How do you know if you haven’t forgiven someone?

Forgiveness is an important part of moving on from hurts in a relationship. However, it can be hard to know if you truly have forgiven someone who has wronged you. Here are some key questions and answers that can help you evaluate if you have fully forgiven someone:

Do you still feel angry or resentful towards them?

If you notice that you still feel spikes of anger, resentment, or bitterness when you think about the person who hurt you, this is a sign that there are still unresolved feelings. Full forgiveness involves letting go of the anger and desire for revenge.

Do you keep bringing up their offense repeatedly?

Frequently making cutting remarks to the person about their past wrong or constantly venting to others about what they did shows that their offense still consumes your thoughts. This ongoing bitterness prevents forgiveness.

Do you punish them through isolation or withholding affection?

Avoiding someone or giving them the cold shoulder because they hurt you in the past indicates unforgiveness. Healthy relationship requires open communication, not punishment through isolation after offenses.

Do you secretly hope something bad happens to them?

Wishing ill on someone who has hurt you means that there is still a desire for revenge. Hoping for their misfortune is the opposite of forgiveness.

Are you unable to let go of the past wrong?

Obsessively dwelling on the specific offense and replaying it in your mind shows that it still has power over you. Forgiveness involves releasing the person and situation to the past.

Do you feel unable to move forward in the relationship?

If the hurt is preventing openness and trust from being rebuilt, you may still be clinging to pain. Forgiveness allows relationships to start fresh and continue growing.

Are you waiting for an apology before extending forgiveness?

Withholding forgiveness until they apologize gives power to the offender. Forgiveness is about your healing, not dependent on their actions.

Do you believe what they did was unforgiveable?

Seeing the offense as unpardonable can prevent you from doing the work of forgiveness required to heal. This all-or-nothing thinking blocks forgiveness.

Do you feel the need for revenge?

Wanting to get even by hurting them back indicates lingering resentment. Forgiveness relinquishes desires for retaliation.

Are you unable to stop thinking about it?

Obsessive thoughts about the offense make it hard to move forward. Forgiveness requires letting thoughts of the past go.

Do you feel disgust or contempt towards them?

Disgust and contempt create feelings of moral superiority that fuel unforgiveness. Forgiveness recognizes our shared humanity.

Are you skeptical of their efforts to make amends?

Dismissing any efforts they make to take responsibility as insincere suggests protective bitterness. Forgiveness gives room for reconciliation.

Do you feel hatred whenever you see them?

Ongoing feelings of hatred reveal festering bitterness that is the opposite of forgiveness. It prevents healing.

Physical signs

In addition to the emotional signs above, there can also be physical symptoms that indicate you are struggling to fully forgive, such as:

  • Tightness in chest
  • Headaches whenever you think of them
  • Upset stomach
  • Clenched fists
  • Jaw tightness

Why is forgiveness important?

Choosing to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you can be incredibly challenging. However, forgiveness is important for several reasons:

  • It allows you to let go of bitterness that destroys you
  • It frees you from obsessive thoughts about the offense
  • It enables you to move forward in the relationship
  • It benefits your mental and physical health
  • It aligns with spiritual beliefs about mercy and grace

How to work towards forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process that takes time. Here are some tips for making progress:

Reflect on your own need for forgiveness

Considering times you have needed grace helps develop empathy for the offender.

Commit to the practice of forgiveness

Make an active decision; forgiveness is a choice and process, not a one-time event.

Recognize that reconciliation may not be possible

Forgiveness can occur independently from repaired trust and reconciliation.

Release your right to revenge

Surrendering thoughts of retaliation or “evening the score” allows forgiveness to start.

Develop empathy for the offender

Cultivating empathy, even for someone who hurt you deeply, is powerful in releasing bitterness.

Write a letter of forgiveness (don’t send it)

The act of writing can help solidify your decision as you express forgiveness.

Grieve the loss of the relationship you wished for

Processing grief over the relationship as it could have been can help you release the pain.

Release negative thoughts whenever they arise

Make a practice of noticing resentful thoughts and intentionally releasing them.

Celebrate progress through prayer, meditation or mantras

Spiritual practices reinforce the power of forgiveness and your commitment to it.

Visualize your forgiveness and the restored relationship

Regularly picturing your forgiveness and the relationship as whole and healthy – even if reconciliation isn’t possible – keeps you moving forward.

The benefits of forgiving someone

Choosing to forgive someone who hurt you can significantly improve your emotional, mental and even physical health. Here are some of the top benefits of forgiveness:

Freedom from obsessive thoughts

Ruminating on offenses keeps your mind trapped in the past. Forgiveness releases you from repetitive thoughts about the wrong.

Improved physical health

Letting go of grudges lowers blood pressure, stress hormones and heart rate. People who forgive report fewer headaches, backaches and stomach issues.

Increased satisfaction in relationships

Releasing hurts enables you to rebuild trust and intimacy. People who forgive have closer, more meaningful relationships.

Reduced anxiety and depression

Ongoing resentment and bitterness are linked to higher anxiety and increased depression. Forgiveness relieves these symptoms.

Greater purpose and meaning

Choosing to release hurts provides a sense of freedom and purpose. People who forgive see greater meaning in suffering.

Improved self-esteem

Letting go of grudges increases your confidence in your ability to handle challenges. It also reduces shame and self-condemnation.

Reduced anger

Releasing past offenses helps regulate your emotions so you have less frequent and intense spikes of anger.

Spiritual growth

Practicing mercy and grace aligns with most spiritual traditions and allows you to live out challenging principles.

More fulfilling relationships

Choosing to see the best in those who’ve hurt you makes your current relationships more enjoyable and rewarding.

Signs someone hasn’t forgiven you

Just as there are signs that you haven’t forgiven someone, there are also clues that someone is still harboring resentment towards you after a conflict. Here are 8 signs someone hasn’t forgiven you:

They distance themselves from you

If someone pulls away relationally and avoids meaningful interaction, they likely are still carrying hurt. Physical and emotional distance suggests forgiveness hasn’t happened.

They make critical or contemptuous remarks

Comments that tear you down or convey disgust reveal bitterness. These types of remarks indicate unresolved anger.

They don’t want to talk about the conflict

An unwillingness to address what happened keeps wounds unhealed. Avoiding the issue perpetuates unforgiveness.

They distrust your words and motives

Skepticism of your sincerity in making amends shows forgiveness hasn’t taken place. Lingering hurt breeds distrust.

They seem irritated around you

Quickness to anger and overall irritation with you point to lingering resentment. Forgiveness restores goodwill.

They repeatedly bring up your offense

Frequently rehearsing what you did wrong reveals fixation on the wound. Forgiveness releases constant dwelling on wrongs.

They compare themselves to you

Comments like “you always” or “you never” compare your wrong to their rightness. Forgiveness abandons judgment and score-keeping.

They want you to hurt like they do

Desiring to see you suffer pain or loss exposes vengeance. Forgiveness longs for the offender’s healing and restoration.

How to know if you should forgive

Deciding whether to extend forgiveness is complex. Consider these key questions when discerning if forgiveness is right:

Have you grieved the wounds fully?

Allowing yourself space to grieve and process pain prevents premature forgiveness. Reflection helps you know when you’re ready.

Are you forgiving to relieve your burden?

Forgiveness shouldn’t be an escape from difficult emotions or excuse for offenses. Be sure your motivations are centered on growth.

Is there a pattern of harm?

In abusive relationships, forgiveness can enable further harm without changed behavior. Consider your vulnerability to repeated injury.

Does the offender take responsibility?

When the person denies wrongdoing, reconciliation may not be possible. You can still forgive, even if trust can’t be rebuilt.

Are you able to set boundaries?

Only give forgiveness when you’re able to maintain clear boundaries so you aren’t opening yourself to further exploitation.

Have they given any signs of repentance?

Sincere repentance enables forgiveness and reconciliation. But you can release bitterness even without apologies.

Do cultural expectations pressure you?

Only forgive if you genuinely desire to, not out of cultural or religious rules. Forgiveness cannot be forced.

Have you tried letting go before?

Consider whether you’ve extended forgiveness before without changed behavior from them. A different approach may be needed.

Can you wholeheartedly forgive them?

Forgiveness should not be given unless you can fully let go of bitterness and desire for revenge. Halfhearted forgiveness brings no peace.

Is the relationship harmful overall?

In toxic relationships that cannot become healthy, forgiveness may lead to enabling abuse or harm. Your safety is the priority.

How to tell someone you forgive them

After you’ve gone through the inner work of forgiveness, expressing it can restore a relationship. Communicate complete forgiveness by:

  • Speaking in person – This conveys care.
  • Affirming your care for them – This rebuilds a connection.
  • Taking responsibility for your part – This shows maturity.
  • Assuring them of your forgiveness – This confirms your commitment.
  • Releasing specific instances – This proves you have released them.
  • Encouraging future growth – This is forward-focused.
  • Not demanding an apology – This prevents coercion.
  • Requesting healing for the relationship – This expresses hope.

What to avoid when communicating forgiveness:

  • Email or text only
  • Continued references to offenses
  • Sarcastic remarks
  • Any attempt to make them feel guilty
  • Using forgiveness to place blame
  • Making light of wounds
  • Conditional phrases like “but” or “however”
  • Focusing only on your own healing

When you should not forgive

While forgiveness is often held up as a virtue, there are situations where it may not be healthy or possible. Cases where forgiveness may not be wise include:

Abusive relationships

In relationships marked by cycles of severe physical, emotional, or psychological abuse, forgiveness may enable harmful patterns to continue by removing consequences and giving power to the abuser. In these cycles, forgiveness may not be possible or advisable unless there is long-term, verifiable change in behavior.

Sexual assault

There should be no expectation for survivors of rape or sexual assault to forgive their attacker. The violation of consent was a complete loss of that person’s humanity. Expecting forgiveness can recreate feelings of powerlessness and guilt. Forgiveness may eventually happen, but cannot be forced.

Unrepentant offenders

When offenses are denied or justified without remorse, the offender shows no understanding of the wrong they have committed. Forgiveness in the absence of repentance removes consequences for wrongdoing and may enable further harm. Forgiveness is not required in these cases.

Reconciliation is too risky

If attempts to rebuild trust have resulted in repeated exploitations and wounds, reconciliation may be too risky. However, you can internally forgive someone while also establishing wise boundaries against future harm.

Trauma bonding

In traumatic situations where victims form dysfunctional bonds with abusers, forgivensss can deepen this bonding. The brain associates abuse trauma with love. Forgiveness may reinforce this on a neurological level. Professional counseling should treat trauma bonding before any forgiveness.

Cultural coercion

Some cultural values and religious institutions strongly emphasize forgiveness in all circumstances. This can coerce victims into premature forgiveness before healing. True forgiveness cannot be imposed, only freely chosen.

Forgiveness is a journey

Letting go of deep hurts in a relationship and moving towards complete forgiveness is challenging work. But it is a journey filled with blessings along the way. With time and commitment, you will find freedom from ongoing bitterness, improved mental health, more rewarding relationships and deeper alignment with your values. Look for signs that forgiveness still needs work. But more importantly, celebrate each step you take on the path towards forgiveness.

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