Why is Forgiveness So Hard?

By June 11, 2020 April 11th, 2023 Self Management Tips

Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

I hate to admit it, but I have had a terrible time forgiving people who somehow wronged me.  The research for this article has helped me think through my shortcoming.  But unfortunately, I have seen this personality flaw in other leaders, which impacts our ability to lead responsibly.  Difficulty forgiving can cause us to hold grudges and become unable to see people and situations objectively over time.

A young woman smiles and greets the viewer with open arms. Why is forgiveness so hard?

Still, forgiveness is necessary, both in business and in life.  A business leader who can’t forgive an employee’s mistakes is destined for failure. Here’s what you need to know about learning to forgive, even when it’s hard. 

Why is it so hard to forgive?

Why is forgiveness so hard for some of us?

We find it so hard to forgive because while forgiveness is part of the healing process, forgiveness alone won’t fix the problem.  You can never go back to the way things were before, and although you might forgive someone who wronged you, your opinion of them might be changed forever. 

The most common offenses are betrayal, deception, theft, abuse of power, selfishness, maliciousness, and egoism.  These can manifest in the workplace in one form, which means business leaders must be prepared to deal with them when they arise. 

Your only options are to let the employee in question go or forgive them and move on.  But, then, forgiveness in business isn’t about forgetting what happened but repairing the relationship to the best of your abilities and getting past the event if you can.  As trust is a necessary business component, every leader must learn to forgive. 

5 Steps to Forgiveness

The Bible lays a lot of groundwork for showing us the importance of forgiveness.  For example, Luke 17:4 reads, “If he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘repent,’ you must forgive him.”

A friend of mine recently stated it this way. “If you don’t forgive somebody, it’s you holding onto the sin, not the other person.  If you forgive the sins of somebody, you are participating in the forgiveness already given them by God”.

A good Christian would forgive, no matter how many offenses are laid against him.  But, of course, that’s easier said than done. 

Here are 5 steps to follow when you find something hard to forgive.

  1. Express how the event made you feel.  Suppressing your feelings will only breed resentment.  It would help to be honest with the person who wronged you about how you think and why. 
  2. Process your feelings. It’s going to take some time for the wound to heal.  Part of the healing process involves understanding why the event made you feel the way it did.  Did this event touch on feelings or insecurities you already had?  Acknowledging these feelings to yourself and working on them privately is critical to moving on. 
  3. Address the behavior.  As a business leader, you can decide what is unacceptable in the workplace. It’s hard to forgive an employee who continues the hurtful behavior.  Make it clear that to move past this situation; the action must stop. 
  4. Empathize.  Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt others.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and relate to their position. It’s much harder to stay angry at someone if you can understand where they’re coming from and how they might feel. 
  5. Move on.  Although true forgiveness takes time, you can no longer hold the offending event over their head once you have decided to forgive someone.  It would be best to let it go and move forward, looking at their future behavior objectively instead of letting your opinion of them be tarnished.  Eventually, you’ll find that you are no longer affected by their past actions. 

Forgiving someone is just one of the many abilities a trustworthy business leader needs, especially when hard-to-forgive offenses appear in the workplace.  If you want to grow your leadership skills, I can help.  Sign up for my mailing list to regularly deliver articles about leadership, productivity, and business to your inbox. 

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
Follow Dave