How to Forgive Someone Who has Hurt You Repeatedly
(Please note, if you are being hurt physically or abused, please seek professional help.)
Recently I received an email that asked this question:
“How do you forgive someone who has hurt you repeatedly?”
I could hear the hurt behind the question without even reading the rest of the email.
When we’ve been repeatedly offended or hurt by someone, a war between forgiveness and unforgiveness ensues.
We want to forgive because the Bible says we should. Yet the reality of facing the person, knowing that they will hurt us again seems unbearable.
While it seems we are struggling against the obedience of God’s Word (to forgive), what we’re really struggling with is how to avoid future hurt.
So how do you deal with this struggle?
How to Forgive Someone Who has Hurt you Repeatedly
Know what it means to forgive
Often times we associate forgiveness with being sorry. If the offender apologizes (and really means it), only then do we think we are called to forgive.
Yet, Jesus says something quite different. He tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 AMP
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13 ESV
I believe one of the biggest problems we have with forgiveness is that we don’t completely understand what it means.
To forgive DOES NOT mean:
- Your pain is not legitimate
- Their behavior was appropriate
- You are ok with the way they treated you
- You are a “doormat” for others to walk all over
- You’re being weak minded
To forgive DOES mean:
- You release the offender of the offense
- You’re choosing to change your heart and mind towards the person
- You are giving up your need for revenge and placing the person in God’s hands
Why is it important to release the person who offended you?
I think this is the real reason Jesus calls us to forgive…..because unforgiveness affects us more than it does the other person. You may have heard me say before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
When we harbor unforgiveness we are the ones that are actually being hurt. It affects us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Most importantly it can hinder our relationship with God.
Unforgiveness starts in seed form and grows into bitterness, which begins to affect all of our relationships.
Holding on to an offense is a plan from the enemy to ultimately isolate us from others and God.
When we choose to forgive, we free ourselves from the bondage and open up the door for God to heal us and to act on our behalf.
Pray for them
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, Matthew 5:44 NKJV
The easiest way I have found to release someone who repeatedly offends me is to pray for them.
Something happens in prayer.
Not only do we give God our worries, concerns and hurts, but He gives us something in return….
Peace of mind and a new perspective.
When we repeatedly feel hurt by someone, our flesh screams revenge.
We want to either attack back or dispose of the relationship, something to let them know we are hurt and they must pay.
If we allow ourselves to meditate on the hurt and how we should “attack back”, we are feeding the flesh.
We know from scripture that whatever we feed grows….
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. Galatians 5:16-17 NLT
Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. Romans 13:14 NLT
The Bible is clear about feeding our flesh….
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8 NIV
We often think that it will satisfy us if we “pay back” those who hurt us, but the truth is….it never does.
Only heartache and more pain come out of revenge and unforgiveness.
However, when we choose to be led by the Spirit, we reap the fruits of the Spirit.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Let’s take a brief look at one fruit in particular….kindness.
The word kindness is actually the word chrestotes, which means “goodness in action”. It’s dealing with others in a gentle, sweet, loving manner in the midst of them annoying or frustrating us.
Think about it….it’s easy to extend kindness to someone who is kind to us. That’s easy to do in our own strength. However, when someone has hurt us, we need the Holy Spirit’s power to respond in kindness.
When we choose to pray for the person, we start to see them how God sees them and it allows us to begin healing.
So what do we pray?
Coming up with the words to pray for someone who has hurt you can be hard.
Here’s a sample prayer to help you get started:
Set up proper boundaries
It is perfectly fine and necessary at times to set up proper boundaries for a relationship where the other person repeatedly hurt us.
There have been many times in my life that I’ve had to establish proper boundaries with those who continued to break my trust or violated the relationship.
When someone continually crosses a line that hurts you and/or your loved ones, boundaries are a good way to protect the relationship and your heart!
What boundaries do I need to set?
Your boundaries will be determined by what you feel is necessary to protect you and the relationship.
I would encourage you to pray about what those are.
You can begin by:
Allowing God to speak to you.
His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are bigger than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
He knows each of you perfectly.
He knows both of your struggles, your insecurities, and the root cause of what’s damaging the relationship.
Allowing Him to guide your steps will ensure that you aren’t reacting to the hurt, but honestly seeking a peaceful solution.
Seeking godly counsel.
Do you have another person who you can confidentially speak to about the situation?
Getting outside perspective (after you’ve sought God) may be a good way to confirm what God’s speaking to you.
God uses other people in our lives to speak to us at times.
There are also times when we need to process out our feelings and concerns with another person.
When deciding on who to choose to process this with, it may be best to pick someone who isn’t closely involved.
Perhaps you have a pastor, a small group leader, someone in your small group or a godly friend who will give you non-bias godly feedback.
Allow them to give you input without getting defensive or shutting them down. They may have insight that you can’t see.
When dealing with someone who has hurt you repeatedly it may feel better to just give up and move on. And sometimes that is the best solution. But there are also many times when we can’t give up on the relationship or we shouldn’t. By understanding what forgiveness is, praying for the person and setting proper boundaries, you may be able to not just forgive them, but find healing in the relationship.
I loved this so much ❤️ it’s so true that unforgiveness only hurts you, but it’s hard to give it up because we feel like we have a right to hold onto it because of our hurt. It will only make our hurt worse though.
The 2 articles I just read here were excellent! The one on forgiveness, I really needed to read that one, it gave me such a new way of thinking about forgiveness & I just love the beautiful prayer. I will be purchasing the plan at a later date. Thank you
I Will Pray The Forgiveness Prayer Every Day.I Really Needed This Prayer Today.I know GOD Will See Me Through It All.
Such a good approach to forgiveness. It is so hard for me at times because it takes so much for me to truly be offended that by the time I am angry enough for someone to need forgiveness, I have built up a huge wall. I definitely needed this guidance and this prayer.
A lot of wisdom here. It’s tough to set boundaries, but necessary at times. May our hearts be Christ-like in all we do and say and may we give Hom room to heal every deep hurt!
This is helpful, forgiveness is so much more than we realize. It really can be freeing. Thanks for helping me think this through a little deeper.
This article really touched my heart as I have been holding on to unforgiveness for 3years. Thank you for sharing and may our loving God continue to use you to encourage souls to choose God rather. Blessings,
Thank you so much Alisa for the wonderful article. I could feel love leaping off the page and from your words when i read them.
I’ve been hurt for years by my dad and his family and I’ve tried for so long to give them another chance, but they never change their ways and I just end up getting hurt even worse the next time around. At this point in my life I want to just remove myself from them because it’s causing me to become angry, bitter, sad, emotional, etc. I just hate how it all makes me feel and it really takes a tole on my health. Does God understand that you need to remove certain people out your life to have peace? Will he understand my predicament? I still love them but I just feel like I need to love them from a distance if it’s affecting me everyday like this.
Hey there! Yes, there are times when we have to set appropriate boundaries when people continue to hurt us. If you aren’t sure where to begin, I would pray and ask God what those boundaries should look like in your situation.
Forgiveness is the foundation of Christianity.We need to forgive others as Christ as forgiven us. Thank you for sharing this post.
I tell you that it easy to say forgive others until it’s your turn to forgive those who hurt you. it always hardest when the people you love offend you compared to those you don’t know. in my heart, it’s really hard especially since the person does it and will probably never change until they make up their minds. and the worse part is that she lives right in my house. I want to have a relationship with her but I think she’ll just continue hurting me. God, I just pray you to help me because my heart is bitter toward this person and I know if I don’t forgive you won’t forgive me.
I wonder if it was ME that asked the question – “How do you forgive someone who hurts you repeatedly?”
Oh, your recommendations are so spiritually sound and powerfully uplifting, because they point to Looking to God for help. And in Him, there is no unrighteousness. Even if the way doesn’t suddenly improve. We can trust that He knows the score and that His hand is in the mix.
I am married to an insensitve man. He constantly hurts me with his behavior and neglect. Part of it is not his fault. He does not know HOW to love. But another part is that he isn’t interested in learning how to love. He’s ok with a bad marriage — especially since, as his Christian wife, I am the one who is constantly making the concessions and trying to overlook his hurts and neglect. This dynamic works for him. But you have provided a strong spiritual path that I can implement to align with my faith — and feel empowered that when I am obedient to God, I trust Him to do whatever is needed to love me and help me (either by changing the dynamics, or giving me the strength to endure it with grace).
ANY EXAMPLES OF BOUNDARIES WHEN A PARTNER DISRESPECTS YOU WITH THEIR LANGUAGE (CURSING), OR….
Rarely pulls their weight with chores?
rarely remembers the things important to you?