A crime was committed against me…how can I forgive?

Due to new circumstances in my life I'm finding myself doubting a lot of things.  I want to know what forgiveness really means; this is something I felt I used to know the answer to but I've really lost myself - and the answer - recently after a serious crime was committed against me.  I’ve been in therapy trying to deal with everything, but I cannot bring myself to forgive the person who committed the crime against me.  Any advice?  Please pray for me.


We are honored that you trust us enough to share your story with us. It breaks our hearts to know that you have been so wounded by criminal behavior.  Reading what you wrote has actually caused our eyes to tear up.  We are heartbroken to know that you have been wounded like this.

We really appreciate your honesty about your struggle with forgiveness, and we think it’s a good thing that you are trying to figure out how to respond in a healthy, honest, and Christian way to what has happened to you.  The fact that you are going to therapy is awesome and we pray that you keep your heart and your mind wide open to the help your therapist is giving you.  We have always felt that going to therapy is a sign of great strength, because it is an indicator that you want to get better, be healthy, and move forward.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to try to clarify what forgiveness means for you in this situation, and we are praying that our words will make sense & be helpful.

We want to start off by reminding you that forgiveness is a decision.  It is not a feeling.  We are reminded of this when we recall that when Jesus was on the cross he cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”.  He was almost certainly in more physical, emotional, and spiritual pain than anyone ever, and yet he chose to forgive because he knew that it was what his tormentors needed; he knew that their hearts needed love and mercy more than anything else in order for them to become better people.  In Jesus’ words from the cross, we also discover something else very significant – that we need to call upon a higher power in order to forgive.  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “To err is human, to forgive divine” and there’s a lot of truth in that.  For bigger hurts (like you’ve experienced) – and even smaller hurts, for that matter – we find the strength to forgive only by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who wronged them.  For all of us, doing the same is a great place to start.

It is also important to remember that forgiveness can be a process.  The decision to forgive is an important decision, but it is a decision that, for bigger hurts, we need to make over and over and over again.  You may recall this passage from the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

Biblical commentators tell us that it’s not a literal 77 times but the use of the number 7 twice in a row means continually forgiving.  It’s been said by wise people say that this continually forgiving is sometimes necessary for the same hurt.  So when the anger or the hurt surfaces, it can be helpful to pray, “Lord I choose to forgive – again.” Or “Lord, help me to forgive as you do” Or “I just want to pray with Jesus on the cross ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they did.”  God’s grace is necessary for us to forgive others, so don’t try to do it with your own will power.  Ask for God’s help.

Choosing to forgive does not mean that what happened was no big deal.  It is, and it always will be.  And choosing to forgive does not mean you will necessarily ever forget what happened.  We disagree with the phrase “Forgive and forget” because it’s not true.  Even Jesus - who forgave his tormentors - was still recognized by the scars in his hands and feet and side after the Resurrection.  So we always carry the scars with us, but they don’t have to impair our ability to love.  We can become compassionate, even toward those who have hurt us most deeply, with the grace of God.  A good friend of ours said that whenever she thinks of the person who hurt has her the most, she prays that he will know God’s love and mercy.  Being able to say a prayer like that is a good sign that you are on the road to forgiveness.

Finally, we would encourage you to, in addition to therapy, to have a trusted priest pray with you about this issue the next time you go to Reconciliation – it’s a sacrament of healing through which God can do amazing things.  Along with ongoing therapy, you might even want to consider spiritual direction.  A solid definition of spiritual direction can be found here and some additional thoughts can be found here.

You are in our prayers.


The REAP Team