About the Author

Robin is the author of For All Who Wander, her relatable memoir about wrestling with doubt that reads much like a conversation with a friend. She's as Southern as sugar-shocked tea, married to her college sweetheart, and has three children. An empty nester with a full life, she's determined to...

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  1. Robin,
    Like you, I always thought of forgiving someone as a once and done process. I guess you could say that deciding we want to forgive someone is a singular choice, but I believe that some of those “seventy times seven” forgivenesses may be for the same offense that keeps cropping up in our unforgiving mind. I know that I can’t do anything without the Lord -“apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). So what makes me think, that without His divine power, I can forgive a wrong committed against me that has buried itself in my very soul? I believe that some sins need a lot of prayer, time, and work on the Holy Spirit’s part to be removed from our heart that has its tendrils wrapped around that hurt. No, we will most likely never forget, but getting to the place where we can want the best for another person may be a process and not a once and done. God can do that….He can forgive and it’s as if it never happened. If we had that power, we’d be putting ourselves on the same level as God. I think that’s why it’s so hard for us to grasp that God forgives and remembers our sins no more, because, frankly, we find that thought impossible. Great thought provoking post, Robin!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Bev,

      I can tell you’re r e a l l y thinking on this thing, going deep into your interior spaces and sifting for truth. What an encouragement to those of us who find your words. Yes! We are desperate for God to do what we cannot do within ourselves. What opportunity to praise Him, for always making a way.

  2. Stepping into the 70 x 7 with someone who has wounded me always feels like a little death, and I wonder if it’s fair, or if forgiving someone releases them from their guilt, and all the score keeping questions I have as “she-who-is-in-charge-of-the-universe.”
    What a gift it is when we remind one another of the truth! May we live our way into the courage of your friend who stopped the clock with her [blink-blink] probing into your heart.

    • Michele,

      It is a dear thing to me when I finally internalize something familiar. Of course as someone who’s grown up in the church I’ve read countless scriptures about forgiveness; but it took a kind rebuke to help me understand what I penned above: saying I’ve forgiven someone doesn’t necessarily mean I have. Simple but profound :).

  3. Thank you for this convicting and freeing post! I am having to go through this with a family member, but I know that God will give me the grace and strength to find mercy.

    • You’re welcome, Emily. I’m praying for you now, to be strengthened in your conviction to completely forgive, and for the Spirit to accomplish this holy work.

    • I am also facing this same situation, even thou I have told myself that a 100 times it still comes back to hunt me. Not sure how to completely let go and just keep praying that God will show me his Grace and Mercy so I can truly forgive.

      • Suzanna,
        It will happen, do not loose hope, and always keep your eyes upon Jesus. Whenever the thoughts start (until they will completely be gone and they will) crippling in- control your thoughts, start reading the Word of God. I trust you have prayed and continually praying to our Lord Jesus to help you and He has already given us that power through the Holy Spirit. I had something that took years to forgive, and recently, something that you would think how can you forgive such a thing… but, when I look where and who I were before coming to Christ and the forgiveness of God for my sin- then all is gone. It is still fresh, and it is still painful but- it is not deep in my heart, I can sense it…
        I hope I could explain what I am going through and how our Precious Jesus changes our hearts.
        May our Lord Jesus Christ lavish you heart with His absolute peace, His shalom, His love. I am certain, He has freed you from everything that doesn’t have to have place in your heart. You are free! You are loved! You are the child of God!

  4. Robin, I understand there’s a lot to this – and like Michele said, it sure feels like a small death when we follow Christ in forgiveness. But I also want to just throw in that healthy boundaries with someone who has hurt us aren’t wrong and may be very necessary to enforce depending on the hurt caused. I know that’s not particularly your point here, but it was a thought that came to mind. Thank you for exposing our need to continue to wrestle to the end – until we receive the blessing He’s reserved for those who let God be God in their lives.

    • Pearl,

      A really good point to include; boundaries are necessary for our health (said the girl who use to not understand this!). Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily have to include having them continuing to be in your life; in fact, as I think over some of my “sandpaper people,” they have no clue I harbored anything against them! It’s almost funny. But I had to come to the realization that for me, something was lingering, and that something was no forgiving completely…. Thank you again!

        • At some point in the past I have a post titled Sandpaper People (I *think* that’s its title). But it’s also a chapter in A Moment to Breathe, the incourage devotional recently published :).

          • Off topic, but yet not really, Mary Southerland, part of the Girlfriends in God group, wrote a book called, “Sandpaper People,” dealing with forgiveness of those who just rub you the wrong way. Its a great read, too, as Robin’s insights into the Word of God always are, applicable in an everyday way! Thanks ladies.

  5. I would love to meet your friend, Sandra. She was able to speak grace and truth to you just as Christ always spoke to the people around him.

    Forgiveness is one of those areas that when we say the words “I forgive you” we believe that’s enough. But knowing how easy that is but his hard it is to actually forgive I am learning it takes a cleaning out of my heart. Too many times I let go only to grab the hurt back because it “feels good” to sit with it. Thank you for these words today.

  6. Just want to say thank you for writing this. I have tweeted it so I can read it again!

  7. Robin,
    After 41 years of holding on to anger for my mother, i have just recently, With Jesus’s help, been able to get to a place where i have forgiven her. i am starting to talk to her again and i am starting to build a relationship with her. I know forgiveness is a process and i know that i am in this process and see where God is taking me… to full forgiveness of her. After holding on to anger for so long, forgiving her I know is only something that God could have orchestrated! As i know he is working on my heart and changing my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Thank you for this article. It is on-point with what I have going on right now and this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!!

    • Oh…Dena. THIS is evidence of God at work in a mighty way in your life! I’m celebrating with you and praising him for how you’re surrendering to his leading!

      • Thank You Robin! Admittedly, I have been slow to celebrate as I am afraid that she could disappoint me or reject me again…so i am taking it slow. But I am trusting god and moving forward with him taking the lead and doing it on HIS timing. And i know with him taking the lead, it will turn out for the good! Thank you so much for your sweet words! 🙂

        Dena 🙂

    • Dena,

      I, too, had a forgiveness issue with my mother and step-father. After I was saved, I realized after learning the scripture which says we can’t be forgiven if we don’t forgive, that I had to do it. I knew I was unable to do that on my own. I asked the Lord to help me do it and He did. He even put love in my heart for them. Some years later when they were dying, I was so thankful that even though they never said they were sorry, I still was blessed to have a few years where we had a decent relationship because the Lord made it possible. I am happy to hear He is working in your life in the same way.

      A sister in Christ,

      Karen

      • Karen,
        Thank you so much for your kind words! I am amazed and awed that I am at this point with my mom! After 41 years of a painful relationship with her and having anger towards her i am thankful to have god working and that he has created this miracle in my life! Yes, he has put love in my heart for my mom too! Which is also amazing!!

        Thank you for sharing your story with me Karen! I love that the lord worked in your life the same way he worked in mine, healing the relationships with our mom’s.

        Also a sister in Christ,

        Dena

  8. Powerful and just what I needed to hear. What a wonderful insight. Thank you for sharing and teaching such a solid and healing perspective on forgiveness. I have wondered about having to do it over and over, and sometimes over again. I thought I was not doing it “right”. I won’t feel that way any more. Thank you.

    • Barbara, isn’t it awesome how God uses his daughters to challenge and encourage one another? Sandra impacted me, which led to me writing this, which ministered to some in our sweet community. And everyone receives a blessing!! 🙂 xo

  9. Thank you. I needed to hear this today. I am excited to walk in the total freedom that only Christ can give me. Thank you Jesus for an abundance of grace.

  10. I had the experience you write about not so long ago. I wasn’t able to forgive some people who I admired (one of which is my best friend) for dissapointing me (that probably sounds stupid to you) and I was holding onto the wrong they had done me even though I knew it wasn’t intentional. I have prayed for God to help me forgive them completely, because I was realizing that although I thought I had forgiven them, deep down every time I thought of them I got angry and bitter over what had happened. Now by God’s grace I can say although I feel a little bit of sadness when I think of the incident, I also (amazingly enough to me) feel love for those involved. Definitely not love that comes from me, but love poured into my heart by my Father! I am confident that when I see those people again, I can reach out again and let God love them through me. What an amazing experience to have! Forgiveness heals the wound you held onto before.
    I realize my experience is on a much smaller scale than most of you probably, but I am thankful the Lord taught me something through that incident!

    Blessings to all of you, and especially you, Robin!! Thank you for sharing your heart with us!! Love you!

    • Little Mary,

      Oh friend…do NOT minimize your experience! It was real and affecting to you, and that’s important; in one part, at least, God was able to do a transformative work through it! Your example did not sound stupid…it sounded like opportunity to shine glory to God :).

  11. Robin,
    Thank-you for your post…….”70 x 7″ is a favorite of mine, and I can never be reminded of it enough. It’s also important to me to learn, (from the hurt). I know in my heart when I have truly forgiven someone, and I’ve prayed for their’s.
    Blessings to all,
    Penny

  12. Robin, this is a beautiful and brave post, and forgiveness is difficult, because offenses against us hurt. It is so helpful to remember, I think, first, ways in which we have offended God. It always amazes me that He is willing to forgive my offenses—offenses/sins that nailed Jesus to the Cross. Our recognition and sorrow over our own sin gives us a spirit of humility towards others who have sinned against us. Also, in a spirit of Christian love and gentleness, I would like to add something that I (and I say this w/ complete humility—so please hear me), which I think is often missing on this subject, but which I believe to be biblical. God doesn’t just carte-blanche forgive our sins. God asks first that we confess our sins, and then, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 Jn 1:9). His forgiveness is conditional in that sense. He bids us confess (admit our sins and agree with Him about what our sin is), and then to repent (to turn from them)—this is His requirement from the very start of our relationship with Him when we repent and come to Him in faith for the gift of salvation, and as we continue to sin throughout our lives. In the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus sets forth as our model for prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We forgive *as* God (in the way that God) has forgiven us. And God forgives us *when* we confess our sins. He expects us to confess and to repent when we seek His forgiveness. In that same passage you quoted from Mt. 18, there is an equally crucial element, which is important to the context: Jesus said to his disciples (vs 15), “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” The passage goes on to explain a process where, if your brother (or sister) won’t listen, you take a couple other Christians with you, and eventually tell the Church if the person still won’t listen (and ultimately, if that person doesn’t confess and repent he is disciplined by the Church—not in an effort to shun him, but to help him to turn back to the Lord and to the fellowship). There is a rebuke involved and repentance *before* forgiveness can be extended. But it is truly a wonderful thing, because you are providing an opportunity for that person to confess his sin and to repent, coming clean with God. And then Jesus points out to Peter, as you have beautifully indicated, we forgive over and over again when this process takes place. Perhaps this is even clearer in a correlative passage in Luke 17:3-4, where Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Notice this is conditional. When someone sins against us, we are to go to him privately (as we learn in Mt), and rebuke him (lovingly and humbly, it goes without saying) and explain how he has sinned against us. If that person repents (*if* is conditional), it is then that we forgive him and not before. And obviously from what Jesus is saying, if he sins again (and again), and still repents, we are to forgive. I think so often one reason we can’t seem to forgive is not necessarily our own sin or unwillingness to do so, but because these beautiful, biblical steps mandated by the Lord Himself have not been followed. (I know personally—and even one instance in my life right now that I’m wrestling with—it is very hard for me to go to someone to point out his sin against me. I’d rather die! But when I don’t, I short-circuit this whole forgiveness/repentance process). So often, sin is brushed under the carpet and never dealt with, and likely the offender never himself asks forgiveness of you or God Himself (and often continues in the same pattern of sin against you or others). How does that possibly help him in his relationship with God or his fellow man? In Jesus’ model, he is confronted with his sin and given the opportunity to make things right w/ God and others. I think so often what people mean by “unconditional forgiveness” is putting to death bitterness and desires for personal vengeance. Here we really need to heed God’s strong warning of letting a “root of bitterness” to grow in our hearts. That is absolutely wrong and evil. We must not become bitter towards that person. And in a way, he is our “enemy” in the sense that he has wronged us. Jesus tells us in Luke 6: 27-28, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” So yes, our attitudes, even when offended, are to be ones of humility and love, loving those who have offended or sinned against us and praying for them, never allowing bitterness against them to take hold in our hearts. This too can win them back into a relationship w/ you and the Lord. Forgiveness can only be given when the offender seeks forgiveness. When there is no repentance, forgiveness cannot be given or received. Robin, you didn’t say one way or the other, so I can only conjecture, but I wonder if one reason you couldn’t seem to forgive is because you had never gone to your friend, explaining how she’d sinned against you, and she never confessed her sin and repented. Your friend Sandra said, “You haven’t forgiven her completely, and it’s not hurting her, it’s hurting you. You haven’t moved on.” The implication is that we need to forgive someone so that *we* can stop hurting. I don’t believe that is the reason we forgive. We are commanded by the Lord to forgive someone if she repents, modeling God’s example towards us. (Sometimes people don’t even want to forgive then, because they want the offender to suffer, and they are still angry. This is sinful!) Christ mandates we forgive in the way that God has forgiven us—not just to feel better. And I wonder if the person who has “moved on” is really free, or is still committing those same sins, but against someone else? Conversely, if we have sinned against others, we are to go to them and seek their forgiveness. These are my thoughts, Robin, (from the peanut gallery!!), not whatever offered argumentatively. I pray I have not overstepped my bounds. Again, I really appreciated this thoughtful post and your beautiful spirit of love, compassion, and humility.

    Fondly,
    Lynn

    • I hear your heart, Lynn, and receive your thoughts in the spirit they’re offered. Thank you for taking time to flesh things out. Thoughtful readers give us all reason to seek God with humility and sincere hearts. I’m grateful.

      • Robin, you have no idea how very much I appreciate your kind and most gracious response. You did hear my heart, and that I was not leveling a complaint in any way possible about your beautiful post. I am so glad I did think this through, because God is using my own response to cause me to realize I must approach someone very close to me about an offense which she believes I have committed. There is no question in my mind that this is a false accusation (based on the circumstances and my intent), and her gossip has hurt to a number of people–rather than her just coming to me–has been hurtful. But that said, God’s Word teaches if we know someone holds something against us, we must go to them and make it right. In my life, I’ve always found it easier to ask for forgiveness for my wrongdoings (of which, sadly, there are many) than to point out someone else’s sin, in love. And this is where I, personally, have short-circuited God’s beautiful dance of humble rebuke, gracious forgiveness, and loving reconciliation. So, dear Robin, I can’t thank you enough for this post. I know what I need to do. God bless you, and the beautiful work of your hands. I love all you write!
        Love
        Lynn

        • Dear Lynn,
          I just want to encourage you on the road you’ve taken regarding your situation. This task ahead is not easy, but He will bless you for seeking His will and doing it! I can very well relate to the dread you must feel about confronting (in love) that lady on how she’s hurt you. But I’m sure that when it’s behind you, you’ll look back and be glad you did it!
          Love to you!!
          Mary

          PS: I also really appreciate you writing such a detailed paragraph about your thoughts! I could feel your sweet attitude through it 🙂

  13. It is my belief (and experience) that if we sincerely ask God to help us with this issue of forgiving others, He will show us the way, even when it seems far too hard for us – but not Him, to let go and forgive and find the peace and healing only He can bring.

  14. Forgiveness is a process. God alone forgives and forgets. I heard a sermon on forgiveness that nearly destroyed me. “We must forgive instantly and completely.” I told the speaker, that is not humanly possible. We were given a memory.
    Much later, in a bible study, the leader spoke about her long journey to forgiveness. She did not ignore the hurt or mitigate the pain. She was intentional about moving through the pain to full forgiveness. It did not happen overnight.
    Sometimes, if not always, i have to speak aloud to my unforgiveness–until the pain is no longer consuming me.
    Forgiveness is hard work, harder still with sandpaper people.
    “In as much as is possible, live at peace with all people.”
    My personal challenge is this.
    What will i allow to take root in my heart? What i cannot possibly know, is another person’s heart. What are they still living with that may not be resolved.
    Like the book title: Love Does.
    Thank you!

    • Kate,

      Romans 12:18 is one of my favorite verses :). You’re so right–we have no idea what other people are walking around with, and we can’t be responsible for how they respond; we can only chose our own responses (regardless).

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  15. Wounds from friends and family are often the hardest to deal with… to forgive and to let go…

    Sometimes boundaries are healthy, when the sandpaper continues to wound every time you are around them. When every time you are with someone you are wounded in some way… then along with forgiveness… sometimes distance or not continuing in the relationship if possible is best for you.

    And often forgiveness is a process, not a one time event. The beginning of it may be an event… but sometimes paHin is triggered in the mind and forgiveness… lifting the situation up to the Lord and letting it go… again and again to Him… is needed.

    Forgiveness is allowing God to handle the situation… we do not get vengeance… we may not get an apology… we have to lift it up and let it go. The Lord knows every hurt we feel… large and small… and He hears our hearts and our desires to forgive when we pour out our hearts to Him.

    • Bonnie Jean,

      You’re so right…those closest to us can wound us the most severely. As I’ve grown older, I find myself praying for the Lord to show me, even in deep pain, what it is He has for me in the circumstance. I’m learning to see forgiveness as a process, too, but the heart can always be quick to step onto the road of forgiveness (even if it takes a while to get there).

  16. Thanks for this today. Forgiveness certainly is a hard topic to tackle and understand, even with the Word and God’s wisdom. And virtually everyone on the planet has to learn to forgive one time or another! I know in my own life that it hasn’t been me that has done the forgiving, but actually God’s strength and miraculous power that has done it through me! And now after some of the most difficult hurtful events in my life (by two different family members), I find myself once again asking God to give me His power and strength and wisdom to help me forgive. I know it will probably take a long time…but to be obedient to God and His Word is always worth it!

    • Susan,

      Your comment has me thinking this morning, and looking at forgiveness in even another way (spurred by your remarks about obedience): forgiveness as an offering back to God. It costs us something when we labor through hard forgiveness in obedience to God; and I think we can offer it to Him as a gift of trust, love, etc. Does that make sense?

      • Thanks for your beautiful response Robin. It certainly does make perfect sense.
        Being obedient to God is really the most important thing we can do. And He delights in our obedience!
        Hugs to you!

  17. Robin,

    Thank you for your insight and encouraging words. In recent year’s I’ve struggled with this same thing to the point of having to pray for help in forgiving when I put my feet on the floor in the morning but before I stand up. I also agree in boundaries and have also heard teaching that forgiveness is required (to release us) but reconciliation is optional. Like our relationship with the Lord if we are to be reconciled to Him we must acknowledge our sin. That is also what in many cases is required for reconciliation in human relationships be it marital, familial, or friendship.

    • HisDaughter,

      Your words help me to see forgiveness as a conduit; that’s interesting. When we forgive, obstacles are removed (sin, released, confessed) and reconciliation and restoration is possible. Lovely.

  18. You have no idea how timely this is for me. Thankyou. I had a friend break my trust and hurt me deeply a year or so ago, and despite making the confronting phone call, the honest confession of my hurt, their tearful apology, and my forgiveness, the wound still bleeds from time to time, which makes it’s easy for me to be full of biting snark towards that person. I’ve been wrestling with why I’m like this, and I guess it’s a reminder that sometimes forgiveness is a process, not a one time event. Thankyou again for your wisdom, and for those sharing in the comments. It’s been so helpful.

    • If I ever question why I write, does it matter, doubt…your kind comment is an answer. Thank YOU, Jasmine (and praying for you over this situation this morning).

  19. I just talked with someone about that, we don’t need to carry baggage ours or anyone else’s.

  20. Robin,

    Forgiveness is hard. It can take a long time to truly forgive someone who has hurt you. Most of us think saying I forgive you is enough. We must also forget the incident altogether. That is the hardest part. We carry grudges around for years. Each time that person’s name comes up we cringe. It also causes health issues. True forgiveness comes from God. It is easier if they come and confess or apologize for any wrongdoing. The problem is most times they don’t even know they have offended us. We are left “holding the bag” of unforgiveness. May we all pray hard that God will help us to be aware of any unforgivenss we hold against another & rectify that situation.

    Blessings 🙂

  21. Forgiveness is necessary, absolutely necessary for our own peace of mind, for our own healing process. Reconciliation is not always necessary. God Almighty helped me to finally forgive the man who raped me, the other man who shot me, etc, etc. Reconciliation does not have to apply in some circumstances. Forgiveness does not mean that we “okayed” what a person did. Do I have to confront and rebuke the rapist, the shooter? No, I most certainly do not.

    If, for any reason, we think we cannot forgive, then we are underestimating God’s Power. In some cases, we cannot forgive on our own. With God’s help, we can. And the peace that comes with it is beyond words.

    “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

    • Oh…Vickie…I’m at a loss for words….

      I think you’ve spoken to the beauty of life in Christ–that we have access to inconceivable power, to do what is humanly impossible.

      ((hugs))

  22. It was such a blessing to be led to read this this morning. I too was deeply wounded some years ago by a friend to whom I had entrusted my deepest secrets. I have forgiven her – but still protect my heart from her all the time. Oh, those tendrils. I had actually never thought of the verse about forgiving 70×7 in that way – I always thought in terms of a person sinning against you repeatedly. It is helpful and comforting for me to be told/reminded that I can keep asking God to complete the process of forgiveness in me, and trust Him to protect my heart for me. Thank you, @robindance