resolve this behavior. I have learned a lot over the last year about trying to be friends with everyone…my M.O. It’s taken a lot of prayer and time in the Word. My friendships have improved, and my ability to forgive and encourage myself instead of relying on apologies and affirmations has too.
    Thanks for this post! You reminded me to be encouraged of the progress God has made on my heart.
    Happy Friday!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Meg, it sounds like you made this resolution last year and are reaping its fruits! Thank you for sharing. :)

  • http://lovellegerthmyers.com/ Lovelle Gerth- Myers

    You are SOOOO wise. I love this. For any relationship to flourish {this includes our relationship with God} we must forgive. It’s biblical. It is sometimes a daily process but once you do it you feel so much better. This is a struggle for me so thank you for the help. :-)

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Hello, friend! You’ve nailed it: forgiveness is Biblical and we feel better when we offer forgiveness (even if it’s not accepted).

  • A

    Dawn, this post speaks so much to my heart. As I struggle to be vulnerable again in relationship after unspeakable hurts, I have found that forgiveness is a process truly of seventy times seven. There are times my feelings threaten to overwhelm me and I have to remind myself of 1John3:20 “God is bigger than our feelings; He knows everything.” Reading what people are doing here is so helpful in my walk with the Lord and I am grateful for each one. Thank you for this goal of forgiveness, baby steps, and I pray that each of us is lifted up in His love and forgiveness today, to see His hand at work in our pains and struggles :) May peace be with all of you :)

  • chiligirl2001

    One of the hardest things to forgive was the abuse I endured as a child by my grandfather, my dad and my mom looking the other way while it happened. It wasn’t until I actually realized that forgiving isn’t for them, it is for me and that by forgiving them, I let go of the control they had over almost all of my life and that forgiveness and letting go are not equivalent to condoning what happened. I have made big strides in my healing process since and took the step from victim to survivor to warrior. Forgiveness is not easy but once we realize it’s letting go of the control others have over our life, it becomes much easier.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Yours is a story of a truly Biblical kind of forgiveness, so against our human nature. I’m thankful for the healing you’ve had because of your desire to forgive.

  • kmdakis

    This is really wisdom from God, thanks for this devotion, Ms. Dawn. You are just so right, receiving and giving forgiveness are to be included in our goals for this new year. Glory to God for this inspiring insight. :)

  • Martha

    I know this came out yesterday; I have been mulling it over. Our immediate family relationships are a mess: our marriage, two daughters who are not speaking to us(parents), and the other two daughters are carrying the first two in their emotional/mental struggles;and two sons who are watching & wondering what happened.

    I know that part of this is due to my sin: I have asked daughters’ forgiveness, but no response and continue hurt (one still lives with us). Marriage counseling is very good, but very slow; Husband is somewhat responsive.

    Any counsel on how to continue to live with the constant rejection of our daughters and constant tension in our marriage? This has been continuing for four very long, painful years. I have, and continue, to come to Jesus. I can function with the pain, but then it comes up to the forefront again. Please pray for me….

    • Sarah

      Dear Martha as a daughter in law who has walked the other side of this with my husband and had to walk away from his parents for a duration of time, seek His kingdom first. As painful as it is, Christ already forgave you at the cross. He wrote redeemed on your heart and your sins are forgiven. You’ve done wrong and asked for forgiveness. Don’t keep beating yourself up about it. He’s not, so let it go. Walk in freedom, sister! The only person who can change your children and your husband is The Lord. Let him do the work in their hearts. You can’t do that work for them. It’s not dependent on you, but him. You have my prayers!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Martha, I am so sorry. Your desire for forgiveness and reconciliation is a huge step; some people don’t take responsibility and realize that they need forgiveness. I think you have to continue to interact with your family in love and stay constant. It’s difficult to stay angry and resentful with someone who only treats you with love. I’m praying for you today.

  • http://livingcenter.me/ Nancy Wolfe @ livingcenter.me

    Why, oh why??? does it seems like to forgive is to condone? Just because we don’t hold a grudge does not mean that we are accepting bad behavior or being hurtful.
    But it does mean that we are looking through Jesus’ eyes.
    It’s not easy. But it is simple: We forgive because we have been forgiven.
    Happy new year, sisters…xoxox

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/ Dawn Camp

      Wise words, Nancy!

  • Beth Williams

    I am a peace maker and keeper in my family~ There are times when I get angry and want to “shout” at people. When I have “outbursts” I quickly ask for forgiveness. We have never gone to bed angry at each other. I believe it is important to understand each other and what they are going through. Remember if Jesus can forgive us our many sins then we must forgive also!!

    Blessings :)