How to Forgive So As To Be Forgiven


Not sure if this is the right place for this, please correct me if It’s not. I’ve been deeply offended by a few fellow parishioners who in turn have been offended by me. I’ve been trying to forgive them to some extent from the heart, but have returned nothing but a frown and a stern look when meeting with them in person. Will forgiveness from the heart be sufficient to receive absolution validly in confession in the hopes of meeting to make complete amends with those people again in the near future, or do I have to make amends in person first even though I may not see them again in two weeks?


The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you. Partial forgiveness does not reveal a heart which is truly contrite. A heart that is not fully contrite is perhaps subconsciously holding onto a fragment of that sin. Might as well claim all of it!

Bearing injustice with patience is a spiritual work of mercy. Forgiving from the heart - fully - is a command. Doesn’t matter how they receive this, or even if they treat you worse. You will be judged for the state of your heart, not them. Consider that they may not have intended to offend you, or not nearly to the extent that you received it.

The surest way to forgiveness is to pray for them. NOT that they will receive what is coming to them, but rather that they draw ever nearer the Sacred Heart of our Lord. Do you have a copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis? In it, you learn that forgiveness is related to humility and that thinking oneself to be a worse sinner than those around you is the path to humility.


This depends a great deal on what you all did. It is not necessarily a sin to either take offense at others or to give offense. Obviously, Our Lord both took offense and others took offense at Him, and he never sinned in any of it.

You’re going to have a hard time letting go of the offense, for instance, if you try to talk yourself into believing there was no offense against you when you believe that there was. You have to acknowledge that there was an offense and THEN let go of holding it against them. Also, forgiving someone is letting go of a desire to see them “paid out” for what they did to you. It doesn’t mean you trust people who violated your trust and have never given you reason to believe they wouldn’t do the same thing again. “Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
Jn 2:24-25

Sometimes, it takes awhile for emotions to settle down enough to get by these things. If you feel you were attacked, the wariness isn’t going to automatically go away. You’re going to stiffen up and maybe feel defensive around someone who automatically makes you afraid you’re going to be attacked or is going to take offense and blow up when you meant none.

If you let go of the desire to have them “pay” for their offenses but have hope that the situation can be resolved without you extracting payback in some way, that is forgiveness enough to start with. The rest can be a process; that is OK and often the only way it ever really happens.

As for making amends, remember that in AA the rule is to make “direct amends to such people [as I have wronged] wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” If you try to make things right at the wrong time, it can make things worse. You should be looking for what will be the best for them and for your relationship, not what will make you feel less anxious, ashamed or worried about the whole thing. With the latter, you can be patient and offer up for the sake of mercy.


I must admit that I am not an avid reader of spiritual books. I do have a copy of the Imitation of Christ but I have not read it in years. But you are certainly right though about forgiving from the heart completely and it did not occur to me that they may not have intended to offend me in the first place. The more that I examine myself, the more that I now realize, thanks in part to you, that I indeed lack humility. I’m having such a hard time forgiving - unless I’ve convinced myself that I am the worst of all sinners, I’m not sure if I’ll have the means to forgive - but I know that I must! I’ll at least start praying for them! Thank you nevertheless for your kind advice!


Humility is the life-long struggle of the human creature. Far better that we humble ourselves than force the Lord to humble us! Pick that book back up. The chapters are very short and organized by subject matter. The book is a spiritual classic for very good reason.

Once you have made the conscious decision to be more humble, (“I am meek and humble of heart”) you are more Christ-like, more open to the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments will be more efficacious, you will have less to confess - you simply cannot lose. And, a heartfelt apology to those you speak of may just gain you some friends that you never expected.

A very wise man once said:

“I went looking for a friend and found none. I became a friend and found many.”

If an anonymous source fails to satisfy, how about the following:

“Pride is the child of ignorance, humility the offspring of knowledge.”

  • Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


This is good advice. We are commanded to pray for our enemies, after all, and to good those who wish us ill.

The OP doesn’t have to find his or her particular niche in the Sinning Hall of Fame, but the Lord’s parable about the servant who owes a debt is apropos, yes. You may not be the worst in some little spat, but compared to what God has forgiven any of us, we have a lot of forgiving to do.

I do have this rule I learned from marital spats: If you wronged someone, apologize, even if you’re not the most wrong.
Why? Well, first of all, when there is a spat both sides usually think they are at least not the most wrong, and yet someone has to apologize first in order to achieve a reconciliation. Secondly, the one who really is the most wrong is probably the most defensive and the one who will find it the hardest to apologize first. Thirdly, people very often soften up when they hear a real apology, whether they were the most wrong or not.

A real apology goes like this: Reasons (if any) first, then apology.
That is NOT: I’m sorry I hung up on you, but what you said to me made me really angry
BUT RATHER: What you said made me really angry, but I still shouldn’t have hung up on you. I’m sorry.

Do you see the difference? The second is an apology; the first is actually an excuse.


I will definitely start reading that book and will make an extra special effort to become more humble, thank you!


Great wisdom, thank you!


A little piece of advice: when the time is right for your apology, I’d advise that for your own good you be ready to make your apology without any expectation that you will get one back. They’ll probably accept yours (although they might not), but there is a really high chance they will not apologize back. If you want peace, desire only to seek pardon for the wrong you did, and not so much to have any chance to reciprocate on the munificence. (Ask me how I know this, LOL!)


First, you have to forgive them fully from the heart, so you yourself don’t have any ill will towards them. This is something you can do yourself regardless of whether you ever see these people again or not.

Second is the question of how you react when you see these people again. Obviously, if they come up to you and want to apologize or discuss, you should be open to that. If they do not approach you, and you feel that the situation allows you to approach them and apologize to them or otherwise discuss, feel free to do so. There are other situations where it may be best to just leave the person alone (for example if they become very agitated and fly off the handle at you even approaching them) and pray for them from a distance. If trying to apologize to them or discuss with them is likely to trigger a big upset or a toxic situation, then you’re not required to push it.


Thank you very kindly for this comprehensive advice! I’ll expect to see these people sometime within the next two weeks and hopefully come to proper terms with them by then. I’m finally beginning to soften my hard-headed approach and am actually feeling a little empathy towards them. It’ll obviously be a little more time before I can actually go all the way with complete forgiveness, however. Our Lord, suffering as He did on the cross, forgave His enemies; so how can I expect to be forgiven for my misdeeds if I cannot do the same? The sooner the better I hope! God bless!

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I pray: “Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive (insert name) who has trespassed against me”.


We can forgive others with our will…it is not necessary to feel emotions. We may have to look at the Lord and repeat now and then that we forgive that person with our free will.


Wise words! Indeed, our emotions tend to run against forgiveness.

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