Why is Forgiveness So Hard?

I hate to admit it, but I have had a terrible time forgiving people that have wronged me in some way. The research for this article has helped me think through my shortcoming.  I have seen this personality flaw in other leaders, as well, and it truly 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?

The biggest reason we find it so hard to forgive is that 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. 

Some of the most common offenses that people find hard to forgive are betrayal, deception, theft, abuse of power, selfishness, maliciousness, and egoism. All of these can manifest in the workplace in one form or another, which means business leaders need to 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. Forgiveness in business, then, isn’t about forgetting what happened, but instead repairing the relationship to the best of your abilities and getting past the event if you can. As trust is a necessary component of business, every leader must learn how to forgive. 

5 Steps to Forgiveness

The Bible lays a lot of groundwork for showing us the importance of forgiveness. 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. 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. You need 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 in question made you feel the way it did. Did this event touch on feelings or insecurities you already had? Acknowledging all of these feelings to yourself and working on them privately is key to moving on. 
  3. Address the behavior. As a business leader, you have the power to decide what is and is not acceptable 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 be feeling. 
  5. Move on. Although true forgiveness takes time, once you have decided to forgive someone, you can no longer hold the offending event over their head. You need to let it go and move forward, looking at all of their future behavior objectively instead of allowing 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 that a trustworthy business leader needs, especially when hard-to-forgive offenses appear in the workplace all the time. If you want to grow your leadership skills, I can help. Sign up for my mailing list to have articles about leadership, productivity, and business delivered straight to your inbox regularly. 


Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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