Forgiveness is Understanding, Not Justification

· October 21, 2017

Knowing how to forgive has always been seen as a virtue.  It is especially difficult for some people to wipe the slate clean when someone does something to hurt them, while others will forgive absolutely anything. How can we find a middle ground? The first step to forgiveness is understanding.

Knowing how to forgive doesn’t mean forgetting what others did to us with no regard for our feelings. It’s important to understand to leave anger behind without justifying the unjustifiable. Keep reading to learn how to use balanced forgiveness to improve your emotional well-being!

“Only the brave know how to forgive. A coward never forgives. It’s not in his nature.”

Laurence Sterne

Forgiveness begins from within

Learning how to forgive doesn’t mean that we don’t care what others do to us, but that we let go of the initial irritation or annoyance. Those feelings can quickly turn into anger, which negatively affects our life and our relationship with the person who harmed us. In fact, forgiveness helps us let go of what happened while taking steps to protect our future selves from what harmed us.

forgiveness is understanding love

We think often about forgiving others but we have the bad habit of forgetting to forgive ourselves. The truth is that none of us are perfect. At the risk of sounding cliché, we all make mistakes. It’s important that we understand this because so often we hold ourselves to standards that are impossible to reach. This leads to frustration, anxiety, and feeling angry with ourselves.


Recognizing that we are human is the first step to self-forgiveness. But we can go a step further. If we have done something that we think is wrong, we can stop obsessing over it and instead, find a solution.

The point is to disrupt the thought pattern that leads us to dead ends. Instead, find a proactive way to fix the problem. There are really two options: fix what we did wrong, or if there is no way to fix it, think about what we can do in the future to avoid making the same mistake.

Forgiveness is understanding that everyone makes mistakes

Once we are aware that we aren’t perfect, we need to remember that no one else is either. It is often much easier to justify our own mistakes than mistakes of those around us. The truth is that we have high expectations for others just like we have high expectations for ourselves.

“To forgive is to not consider the limitations and defects of the other too gravely, to not take them too seriously. Instead, make light of them and say with good humor “I know you aren’t like that!”

Robert Spaemann

forgiveness is understanding hands

So often we expect something from others that they simply cannot do. Understanding that others are not obligated to fulfill our expectations is very important. Only then can we learn to forgive what we think they did wrong. Just like when we get mad at ourselves, it’s important to try and let go of our anger.

Again, turning over and over in our minds that someone did wrong does not help us at all. If something is bothering us, we must try to understand the motives that the other person could have had to make them act that way. It can be beneficial to keep the lines of communication open and to look for a solution to what happened.

Forgiveness is understanding; it doesn’t mean that everything is justifiable

Now that doesn’t mean that we must forgive whatever people do to us just out of habit. It’s important to value our rights and needs. If we constantly excuse the damage that others do to us, we harm our own well-being and hinder self-affirmation.

“Excessive forgiveness of he who errs is an injustice to him who does not err.”

-Baldassare Castiglione-

forgiveness is understanding couple

Learning to listen to our emotions will give us clues on how to act. That way we can learn to set boundaries with others and defend our own rights.

To help us to learn not to forgive absolutely everything, we have to reflect upon what happened and the reason behind our anger. That way we can assign responsibility for what happened to the right person.

It’s not about pointing fingers, but rather fairly dividing accountability. Before you forgive someone else just like that, we recommend you talk about their behavior, everyone’s expectations, and the preferred outcome. It is really all about balancing our needs with the needs of others. Learn to forgive!