Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 5: Not Knowing How to Forgive

“But, I just don’t know how to forgive.  How do I go about it?”

I have heard this so often…..and it breaks my heart because it should not happen.  How have people’s teachers somehow failed to show a growing child the path to forgiveness? Don’t we work hard—very hard—to show a child how to find his or her way home so that, when lost, there is a map in the memory?  Why do we fail to work even harder to place the map of forgiveness in a child’s mind?  To have to grope in the dark for the forgiveness path when one’s heart is bleeding is not fair.  When we neglect to show children the path out of darkness and into the light of forgiveness, we are neglecting a key point of being human….a key point in surviving tragedy and others’ mayhem.

Children need forgiveness education to know that, when forgiving, a first step is the freedom to admit injury.  Another has withdrawn love from me and I am hurting.

Facing such a reality helps people to see the injustice for what it is.  It can give a person courage to look injustice in the eye and call it by its name.  Such courage can propel a person to commit to forgiving, committing to reducing resentment and offering goodness in spite of the hurt.

The courage helps a forgiver to then see the inherent worth of the one who did the hurting…..not because of what was done, but in spite of it.

The courage helps the forgiver to let compassion grow in the heart as a response of mercy to those who have not had mercy on the forgiver. Eventually, the forgiver begins to find meaning in the suffering and to reach out to the offender, at least within reason so that the forgiver protects the self from further serious injury.

This path is vital to a restored emotional health.  We need to see this and to have the courage to teach children how to forgive so that they do not ask, in confusion, as adults: “How do I forgive?  I do not know the path.”


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Categories: Barriers to Forgiveness, Children, Courage, Education, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Marta says:

    I have heard so often: I want to forgive but I don’t know how. Your call for forgiveness education is so valuable. At the very least, fewer people will ask this question.

  2. Chris says:

    Nice point, Marta. Forgiveness education should show people the way and the earlier the better. Of course the instruction has to be strong and accurate for the students to benefit. Not all forgiveness education, I would suspect, is equal.

  3. Samantha says:

    The first barrier to forgiveness discussed in these blogs centered on misunderstanding what forgiveness is. This, to me, seems directly connected with this one. If we misunderstand what forgiveness is, we may enter a wrong path and it will take longer to forgive. In other words, it is in our best interest to first know what forgiveness is which helps us get on the right path.

  4. Brian says:

    I have to admit that forgiveness was an overwhelming task for me in the past because I just did not know how to go about it. Knowing the path has a way of settling a person and giving confidence so that the work can actually get done.


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