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Forgiveness can be a REALLY Challenging Process 

Forgiveness can be a really challenging process, how to forgive, what is forgiveness, forgiveness
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It’s important to know that your heart matters. You matter! As you read about forgiveness, please know that forgiveness is FOR YOU not the other person. When you forgive, you release the right for that person/event to continue to trigger you. Making peace with the past helps provided the reset button to start feeling like yourself again. Forgiveness can be a really challenging process.

What Forgiveness is Not

  • Forgiveness is NOT trust! Many people struggle to forgive because they think to forgive means you must be in relationship with the person. Forgiveness means you are releasing the person of the debt they owe you and the judgments you’ve made so you can close that chapter and no longer weighed down by it. 
  • Forgiveness is NOT minimizing or saying it’s okay. You don’t have to forgive if what they did is okay. You only need to forgive when what they did is wrong. 
  • Forgiveness is NOT being a doormat or enabling. Forgiveness is investing in your emotional, relational, and physical wellbeing. 
  • Forgiveness is NOT without seeking appropriate consequence and healthy justice. Forgiveness does not mean you turn a blind eye to injustice. Forgiveness means I am releasing the debt and judgment so you can see clearly on how to steward the justice process without being destroyed by it yourself.  Forgiveness can be a really challenging process.


As a couples therapist, I see that many couples get stuck when they hold onto their rights – keeping a running tally of who has done more/less. This tally is kept from one vantage point, meaning each brain naturally has a self-serving bias in which we justify our actions while over-emphasizing the “character flaw” in the other person. For instance, I am late because I am over worked, while you are late because you are “lazy” “selfish” “don’t care about me.” 


We get married because we’re in love and want to build a life together, going through thick and thin as long as we are together. Yet, the mindset used in approaching that relationship determines the long-term success of that marriage. As a society we’ve lumped marriage into another contract that we are in “only as long as it is making me happy” and we are “quick to get out when they’re not holding their end of the bargain “proverbial contract.”

What is Reciprocal Marriage

Contractual “reciprocal marriage” which statistically does not produce long-term happiness in relationships. Reciprocal relationships are based on the premise, if you don’t do it, then I don’t have to do it. While that sounds “fair,” it breaks down the moment one person gets offended. Once offended, we become porcupines protecting ourselves instead of generously investing in one another.

Once offense and unforgiveness set in, the lovely dovey honeymoon is quickly replaced with a tit for tat approach that quenches the sweetness and spontaneity of enjoying serving one another “just because.” Long gone are the love notes, the sweet gestures and mutual pursuit because now we’re analyzing if the other person is putting in as much as us; which turns a relationship into a transaction.

Furthermore, once there is unforgiveness, every brain has a self-serving bias in which we overestimate our goodness and the other person’s badness while underestimating our wrongfulness and discount the efforts of what they are trying to do. We lose objectively the moment we stop forgiving.  Forgiveness can be a really challenging process.


Most people struggle to forgive because we go from one extreme to the other. We either become a doormat, saying nothing, but growing in resentment as we lose ourselves trying to keep the peace. OR we refuse to forgive because it feels powerful and safe. However, feeling powerful and safe, without forgiveness, become isolating as we lose the ability to emotionally connect. Once erected, our walls are hard to lower.

Have you considered the cost of having such high walls? Not only are you lonely in the relationship, but the other person is lonely as well. Many people focus so much on holding onto unforgivness to be safe, that they don’t realize how miserable life has become and how it is suffocating the relationship and making one or both parties more vulnerable to looking outside the relationship for warmth. Picture your self-protective walls blocking access for the sun and rain nourish your heart and the relationship.

If you’re in an empty relationship, you might look back wondering if whether yourself or the other person stopped forgiving. It might be a good idea to have an emapthic conversation to open dialogue to see where unforgiveness, judgments, resentments etc. have been building that can finally be addressed head on. 


The sweet middle spot is learning how to keep short records of wrongs by addressing things quickly with the other person. Learning how to be assertive to recognize and share your needs and boundaries in a firm yet warm way is challenging – but it is the best investment in the long-term happiness of your relationships. 

Forgiveness can be a really challenging process.

Work through your own triggers and projections to help lower the intensity of your emotions and accusations prior to talking to the person by:

Here are a Few Ideas to Help You Forgive

  1. Writing a raw letter venting all your hurt and anger at the person (that you do not give them and destroy following writing it *don’t keep it as a memory) 
  2. Give yourself compassion and validation. 
  3. Identify other times you might have felt similar? Is there anyone else in your past that you might need to forgive? Are there any internal vows and relationship dynamics being replicated? Make peace with the past to help you engage more effectively in the present.
  4. Write down times YOU have been wrong and how it felt to be forgiven. *If you struggle to recognize times you’ve been wrong, you may not be fully aware of your impact on others. Because, reality is, we all mess up and we all need forgiveness at times. Visualize thanking those who have forgiven you and have allowed you to have a fresh start after your worst moments. 
  5. Now write a letter to the people in the past to bring closure to the past. Visualize releasing them out of the jail cell of your heart. Picture releasing those people, so they are no longer holding space/emotional energy inside you. 
  6. Now write a thoughtful and more balanced letter to the person in the present and then identify the bullet points of what you would like them to hear as the main take away points of what was wrong, why it was wrong, and what you expect going forward. Visualize telling the person validating and honoring the wrongfulness of what they’ve done. *I know it can be a stretch because you KNOW this person would NEVER take responsibility – but remember this is not about them. This is about honoring your heart to get the closure YOU need – irrespective of the other person ever apologizing. 
  7. Now visualize releasing the current person of your judgment and taking them out of the jail cell of your judgment. 

Here are a Few Ideas to repair Relationship: 

If the person is safe, consider talking to them to repair the relationship (*it is not always safe to speak to the person, much of the forgiveness work can be done without the other person.) On the other hand, trust cannot be rebuilt without the repair process. Forgiveness can be a really challenging process.

  • Do the steps above and now take a bit of time to process through the key points you want to share with the person. For some people it is better to initially give the feedback in a letter so they can take it in and not feel blind-sided. For others, it’s better to share in person.  *When rebuilding, you will need to have a face to face to repair connection and create a plan going forward on how to address the same situation differently going forward. 
  • Try to remove the shaming, accusing, and name calling out of your TONE, FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, and your verbiage. Many people think, “hey I’m saying all the right things, what’s their problem?” This is frequently due to a lack of awareness of how their tone and facial expressions may be undermining the sense of safety and warmth needed for both people to effectively problem solve.
  • Come with solutions. No one can sit for a long time hearing all the BAD they’re doing. Recognize the things they have been doing that are good and point out the growth area and then offer solutions or at least be open to brainstorm solutions together. 

Get a Third Party to Mediate

Sometimes it may help to invite a third party to help mediate. To protect a relationship, it is wise to attend a few sessions for relationship counseling – you can go with your sister, your business partner, your romantic partner, your child or stepchild, your in-laws etc. Every relationship is valuable, and you would be SURPRISED at how being proactive early on truly does prevent issues that mushroom out of control if left unaddressed. 

When I work with relationships, I used the Hope Focused approach which is structured, organized, and helps defuse emotion and keep the focus on the topic to be solved. We used TANGO communication and then problem solve by having each party write down the solutions the other person is requesting and then to switch turns. Then to take the written list and strategically start to look for solutions and opportunities that perhaps had not been recognized before.

Remember, Relationships are Messy

There is a reason every fairy tale ends with the kiss… We love the new shiny period of a relationship but the high of any relationship, whether family, business, in-laws, neighbors, service team etc. But truly lasting intimacy that produces a bond that endures through the thick and thin of life, requires pulling your proverbial sleeves up to put in the work – the emotional sweat equity to BUILD the relationship of your dreams. Unlike Hollywood movies that show instant soul mates. In real life, truly and lasting intimacy is built through going through trials TOGETHER instead of turning against one another. 

At Cuurio C.A.R.E., our team of tier-1 relationship counselors, coaches, and individual therapists are here to invest in you and any relationships you may want to walk through the investment process of forgiving, rebuilding, and proactively creating the relationship of your dreams. 

Written by Dr. Shannan Crawford, Licensed Psychologist, Executive Coach

We invite you to watch the “Great News” video on this page and find out more about God’s love for you and how you can receive forgiveness and eternal life – today!

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The Prayer of Salvation

Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

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