by: Dr. Crystal Lane Ed. D.
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Psalm 86:5
Forgiveness has different meanings, emotions, and a unique timeline for each of us. Psychologists define forgiveness as a conscious or deliberate decision to release feelings of vengeance, resentment, hurt, or betrayal towards a group or an individual who has harmed us, regardless of whether they have asked for or deserve it. This ordinary definition is hard to unpack emotionally because our feelings of hurt, betrayal, and resentment are often intense. Forgiving those who don’t ask, don’t acknowledge, or don’t deserve it, can make us feel invalidated. That invalidation can often lead to further and deeper hurt. This is how the brutality of not forgiving others, or even ourselves, continues to damage us emotionally and physically. The cyclone intensifies, creating a monster of negative emotions, leaving the mind, body, and soul with detrimental effects.
Forgiveness is a vital healing process. It allows you to let go of feelings of shame, guilt, and hurt. But to forgive yourself, you must focus on your emotions and spend time there. You must give yourself permission to feel and work through all those feelings. We all make mistakes, we all sin, and we all fall short of the glory of Christ. That’s where His mercy steps in, steps up, and saves us! God’s great love appeared to us in the form of Jesus. He saved us not because we deserved it but because of His mercy and grace. Titus 3:4-7 explains, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
Remember that guilt can be a healthy response to our own mistakes and sin. It allows us to recognize and apologize to those we hurt, make corrections in our lives, seek the Lord through His word, and ultimately help others through similar struggles. But that negative, unhelpful shame does not come from Christ. Those are feelings used by the Devil, who has come to seek, disqualify, and destroy. It is important to know that it is safe and healthy to seek professional help and/or pastoral counsel when working through big manifestations such as forgiveness.
It is your choice to forgive others who have hurt you and harmed you. It is your ability to let go of that anger and resentment, of hostility and grudges. But that doesn’t mean you can forgive alone. You must choose to overcome ill purpose or revenge and surrender all those negative thoughts around those that caused you harm. You can do this through the help and support of others, through professional and pastoral support.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32
The Mind, Body, and Spirit
Research has proven that those capable of forgiveness hold stronger, longer, and happier relationships, have increased heart health, and have improved mental health. John Hopkins Medicine explains in detail that forgiveness is something your body, heart, and your overall health depend on. Forgiveness creates a healthier version of you by lessening stress, anxiety, and depression. Scientific studies have also found that the act of forgiveness alone has huge health benefits, such as lowering risks of heart attack, improving sleep and cholesterol levels, and reducing pain and blood pressure. Forgiveness is essential for one’s health and wellbeing.
At Gateway, there are resources and support for help working through tough situations where forgiveness is needed. There are groups specializing in grief, recovery, divorce, foster care, adoption, and many other small groups to connect and engage. For more information, go to,
Other References and Resources:
Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”