Posts in Forgiveness

I think we find it hard to forgive due to how the pain of being mistreated does not seem to fade over time. We see the person who wronged us or we hear their name or we walk by where they live and we are reminded of what happened with painful vividness.

In fact, time proves itself a terrible healer because of how memory works.

We commonly believe our memories are stored fully formed in a mental filing cabinet or on a mental dvd shelf. However, each time we remember, we actually reform or recreate the memory from scratch using information stored like ingredients across all regions of our brain.

This reconstructive process means our memories are not simply a "playback" of a past event but a fresh emotional experiencing of an event we already know ends badly for us.

No wonder we struggle to forgive when we are held captive by the haunting of our own memory. Each remembering making it harder by fuelling the bitterness we feel and strengthening our desire for compensation or revenge.

The question of memory runs like a constant challenge throughout Lament Forgive, for we cannot hope to be free of past pain without the healing of our memories.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

I imagine the disloyalty, betrayal, or abuse we suffer as string that wraps around our heart and becomes tied in place each time a person's sin wounds us. My assumption is, if you're asking this question then there's a vast ball of string with many knots around your heart.

Does forgiving this hurt get any easier? 

No. But eventually, yes.

Our forgiveness begins with the outer knots of this vast ball. In my experience, our focus here is typically upon the physical, black and white details of how we were hurt. This is why forgiveness fails to immediately get easier—and why it sometimes gets harder. To untangle the hidden, inner knots, we have to move beyond the specifics to recognise and forgive the long-term impact of another's sin.

The wasted years. The identity damage. The broken dreams. The invasive memories. The fact we're still dealing with it years later.

Many of the consequences to our lives and identity we will not be fully aware of until they are pointed out to us. The more we forgive the person for these, the greater the freedom we win to be our true-selves. And forgiveness gradually becomes easier.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

I'm going to tell you something I bet no-one has ever said to you before: It's good you're finding it hard to forgive. 

Forgiveness is hard because you're dealing with a real hurt. If you're finding it easy, then either what you're forgiving is trivial or you're living in denial. Finding it hard means you have a greater awareness of the painful consequences of another's disloyalty, betrayal, or abuse.

My advice is to find a trusted person or persons to share your story with. Talk about what happened, shed tears, express your anger, and complain about the injustice you experienced. This is lamenting. Too often we try to jump straight to forgiveness when what we require first is a witness to our hurt. 

You're never likely to feel "ready" to forgive, so you've just got to start at some point. I recommend thinking about lamenting and forgiving as a cycle. Choose a lamented part of your story—this can be a small thing, not just a big thing—and forgive the person for it. 

Then repeat.

Lament, forgive, lament, forgive. You get the idea.


I didn't set out to write a book about lamenting. I mentioned the lament in a small section of one chapter in my first draft and by the time the last draft was completed it had taken over half the book!

I'm still surprised.

I was simply looking for a way to express forgiveness as a journey. My own introduction to forgiving others had happened in a living room surrounded by close friends. Only after I had told my story and wept, did anyone suggest I forgave anyone.

You see, jumping straight to forgiveness rarely works, for how can we forgive fully if we do not connect first with the depth of how we've been hurt?

Every change—unexpected or expected, positive or negative—contains loss and requires an acknowledgment of sorrow and an acceptance of new circumstances. This is grief. But to me, at least, we need something beyond grief in our response to disloyalty, betrayal, or abuse.

Enter the lament. It transforms our grief into a protest against the undeserved, unfair, and unjust nature of how another has mistreated us. The addition of complaint to our mourning and story-telling sets us up well to begin forgiving.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

The metaphor we use to express why we forgive is a form of advertising. It promotes a certain way of seeing things which leads people to either accept or reject the ideas being communicated. With forgiveness, not only do we judge its relevance based upon this metaphor, we also happen to judge God's character along the way.

By using one-sided and once-only metaphors—like cancelling, pardoning, or letting go—to describe forgiveness, we suggest God doesn't care about how we've been mistreated.

This happens because acknowledgment of our emotional wounding and our need for healing is missing from the metaphors currently being used. God's focus is therefore placed upon us being merciful, rather than upon him our healing our hurt. He becomes a doctor who refuses to give us medical attention until we forgive the person who caused our wounds.

By shifting the metaphor we use to talk about forgiveness to untangling a knot we discover an image of forgiving that enables us to clearly communicate what Christians already believe—that God cares about the victimised. As we forgive we untangle ourselves from the knots of our mistreatment. You'll need to read Lament Forgive to find out how.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

When we forgive someone who has hurt us, it is rare for us to nail it all with a single I forgive you. This shouldn't really surprise us. When we are physically wounded, it may take hours of surgery, days of rest, or many months of physiotherapy to heal us.

Why do we think healing our emotional wounds will be any different?

Part of the issue is that the current metaphors we use to talk about forgiveness—cancelling, pardoning, or letting go—are all once-only images. They communicate that forgiving once will be enough, however, more often than not this does not match our experience. Only after many rounds of forgiveness will we find ourselves able to talk about our mistreatment without those all too familiar pangs of pain rushing to the surface. 

In Lament Forgive I propose we start using untangling a knot as a new, two-sided, and process-orientated metaphor for forgiveness. It's an image which enables us to talk about forgiving as a journey that takes time and often repetition but ultimately ends in healing.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

What surprised me most when I started forgiving wasn't how hard it was or that it made a difference to my relationships, it was that afterwards I experienced a tangible freedom to be my true self.

I was set free as I set others free by forgiving them.

This is not just my experience. I've heard many Christians express how when you set free the person who harmed you through forgiveness, you inadvertently set yourself free too.

Which begs the question: why are all our metaphors of forgiveness so one-sided, when the reality is that both forgiven and forgiver benefit?

Our current metaphors—cancelling, pardoning, or letting go— focus exclusively on the freedom of the person being forgiven. We fail to communicate that anything good will happen to us, except as an after-thought that doesn't fit within any of these metaphors.

In Lament Forgive I propose we start using untangling a knot as a new, two-sided metaphor for forgiveness. It's an image that immediately communicates how forgiving others can free us from the consequences of another's sin as much as—perhaps even more than—it frees the person we're forgiving.

ForgivenessSteve Hall