Skip to content
Use Code LOVE10 for 10% Off | FREE DISCREET SHIPPING ON $49+
Use Code LOVE10 For 10% Off

To Forgive Or Not To Forgive: Learn More About Forgiveness Styles

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Finger people puppets with sad woman and concerned man hugging herTypes Of Forgiveness

People often talk about the importance of forgiveness, but did you know there are different ways to forgive someone? Forgiveness can take various forms, and there is not one type of forgiveness style that is better than another. Rather, it is about finding what serves you and your relationship goals. Let's explore some of the different ways you can forgive someone as well as whether or not to forgive someone at all.


You can forgive someone but choose to avoid them or the behavior that caused you pain. This is an avoidant style of forgiveness and is often helpful when the person that harmed you will not recognize or apologize for the pain they have caused or change their behavior. 


You can confront someone about the harm they caused you and outline how it made you feel, along with what you wish they had done differently. You can also find ways to move forward with better boundaries that will serve you both. This can be helpful when someone is being manipulative or is repeating an offensive behavior.


You can look to forgive someone by accepting that their behavior was either not intended to be hurtful or done out of their own pain and stress or their lack of understanding and ignorance. This type of forgiving can only be done with someone who acknowledges what they have done to cause you pain and then makes a concerted effort not to cause you pain going forward. Remember that an apology without a change in harmful behavior is not an apology; rather, it is a form of manipulation.

Forgiving & Forgetting

The phrase to forgive and forget means that the person who was caused harm is willing to move on without holding resentment. However, this phrasing can be confusing because while we can move on without resentment, we won't typically forget when someone has caused us harm. Furthermore, if they do it again or it is chronic, we must remember their harmful behavior to ensure healthy boundaries. Thus, as long as the apology is sincere and the unhealthy behavior is not continued it can be a healthy form of forgiving, while still remembering so that both of you can learn from it and move on without resentment.

Self Forgiveness

Forgiving oneself is the ability to acknowledge that we make mistakes and to take action not to continue to cause damage. In addition, it is about understanding that we should expect progress, not perfection, when it comes to our growth, and making mistakes is part of being human. However, in making those mistakes, we accept that to forgive ourselves truly, we must be accountable for our actions and work toward rectifying the harm we have caused. Otherwise, we will most likely repeat unhealthy behavior and not embrace the lessons from our mistakes.

Do We Have To Forgive To Heal?

As I write this article, I can recall the many rape survivors and abused children I have worked with in my career. I have heard heart wrenching stories from patients who were abused and even tortured by members of their families, teachers, and more. Yet too often, I have seen many types of professionals tell a victim that they have to forgive to heal, and I say you don't. To burden a victim of abuse with the responsibility of forgiveness of their perpetrator is unfair and can cause additional and unnecessary pain.

Understand that you can choose not to offer forgiveness while still healing your pain. Many self-help experts often say that forgiveness is not for the other person but for ourselves so that we can heal. However, this does not describe the definition of what forgiveness means. The original definition of forgiveness means to pardon someone. Yet, many often try to bend the term forgiveness into a more encompassing word about healing. Perhaps we do this because forgiving is seen as a noble thing to do. Sure, it can be, but sometimes it can also mean that you dismiss abuse, especially when someone who has caused you pain is not asking for forgiveness and may even knowingly continue abusive behavior.

Forgiveness is separate from letting go of resentments, healing, and moving forward. Doing these things does not require pardoning someone; it does not require forgiveness. What we really deserve after having someone inflict pain is healing, and you do not have to pardon someone for your own healing. You can let someone's mistakes be something they must atone for without your involvement, as they are responsible for their own emotional evolution, just as you are for yours.

We do not owe people forgiveness. What we do owe ourselves is to try to protect ourselves from further harm and to ensure that we seek out the love, compassion, and care that we deserve. We are capable of cultivating empathy, compassion, and love for others while still maintaining that hurtful behavior, in some cases, is simply not our responsibility to forgive.

Asking For Forgiveness

When seeking forgiveness, it is essential to understand that someone is not required to absolve you of the harm you have caused them. Nor should you expect them to quickly get over the pain you have inflicted on them. You are not owed forgiveness, nor should you expect someone to get over something you have done just because you have asked to be forgiven.

No One Is Owed Forgiveness & It Can Take Time

Understand that an emotionally mature person will not blame another person for not forgiving them or for being unable to recover from the pain they have caused. Attempting to repair a relationship after hurtful behavior is vital to make amends, but it is crucial to have a realistic understanding that there is a process of rebuilding trust, which can take time. Furthermore, it is important to understand that sometimes, you can hurt people so much that they can't get to where they feel the relationship can be healed enough to continue. We are responsible for the damage we cause, which can leave permanent scars. This is why we must work on ourselves and understand the importance of not causing harm to people regardless of our own pain.

Scars Serve To Remind Of Life Lessons

Furthermore, being forgiven does not erase past pain, and there is no such thing as a truly fresh start. Instead, a relationship can be healthy with the scars from past wounds still present. Like physical scars, some are barely noticeable, while others are more obvious and serve as a potent reminder never to cause such pain again.

When A Partner Insists On Forgiveness

Partners who insist they should be forgiven often have difficulty regulating emotions and typically have either dismissive or avoidant attachment styles. This should be addressed, or they will be unable to conduct themselves in a healthy manner and most certainly will continue to have significant conflicts in their relationships.

How To Ask For Forgiveness

  • If you genuinely wish to ask for forgiveness, you must acknowledge what you have done by taking responsibility for your actions.

  • You should use direct language, saying something like, "I know that I caused your pain, and I am sorry."

  • Do not justify your behavior; you can explain the circumstances of it but do not defend it.

  • When apologizing, you should show remorse through your speech and behavior and offer to make things better by attempting to rectify the situation.

  • Once you have asked for forgiveness, give the person you have hurt time and space to forgive you.

  • Let them know that you are open to hearing from them and listen with an open mind. Allow them to process their pain with you. Remember that saying sorry and not allowing someone you hurt to speak about how they feel about it shows you are not genuinely interested in their feelings. Rather, it indicates that you are seeking an apology for yourself, which is a narcissistic form of manipulation. Sincere people want to hear the person's viewpoints and pain to understand the harm they have caused and provide the nurturing they should to help further the healing process.

Apologizing When No Harm Was Intended

If you hurt someone and did not mean to, it does not mean that they do not have a right to feel hurt. Acknowledging their pain and apologizing for unintentionally causing it is essential in allowing someone to feel understood. Remember that the most crucial thing anyone wants to feel from others is understood and acknowledged. This is a vital aspect of any positive relationship. Apologies are free, and it costs you nothing to acknowledge when you have hurt someone, whether purposefully or not.

In Conclusion

Forgiveness can take time and can come in various forms. The most important thing is doing what is healthy for you and not allowing your pain to burden you. Exploring whether you want to forgive or what type of forgiveness that best serves you and your relationship goals, whether you decide to move forward or end a relationship, is an important key to good mental health.

If you want to work on yourself or your relationship, seeking therapy can be a valuable resource in addition to getting educated by reading about the things you struggle with and need to work on. Seek out the help you need; only through vulnerability do we find courage, healing, and love.

Related Posts

Are Love Languages Real? Debunking Myths Of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages
Are Love Languages Real? Debunking Myths Of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages
Examining love languages: scientifically grounded or simply alluring stories? Explore the controversial origins and pote
Read More
What Is Marriage Language: Does It Make Your Relationship Better?
What Is Marriage Language: Does It Make Your Relationship Better?
Explore TikTok's "marriage language" trend and why having a private language between partners can signify a happier rela
Read More
Healing From Ghosting: From Heartbreak To Self-Discovery
Healing From Ghosting: From Heartbreak To Self-Discovery
Poof! They're Gone: Ever been ghosted? Delve into the reasons behind ghosting, its toll on self-esteem, the journey to h
Read More
Previous article I Can Buy Myself Flowers: Leaving A Toxic Relationship
Next article Do Your Social Media Posts Predict A Breakup?