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Is An Inability To Forgive Consuming You? How to Forgive

Have you experienced an inability to forgive someone who hurt you? Someone who hurt you deeply, and you can’t seem to move past it?

Holding onto anger and resentment can be a heavy burden to carry, and the inability to forgive can consume us. But forgiveness is a powerful tool that can bring peace and healing to our lives. In this guide, we’ll help you work through your anger so you can leave grudges behind and move forward.

The ability to forgive should be a priority in your life, but it is often a problem that seems insurmountable. Holding on to anger negatively affects your mood, health, and other relationships. This happens because anger and unforgiveness often become overwhelming, spilling over into other areas of life.

But that negative energy can be transformed into something more positive with a bit of effort. Keep reading to learn about the latest scientific research revealing proven techniques for how to forgive others.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure for more information.

Emotional and Physical Results From An Inability To Forgive

Psychology Today informs us that holding onto an angry grudge raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that spikes blood pressure and breaks down the immune system, the body’s ability to fight disease. Therefore, long-term anger increases susceptibility to illness and disease.

Furthermore, over time, frequent spikes in blood pressure can lead to chronic illness. Thus, the negative effects of a lack of forgiveness can make you sick.

And it also interferes with your ability to experience joy and your quality of life because anger sucks away energy from other activities in order to continue feeding the anger.

Additionally, emotional stress from chronic anger can lead to angry outbursts toward others, erratic moods, and poor behavior. Thus, not only can an inability to forgive harm one’s health, but those around the unforgiving person suffer too!

Soon, a person who can’t forgive may soon need forgiveness from someone else!

Discover what one expert says about how to forgive others.

Mom and daughter argue with each other.

Many Hurts Are Unintentional

If someone has intentionally hurt you, it may help to understand that people who are hurting often lash out and hurt others.

However, unintended hurt results when different personalities view the situation differently. Since every person is unique, we have brains that decipher the same information differently. These hurts are often easier to forgive because they usually don’t have a malicious root.

An example is a mother and daughter who don’t get along. The mother was raised by strict parents. Therefore, she parents her daughter in the same manner that she was raised.

However, years later, as an adult, the daughter remains estranged from her mother due to the daughter’s view that her mother was harsh and uncaring.

To repair the rift, both parties must use sincere, honest communication to repair the relationship. This is how my oldest child and I transformed a long history of hurts and mental head-butting because the scenario above is mine.

Why You Should Forgive Someone Who Hurt You

It’s easy to talk about forgiveness but often hard to do when one’s emotions are in turmoil. However, letting go of the emotional pain helps to improve one’s mental health and well-being.

Studies reveal that forgiveness reduces anxiety and symptoms of depression. It also decreases stress and induces better sleep. These are powerful reasons for learning how to forgive someone.

One can build self-esteem when standing up to the pain and moving past emotional pain. This happens because dealing with the pain makes the forgiving individual stronger and healthier emotionally.

Thus, learning how to forgive and let go of anger improves physical health and stabilizes mental health. Additionally, more energy becomes available for positive activities.

Butterfly in the clouds symbolizes the inability to forgive.

Find relief from an inability to forgive by letting go of emotional pain. Then, watch the world open up to you.

Getting Ready To Forgive

Forgiveness means freeing yourself of the weight you are carrying. But it’s more than just letting go or moving on. According to a recent study, true forgiveness means developing an ability to offer the offending person something positive, such as compassion, empathy, or understanding.

Very Well Mind reveals that forgiving is difficult when we judge the one who wronged us as undeserving of forgiveness. We can’t let go of our anger because we feel that dwelling on it ruminates the unfairness of what has been done to us.

It’s common to think forgiving is letting the instigator off the hook when the person deserves to be punished with righteous anger. But forgiveness is not condoning what someone has done to us. It’s not the same thing as justice.

What letting go of unforgiveness means is that the wronged person is able to come to a place of understanding. Forgiveness does not require reconciliation and does not allow for the continuation of abusive behavior.

Forgiveness simply removes the power that emotional pain has over us.

This bestseller by Lysa Terkeurst has the tips and strategies you need to learn how to forgive.

How Do You Forgive Someone Who Hurt You?

So, how do you stop being angry?

The first step in the process of forgiveness is making a conscious decision to forgive. This can be a difficult step, especially when the hurt caused by the other person is significant. However, it’s important to remember that forgiveness is not about excusing the behavior or forgetting what happened.

It’s about releasing negative emotions and moving forward with your life.

Achieving forgiveness requires you to take time to reflect on the situation and its impact on you. Then, it means making the decision to let go of the anger and resentment and choose forgiveness.

The Reach Model Handbook

Everett Worthington, developer of the Reach Model of Forgiveness, developed a workbook for individuals with an inability to forgive, that can be downloaded free of charge. 4,598 people who used the workbook experienced a significantly increased ability to forgive those who had hurt them.

You can download your personal copy of the Reach model workbook here.

Enright’s Therapy Model

Robert Enright is a Psychology Professor at the University of Wisconsin who has researched forgiveness. His findings resulted in Enright’s Forgiveness Therapy Model. It consists of four phases. Enright concluded that forgiveness can be hard to embrace but has multiple tangible benefits.

The four phases of Enright’s model consist of owning up to one’s feelings, making a decision to forgive, working toward understanding the person who committed the offense, and discovering compassion for the offending person.

Enright's Therapy Model regarding how to forgive

Enright believes that couples in crisis must face the hurt and betrayal and then address it until both parties feel safe enough to move on. When this is accomplished, the relationship can be rebuilt and become stronger than before.

While the act of forgiveness is often difficult, it’s up to us to cultivate it. It is possible to forgive, but it takes effort and patience to do so. The following steps are crucial for helping you overcome the inability to forgive.

Key Steps For Finding Forgiveness

  1. Accept what happened, how you feel about it, and what you can do to make amends.
  2. Consider anything you could have done differently.
  3. Focus on what’s positive in your life.
  4. Learn anger management skills. Here’s a helpful read to this end that you may enjoy.
  5. Let go of the past and learn how to break its power over you.
  6. Talk objectively to the other person, listen to their perspective, and squash any feelings of defensiveness. Respond carefully towards bringing resolution while explaining how the offending person’s actions affected you.
  7. Live In The Moment and practice mindfulness.
  8. Make a closure plan. Carefully consider all involved parties and the lasting effects of your plan.
  9. Try meditation, which lowers stress and calms emotions, leaving you more clear-headed.
  10. Instead of judging your feelings, accept and process them. You have the right to feel and understand your emotions and reactions.
  11. Say what you need to say to the offending party to find peace. Remember, words can never be returned once they leave the mouth.
  12. Set healthy boundaries with the other person and stick to them.
  13. Spend time with loved ones and enjoy current relationships. It’s also helpful to practice gratitude every day.
  14. Talk to others who support you.
  15. If all else fails, talk to a counselor who can help you work through your feelings.

Wrapping Up The Inability To Forgive

As you can see, learning how to forgive someone is essential for maintaining mental health and emotional stability.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of grudges and resentment and move forward from painful experiences. Holding onto anger and bitterness is emotionally and physically draining and prevents us from fully enjoying life.

However, choosing to move on with a positive attitude takes strength and courage. But it ultimately leads to healing and growth. And once we master how to forgive someone, we can achieve a much greater potential within our lives.

How to Overcome an Inability to Forgive

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61 Comments

  1. That’s amazing! This is one of the most interesting topics! Thank you for sharing this information with me.

  2. I have forgiven but I haven’t forgotten. And yet I have totally moved on and totally at peace. I have never looked back and life has been much better.

    1. It’s wonderful that you’ve discovered how to successfully move on. I hope for the same result for everyone who reads this guide. Thank you, Lynndee.

    1. It’s good you’ve made peace when it comes to forgiveness. Forgetting is not required to forgive, and being able to reconcile the two is important, Hopefully, this post helps readers to do so.

  3. Forgiving is not easy at all! We need to do great work on ourselves in order to be able to forgive someone!

    1. You’re right. Forgiving can be hard. When others hurt us, it’s difficult to be objective. But in the long run, we only hurt ourselves when we hold the anger in.

  4. By holding a grudge we retain negative emotions. These can have a big impact on us. It can help to forgive, but also to distance ourselves from those that repeatedly upset us.

    1. Yes, Ma’am, that’s a great point. Forgiving someone doesn’t require continuing to have a relationship with them. It only requires getting the offending person out of our heads and making peace for ourselves.

  5. This is really great and very informative post, it’s true that sometimes it’s really hard to forgive but there’s always a way

    1. So true. Sometimes we have to work harder at it than other times. And when the hurt runs deep, it usually takes longer. But, like you say, there’s always a way.

  6. Loved everything about this post! So many people find showing forgiveness incredibly difficult. It is definitely liberating.

    1. You are so brave, Christy! Forgiving abuse is the hardest, but it helps you move on from the pain. You never forget; it simply allows you to begin to heal.

  7. I think we don’t always have to forgive when it lets toxicity in. I have moved on from people that waste my time with their lies and the ways that they use me. However, forgiving can definitely be so freeing!

    1. It’s true that forgiveness is for you, the injured party, and not for the offending person. And cutting off people who are harmful to your emotional or physical well-being is also the right thing to do. It’s possible to do both and free yourself from the anger that person caused you.

  8. What a great post! I can say I use to struggle with this but not anymore! I think you really have to look within to see what is more important to you and your health when it comes to forgiveness!

  9. I found these tips very helpful, and practical with a lot of compassion that goes along with it. I will be able to implement them in my own as well.

  10. I can forgive someone but if hurt me a lot, that could take time and I would stay away from them instead. I don’t take any hatred or anything against someone. Very helpful post!

  11. It’s hard to forgive when you feel wronged but it’s worth it to keep relationships intact. Especially with family. And holding onto the forgiveness can be hard but definitely something I have to work on.

    1. You’re not the only one, Laurie. We all have to work on this one. And you’re right. Sometimes, we have to forgive several times before we can finally put down the anger for good.

  12. I have struggled with the inability to forgive in the past. It’s something I work on every day. More so for me and not for the other person. I don’t need to hold onto that.

  13. This couldn’t have come at a perfect time for me. I have a situation where it’s very hard to forgive but I can see it would be the helpful thing to do for me at least

    1. They are not the same thing, Joline. Forgetting is not a part of forgiveness. With forgiveness comes peace of mind, but memories stay with you. Hopefully, the emotional pain of the memories will dim after a while.

  14. I do try to forgive when I can. There are some things I’m probably holding onto though. If I’ve been wronged more than once, I can’t really forgive. I’ll be polite but I’ll always remember.

    1. I understand, Amber. Forgiveness isn’t easy, and when someone hurts you a second time, it’s incredibly difficult to get past it. I hope this post somehow helps you come to peace with any emotional pain you are experiencing.

  15. You make so many great points is why it is healthy for us to forgive someone. I love you how tie in how holding onto grudges and not forgiving can negatively impact our physical and mental health! Not many people consider that! Forgiving frees us from so much suffering in the end! Great post 🙂

  16. Hanging on to sabotaging thoughts can be comforting as you mentioned, simply because people drift toward the familiar. And unfortunately, it can be difficult to implement tangible, but thank you for the thoughtful post about why forgiveness is so powerful, especially for the person doing the forgiving!

    1. You make a valid point, Ashley. Forgiveness frees the forgiver from bitterness, but it is often challenging. However, the reward is emotional freedom. And that’s a worthy prize.

  17. I can find it hard to forgive when I’ve felt very wronged but I feel so much better when I do. Bookmarking in case I need to refer to it in future.

  18. This was amazing, thank you. It really does take a toll on our bodies when we carry around anger and resentment. Life is already stressful enough without throwing on negative feelings that we don’t let go of. I genuinely loved this post!

  19. Always knew about the importance of forgiveness. So informative to read about the benefits. Hard thing to do, but so necessary! Thanks for sharing.

  20. Oh how I have struggled with this very topic. Forgiveness is indeed so important to our health and also to our relationship with God. I have finally learned how to forgive, but have still struggled with once I forgive, is it Christian like to still cut that person out. It helps that you touched on that very subject…thank you!

    1. Michelle, God tells us to avoid associating with those who would harm our spiritual health. So, no, I believe it is not unchristian to avoid or cut off someone who can cause you physical or emotional harm. This is a discussion you may want to have with your pastor or spiritual leader in your church.

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