The Art of Forgiveness: How to Maintain a Heart of Forgiveness When It Gets Hard

One of the most common blocks to emotional healing that my clients experience is forgiveness, a lack thereof. Some believe that reconciliation and forgiveness are synonyms; others struggle to see the “fairness” in forgiveness without remorse from the offender. Today, I’d like to offer you some insights regarding forgiveness that I believe will put you on a path to healing. 

First, there are a couple of scenarios I want to walk you through. In the first example, the offender had no intention of hurting the wronged party; in fact, they didn’t even know they had hurt the other person. In the other instance, the person was extremely hurtful but didn’t expect anyone to find out. Both scenarios required the offended party to practice forgiveness in order to heal.  

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a beautiful, insightful person about her unresolved negative emotion towards her grandparents. As a child, she loved, LOVED her grandparents and naturally, had high expectations of them. Despite her love and expectations of them, she felt that they were not present "enough," which she believed stripped her of joy that was “supposed” to be a part of her childhood journey. 

The second story is a personal one. A few years ago I had a friend that I was extremely close with. This friend had a best friend and because of proximity and the time we all spent together, naturally, their best friend eventually became my “friend” as well. We were hanging, laughing, sharing, and some more. I absolutely LOVED them, their presence, and their vibe. We were good. Everything was good… until I learned that this “friend” was speaking unfavorably about me and my now husband’s relationship to another person. Imagine the hurt I experienced, all the moments and laughs that we shared now seemed meaningless. 

These are two great examples of individuals who had intent to harm and who had no intent to harm. The “victim” in both scenarios was negatively impacted by the actions of another and carried the burden of that wound into other relationships. Sadly, these experiences are not uncommon. Thankfully, help is available, and I have a 3-step process that helped me through the stages of forgiveness. 

1. Preparation 2. Action. 3. Maintenance. 

Step 1: Preparation

During this stage, you should thoroughly evaluate how holding onto this “offense” would negatively impact your mind, body, spirit, and possibly generations to come. This evaluation should yield that unforgiveness will ultimately cause you more pain and discomfort than forgiveness; in fact, unforgiveness can cause more harm than even the original offense. 

Next, try to empathize with the offender. Consider what offenses may have happened in their life that motivated them to act that way. This humanizes the individual and encourages compassion, which is a key element to forgiveness.  

Realistically, it could take up to 4-8 weeks (or more depending on the severity of the offense) for you to be prepared to move to stage 2. 


Step 2:  Action

During the stage, choose to extend the gift of forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness is a practice, not a feeling. Because of this, it’s possible that when you practice forgiveness, you may find yourself getting pissed “all over again” from triggers, whatever they may be. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you forget what happens. It means that you’ve made the conscious decision to live free, actively discarding any thoughts, words, or actions that would risk reliving the offense (except for healing purposes, of course). And this leads to step 3.


Step 3: Maintenance 

Forgiveness is not just a “once and done” thing. You have to take steps to maintain a heart of forgiveness. Here are 6 practical steps to maintaining forgiveness: 1)Practice honesty: about triggers, feelings, perceptions, and needs. 2) Practice acceptance: accept people and circumstances for who and what they are; 3) Avoid avoidance; it never makes the problem go away; 4) Don’t dwell in negative memories; 5) Create a plan for healthy distraction; 6) Redefine your personal limits. 


Forgiveness is not just a “once and done” thing. You have to take steps to maintain a heart of forgiveness. Here are 6 practical steps to maintaining forgiveness: 1)Practice honesty: about triggers, feelings, perceptions, and needs. 2) Practice acceptance: accept people and circumstances for who and what they are; 3) Avoid avoidance; it never makes the problem go away; 4) Don’t dwell in negative memories; 5) Create a plan for healthy distraction; 6) Redefine your personal limits. 


It’s critical to remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are not synonyms. Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation; however, reconciliation is not required. Reconciliation happens when the "offender" takes responsibility for his/her role by being honest and remorseful, AND the “victim” is willing to extend forgiveness to the offender. This process requires openness and transparency from both parties. Please note, reconciliation is not a requirement for forgiveness. If you wait for the other party to feel remorse, there are situations where you will never be free. Remember, God is the author of justice, and he will handle it (Hebrews 4:13; Romans 12:19 NLT). Forgiveness is the best path to clarity, freedom, and peace.

If you have multiple people to forgive, start with extending grace to one at a time; too much at once can be overwhelming and may disrupt your process. There’s no healing in harboring. 
There’s no healing in bitterness. 
There’s no healing in holding a grudge. 
Set yourself free. Your future self and legacy will thank you.

Take a moment to reflect on your own personal experience and gain more clarity about what you need and how they gift of forgiveness could change your life.

  1. Who came to mind as you were reading this article?

  2. What would it look or be like if you forgave them? How would things be different? How would things be the same?

  3. What’s the most challenging thing for you when it comes to forgiving someone?

  4. If you extended the gift of forgiveness, how would your attitude change towards your “person” and how do you believe this would this impact the present and future you?

  5. In this experience, is reconciliation possible? If so, how can you move forward with reconciliation today?

If you enjoyed this article and would like to begin your journey to forgiveness and healing, send my office a note here, and someone will respond to you shortly. 
If you think this would benefit someone you know, please share. 

Your sis in healing and well-being,
 Amaris