3 Reasons Grief is Necessary to Forgiveness

Grief & Forgive

I recently wrote about how the first step in forgiving another is acknowledging the sin that’s been committed against us. You can read that post here. The second step in the forgiveness process goes deeper than acknowledging to grieving the offense.

Ironically, many of us don’t really know how to grieve, nor do we understand its necessity to the process of emotionally forgiving.

3 reasons why we need to grieve …

1. God is grieved over the sins we commit against Him. And since we’re created in His image, we have the need to grieve the sins done against us as well. The skill of grieving is something the culture in Bible times understood and valued, using it to facilitate healing and letting go. Check this out …

“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.” Jer. 9:17-18 (NIV)

2. In a more physical and psychological sense, scientists have discovered that when an animal survives a threat, the animal must release pent up “survival energy,” that’s often demonstrated through shaking and trembling.*

As humans we may not need to shake or tremble, but in response to threats and traumas our emotions must be released and who better to release them to, than to our loving, comforting, Savior who knows how it feels to be rejected and offended? {2 Cor. 1:3-4, Heb. 4:14-16}

3. Grieving the offense helps us to feel and understand the gravity of the sin, as well as, the power of Christ to heal and redeem the sin.

Allow me to back up just a bit here …

  • I’m taking an extremely slow pace to unfold the forgiveness process. I’ll eventually address the need to develop a forgiving spirit that’s able to release the offender quickly to our ultimate Forgiver in Christ.
  • I’m not focusing on the decision to forgive, but rather the emotional processing of forgiveness. Both are necessary to forgive, but the “process” is where I’m focusing at this point.
  • I’m focusing on the person who’s held resentments for some time. We all need to develop a forgiving spirit—one that does not hold offenses easily or quickly—but that’s so much further along in the sanctification process for the person who’s resentful. It’s like asking a “couch potato” to run a marathon in his/her first attempt at running! Good luck with that!
  • The NT Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, which means “pardon, cancellation of an obligation, punishment or guilt.”** If we don’t know what we’re pardoning by fully examining and grieving the pain, then we can’t truly release our offender through forgiveness. It’s like writing a check without knowing how much to write it out for!

Bottom line –
We must work through the messy, painful emotions related to our losses in order to understand the high price Christ paid for all of our sins. When we jump immediately from “resentment” to saying we’ve forgiven someone, we’re probably trying to project the image of what we feel a “good Christian” should be and do. When we do that, it becomes more about us and less about Christ and His sacrifice.

Today I’ve made the case for the need to grieve in the forgiveness process. In my next post, I will explain exactly how to grieve offenses.


What do you fear about facing the pain and grieving the offenses of your offender?


What has kept you stuck in the forgiveness process?


*From Waking the Tiger by Dr. Peter Levine and Ann Frederick
**From How to Forgive When You Don’t Feel Like It by June Hunt

Click the link to read more in this Forgiveness Series.

25 responses to “3 Reasons Grief is Necessary to Forgiveness”

  1. “If we don’t know what we’re pardoning by fully examining and grieving the pain, then we can’t truly release our offender through forgiveness. It’s like writing a check without knowing how much to write it out for!”
    Yes and Amen!
    It wasn’t until I suffered deep wounds across several years that I really came to understand that forgiveness is much more than simply saying “I forgive you” and not bringing it up again.
    Forgiveness is costly! Forgiveness is giving up my right to to hold that offense against the offender, even though they were very wrong and I was deeply wounded. We cannot truly forgive without first counting the cost and grieving the loss…not only grieving the pain and loss directly resulting from the offense, but also grieving the loss of our expectation of justice for the offense.
    Forgiveness also has no direct correlation to restoration of fellowship. I need to forgive whether or not fellowship is restored…and healthy boundaries may necessitate withholding restoration even though I have forgiven the offense.
    Very good post, Beth! Both pertinent and thought-provoking…
    Blessings to you, my friend!


    1. Yes, and we want to run from those wounded times too, Joe, but look what God has taught you through that time of trial and loss! I keep reminding myself that I never really lose anything (including my hair!) without God exchanging it for something better. I think the same can be true of forgiveness. You’ve stated it well that it is about giving up our right to hold an offense. How could we hold on to those resentments when we have such a gracious, forgiving God who forgave us on that cross?!

      Thanks so much, Joe, for stopping by and adding meaningful insights to our discussion today and for encouraging me as well!


      1. “…look what God has taught you through that time of trial and loss!
        Oh, yes! I would not trade what I have learned for anything!
        You’re right, we want to run from the periods of brokeness. I am so glad that God is so much wiser than we are…and that He continues to want what’s best for us, even we would be far too contented with much less.
        God is SO good!


  2. Beth – it’s like we either stay stuck in grief, wallowing there forever OR want to slide right on through without really going there ’cause it can be such a difficult place to be. Thanks for walking us through these steps. That beloved Man of sorrows was so aquainted with grief. He walks with us through the process and shows us how to forgive … and do it well.


    1. Yes! Isn’t that the truth, Linda! I see it in others and sadly see that tendency in myself as well. But as I step back, I see that precious Savior of ours calling me to lay it all down. Thanks so much for coming by, sweet friend! It’s good to see you around “these parts!” ha! Hugs to you!


  3. This is such a transparent and true post Beth. We must work the process of forgiveness to make it complete and genuine. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thank you so much, Ugochi. And I’m so grateful that we have a powerful, gracious Savior who helps us all along the path toward forgiveness. 🙂


  4. Dear Beth
    Yes, my friend, forgiveness is a heart issue and we can easily make it another “to do” thing. It is a gift we receive from Jesus for our sin and it is also from Him that we receive grace to forgive others. Jesus’ words tells it so well where He said that with us nothing is possible, but with Him nothing is impossible.
    Blessings XX


    1. Yes, it’s the sad reality of the human condition–trying to take over the control that needs to be surrendered to Christ, Mia. And I wholeheartedly agree that it is only through Christ’s grace and forgiveness of us that we can even think about forgiving others fully. But, praise God, He does, as you’ve so aptly said, make that impossible possible! Hugs to you, sweet Mia!


  5. Sometimes it is very hard to forgive. But I have learned over the years if I do not forgive- that person hurt me once, but every time I think about them or the situation I am hurt again. I am then hurting myself bc I have failed to forgive and move on. So when it is really hard to forgive I sometimes have to remind myself (although for a selfish reason) I must forgive bc it is only hurting me more.


    1. Yes, I haven’t fully talked about that part of forgiveness yet, but it’s so true, Cassie. Forgiveness is a continual decision and process–especially if there is someone who is a continual offender in our lives. And who doesn’t have at least one of those! ha! But in a very true sense, when we withhold forgiveness, we are the ones who suffer. Thanks for sharing a great thought to this discussion, my friend!


  6. Kim Adams Morgan Avatar
    Kim Adams Morgan

    Forgiveness is a hard subject for many people. I like the way you are covering it, Beth. I also love Joseph’s discussion below. Very good points.


    1. Thanks, Kim! I feel like there are so many layers to forgiveness and often they are glossed over in an effort to get to the finish line. We all must run to that finish line, but, I believe, it’s important how we get there! Oh, and congrats once again on winning the giveaway! You’ll have to let us know which one you picked!


  7. I think it’s harder to forgive when you have to see the person and they keep doing the same things you’re trying to forgive. Much easier to forgive if you don’t have to see them anymore! You’ve made me think because I thought forgiveness was a choice or a decision not a process. I will dwell on that a little because I notice sometimes I’ve made a decision to forgive but know in my heart I haven’t really.


    1. Oh yes, Laura. It truly is harder with a continual offender. But also much harder to forgive the continual offender the longer we hold on to resentments against them–letting them pile up and cloud our view and ability to forgive. I do still believe that forgiveness is a “choice” that must be repeatedly chosen over and over. But the emotional processing is just as important yet is often misunderstood and neglected. Thanks for weighing in and sharing so vulnerably here, Laura!


    2. Laura,
      With a repeat offender, sometimes we have to simply exit the relationship and draw clear boundaries.
      For me, part of forgiveness is learning to be willing to accept the reality of the situation for what it is, and recognize that I cannot change another person’s behavior. However, that does NOT mean that I have to continue remaining vulnerable to repeated abuse.
      Forgiveness is definitely a process…and that process often begins with removing oneself from unnecessary danger.
      Blessings to you!


  8. Christa Sterken Avatar

    This is such an important topic. I am seeing more women giving up on their vows, disappointed and seeking affection other places. It breaks my heart, because I understand disappointment. But having made it to the other side, I am deeply grateful for my marriage. Encouragement to married couples is a blessings


    1. I resonate with what you’re saying, Christa, because I’ve been there too. There was a time when I was so full of anger and resentment at my husband but much of it had little to do with him. It took working through the forgiveness process to uncover some of the lies and misperceptions I had. And now, I keep those resentments at bay, knowing they can accumulate and contaminate a marriage faster than Santa on his sleigh! Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion!


      1. Christa Sterken Avatar

        I hear you Beth, it is interesting to note that so much of the anger and resentment with my husband had little to do with him either, and so much to do with me. Unhealed pain from a life before him. I feel so deeply for our sisters who are on the flip side of that. One friend has tried to forgive her husband for many indiscretions. She tried very hard, but he kept/keeps up a double life. I appreciate a good husband all the more


  9. Beth- Thank you for sharing the process of forgiveness and putting words to what took me almost 7 years to work through. I wanted to jump from point A to point B without truly examining what I was going through and allowing myself the chance to grieve. I was one of those good Christian women you referenced who felt it was more important to show everyone through my actions and words that everything was okay. Looking back now that I have made it to the other side of this process, your words affirm for me that it was okay to take this time and it was okay to admit to those around me that I was not fine! Grieving has no time limit and is different for each person. I was just explaining to a friend whose son has gone through a divorce recently, that he needs to grieve and how long this takes is uncertain. I am learning so much through your blog and I love that I can put specific words to the forgiveness process I went through when I divorced 7 years ago. Blessings to you my friend!


    1. Aww, thanks so much for your kind words, Mary! I’m so glad you’ve allowed yourself the freedom and truth to be honest about your feelings. Our angry feelings are not the sinful part. It’s what we do (or don’t do) with those angry feelings that gets us in trouble! 🙂 Hugs to you, sweet friend!


  10. Nannette Elkins Avatar

    Love this Beth!! So much good “stuff” to process….thank you. ♥


    1. Thank you, Nannette! It’s good to see you and I appreciate your kind words, my friend!


  11. […] This is #4 in the Forgiveness Series. Click link to access previous post #3 – 3 Reasons Grief is Necessary to Forgiveness […]


  12. […] seriously my offender’s sin. Crazy thought, but no, I’m not, and you can read more about that here and […]


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