Should you forgive someone who is unrepentant?

The bible says to forgive people who hurt you.

But what if they not only do not feel bad about what they did, but also have no intention of stopping?

Our forgiveness of another is not dependent on them or on their repentance.

Of course a relationship cannot be restored if they have no intention of repenting so while we can forgive the other and harbor no ill will toward them, this does not mean we must remain in a relationship with them.


Forgive the person anyways, if not for their good but for your good. :slight_smile: :gopray:


I have had this conversation with my confessor. As he explained, my MIL didn’t have to tell me that she is sorry for me to forgive her. BUT, I do not have to open myself up to be hurt by her again.

Yes. There is no qualification. Unless I am mistaken, the bible didn’t say forgive others but only if they really, really, really mean it.

Peter asked Jesus asimilar question (Matt 18:21-22)
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

In addition, it’s not your place to judge their intentions of stopping. Leave that up to God (be thankful you are not in charge of judging someone’s intentions). Forgive them and move on…Forgiveness is more for you than the perpetrator.

I agree with the first part, about how we should forgive for our own sake. I also agree with the others who say that forgiving doesn’t mean we can’t be cautious around them.

The part of your comment I quoted is where I have a slight quibble.

God didn’t make us completely helpless, so there are things other people do which we can use to judge whether or not they intend to change. For example, if they say “I’m not sorry, and I won’t change!” than it is a safe bet to assume the person is unrepentant.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

While many have heard that carrying resentments is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick; another way I have heard it is forgiving someone is like putting diamonds in their pocket but you get rich!

Good luck with the situation.

At least from a christian perspective anyway you still have to forgive them. The forgiveness is not conditional on them repenting, because even if they never change you can still forgive them.
You are right we are not helpless. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you will reenter the same relationship with the person. What it means you have let go of the hurt and resentment in your heart.
Now some things are definitely harder to forgive than others (for eg. rape murder) and I admire people who are able to forgive the “big” things when I struggle with the small things. At the end of the day, you have to forgive in order to be forgiven.

We are not responsible for another person’s actions or motives, only our own. The only person that I can change is myself. Forgiveness is not dependent on whether or not the other person is repentant. Not forgiving becomes a burden that keeps me from moving forward with my own life as I dwell on the hurt that has been inflicted.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. There may be a scar. Forgiveness allows healing to take place while not forgiving leads to a festering wound.


I agree with this. Perhaps it would be better for us to say that we can draw certain conclusions (rather than “judgments”) based on the actions of others.
The conclusion from their words and actions is that they are not sorry.


I agree with some of the other replies here. I, too, have someone who hurt me very deeply who does not feel they have done anything wrong, but I realized that I do have to forgive them anyway. “Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do…” Like some said above, forgiving them doesn’t mean allowing them to continue to hurt you. Not forgiving them still puts them in control of you and allows them to keep hurting you.

There is a really good book by Christian psychologists Cloud and Townsend called “Boundaries.” It addresses this issue in the book.

Years ago, I listened to a talk of a former Korean or Vietnam (I forget which) war POW. He and his buddies were captured and put in a POW prison. They were locked in a small room and had no where to use the bathroom other than the floor. The conditions were so bad that after several months of build-up, they were literally living in their own feces and urine. They all contracted parasites and intestinal worms of all sorts and were vomiting worms. (Sorry for the graphic content, but I believe it’s important for the story) They were tortured, limbs broken and reset backwards… you get the idea.
His hatred towards his enemies continued to grow. He grew into despair and didn’t think he could survive and started contemplating suicide. Then, he by grace, he realized that these thoughts could not be coming from God. So he started praying for his enemies. At first it was hard, but little by little, peace grew in his heart and he was able to fully forgive his enemies. Not to be a downer on the end of the story, but I forgot how he was liberated from his captives (it was many years ago that I heard this talk, sorry), but he eventually returned to the States.

I can only imagine that his prayer gained a multitude of graces not only for him, but for his comrades as well as enemies at that camp. We don’t know how their lives might have changed. I do remember him talking about how in battle, their enemies would abandon their own wounded, whereas the Americans would risk a whole unit to save one of their men. That’s very telling. We don’t know all what they suffered in their life, how their upbringing changed their mentality, what lies they had been fed. Perhaps those graces that this soldier gained for even one of his enemies would eventually turn him to God. Who knows?

It was definitely a story of forgiveness that I will never forget. And it makes me ashamed of all the times (which are quite frequent) where I cannot forgive. But I do know that when I do beg God the grace to forgive (which is a grace in itself) I have a lot more peace.

Bless those who persecute you…If possible, so far as it depends on you, like peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12.
The word *forgive *means different things to different people, but Christians are called to love their enemies. Work your heart around towards that with the help of the Holy Spirit, even if the person in question does not repent. God makes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on both the good and the evil people. (reference to Matthew 5).

You’ll get more comfortable over time and feel you know better what these words mean and how you are conform your life to Jesus.:slight_smile: Watch out that you haven’t absorbed some message from society in a way that is making it harder for you to live genuine love. Re-purposing or discarding some old messages sometimes helps.

:o My typing is terrible

in my last post it is supposed to say

LIVE peaceably with all.

forgiveness makes you more good to you than to them, even from a secular view, so it’s your choice.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Understand “forgiveness” properly. In its fullest sense, it is transactional, as witnessed by the fact that “forgiveness” is an economic term, e.g., to forgive a debt. So in its fullest sense, forgiveness means you offering to forgive someone else the debt of justice owed to you for their actions, and their appropriating that forgiveness with gratitude by reforming their ways.

In practice, forgiveness often cannot be transactional because many people won’t accept it and reform. In that case, you are in a much more limited position. To “forgive X” means not to hold X against someone. Hence, to forgive an unrepentant person means you resolve not to hold their sins against them if and when they resolve to repent and reform.

Note that it does not mean you necessarily must expose yourself to further harm. You needn’t move back in with an abusive spouse, for instance.

When Jesus spent his time on Earth, he would have lived by the greatest commandments But how did Jesus love all his neighbours as he loved himself, the people who condemned him to death, the soldiers who nailed him to the cross?

We know he prayed forgive them Father, could it possibly be, that forgiveness hangs and depends on the greatest commandments, we can do nothing greater, nothing should stand in the way of loving all our neighbours as we love ourselves.

Forgive them, and protect yourself if you are in danger. Pray for the person, do good to them, and even keep away from them if you have to. God will be their Judge. God will punish the unrepentant. God bless you.

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