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Forgiveness and Spiritual Health

Updated on January 24, 2013
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Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock
Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock | Source

What is Forgiveness?

The Dictionary tells us that 'to forgive' means to stop feeling angry, but forgiveness is much more than that. To need forgiveness implies that a wrong has been done; a sin has been committed against another person and against God. To have spiritual health, the sinner needs to ask for forgiveness, but the person who has been sinned against needs to forgive as well.

There are many references in the Bible about forgiving and being forgiven, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and we can learn from these.

Forgiveness in the Old Testament

Old Testament records began thousands of years ago when life was raw and living was tough. There were murders and punishment, but it is not until right at the end of Genesis (50.17) that we hear of forgiveness for the first time.

The Early History:

  • Joseph's brothers were afraid of him and schemed, sending a messenger praying him to 'forgive the trespass' and evil sin they had committed against him. When Joseph saw them he loved and 'comforted them.'
  • The next time someone asks for pardon is when Pharaoh (Ex. 10.17) tells Moses he has sinned against him and against God. He asks Moses to 'entreat' God to remove the locust plague.
  • Years later (Ex 32.32), Moses entreats God to forgive the children of Israel's sin when they make and worship a golden image. He even asks God to take his life if He will not forgive the people. In each of these references, there is a mediator between the sinner and God.

The Psalms: King David was a great man of God, but prone to human weakness and when he cries out to God in the Psalms (e.g. Ps. 25.18), those cries are for all of us, for all time. In Ps. 86.5 we are reminded that we must ask before we can be forgiven, and that is the same in our human relationships. We cannot be forgiven if we don't ask.

Forgiveness is Pardon: There are several other instances of forgiveness in the Old Testament and the main purpose in each was to ask for pardon. Sin was seen as a blemish or blot and pardoning was the covering or removing of that blemish. The blood of sacrifices offered to God covered the sin, so it was seen no more.

Olive Trees on the Mount of Olives
Olive Trees on the Mount of Olives | Source

Forgiveness in the New Testament

As God revealed Himself slowly to humankind over the centuries, we come to the New Testament and His revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ.

There are some interesting parallels with the Old Testament:

  • When the Disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray He echoes the words of Joseph's brothers in Genesis, 'forgive us our trespasses', but now He carries the notion of 'pardon' further: 'as we forgive those who trespass against us' (Matt. 6.12). Before we pray the Lord's Prayer we must first forgive any who have hurt us. Although we may ask for and receive forgiveness from one we have wronged, we have sinned and true forgiveness only comes from God.
  • Moses' prayed that God would take his life if the people's sins could be forgiven. God's own Son did just this, dying on the cross as a sacrifice for all time, so that through His blood God is able to forgive our sins. If we are sincerely sorry, God will not only forgive our sins, He will blot them out entirely (Hebrews 9.14-22).

Forgiveness is Pardon, Repentance and Atonement. The Old Testament notion of forgiveness as 'pardon' has now acquired the added conditions of repentance and atonement (Mark 1.4). We must be truly sorry to gain forgiveness and we must make amends with the person and especially with God, so that when we receive His pardon we can return to fellowship with Him.

Spiritual Health and Forgiveness Today

These Biblical revelations From the Old Testament and the New Testament about forgiveness are tenets that still hold today.

God Forgives Us: In the Old Testament we learn how God pardons our sins.

We Forgive Each Other: In the New Testament we learn that unless we completely forgive others, God will not forgive us, but when He does, through Jesus' sacrifice, we have complete freedom from our sins, they are absolutely erased from the record.

We Forgive Ourselves: We do not always forgive ourselves or others.

  • Sometimes we keep mulling over the event, asking ourselves how we came to make the mistake, why we did it, instead of accepting God's forgiveness. This is sin and for spiritual health we must learn to forgive ourselves.
  • If we have been sinned against and say that we have forgiven, but continue to hold a grudge against the sinner, then we sin and do not have spiritual health. A woman I knew mentioned a time when she received a letter that gave her great hurt. When it was suggested that if she did not forgive she was hurting herself, not the sinner, she replied, "Oh, yes. I've talked to God about it and I've forgiven her. Look, I still have the letter." She thought she had forgiven, but her heart still held a grudge; she had not truly forgiven.

When we ask for and accept God's forgiveness, when we learn to let wrongs go and forgive others and ourselves, then we find true spiritual health and can live in fellowship with others and with God.


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    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 months ago

      Amen. Wonderful encouragement to know God's will for us to be forgiving and have life in peace with Him , with our fellowman and within ourselves.

      Have a blessed New year of the Lord 2018.


    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Stella Aligazaki: Thank you for your lovely, affirming comments. God bless you.

    • stelaligizaki profile image

      Stella Aligizaki 5 months ago from Greece

      A very kind article. I agree with you. We must forgive. We feel better and gain positive energy. Forgiveness must be the keyword for humanity.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      How lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your kind comments.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Loved the article and the kind thoughts. Yes Forgiveness is a better way to live one's life.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      It's so easy to fall into a negative and critical state of mind, and very often so difficult to extricate oneself. Even when we are normally positive in our attitudes we can slip into that state without realising it until we suddenly pull up short with the knowledge that we may have hurt someone with our unthinking comments. I love that slogan - 'Let go, let God.' Easy to say, but not always so easy to do. That's wonderful that you were able to clear your conscience and start off 2015 with a clean slate. Brilliant! What a good feeling. Praise God and may this year be filled with joy for you. Thank you for your good wishes, too.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      BlossomSB: This is my idea of a great "evergreen" topic! As many of your readers have already expressed, you did a lovely job in covering many aspects of forgiveness.

      For the first time in my life, I think (although I also seem to be forgetting a lot, so it may not be the first time), I covenanted to connect before this New Year with several persons-- some very close to me, some who are brothers and sisters in my faith community-- to ask for forgiveness for any words or behaviours that have hurt them, directly or indirectly. I noticed that I had settled into a fairly negative state of mind over the recent year, and that misunderstandings and hurts had popped up like never before in my life. Initiating asking forgiveness has been an emotional, healing, learning experience, to say the least. Most people I approached were rather shocked, I think, and I realize that I have never had someone approach me to do a year-end 'clearing', so to speak, so I guess that is perhaps the situation for them as well. A couple actually asked something along the lines of "Oh oh, what have I done now?" which was a humbling reaction that alerted me to my having been unfairly judgemental and critical during my negative phase. In all but two situations I was forgiven (or told that they could not recall me having offended against them). Those two situations I am "letting go" of so that God can lead out in the way that is necessary to have closure/reconciliation. In 2015 I hope to live with a "short account," that is, to ask forgiveness as soon as I am aware of having hurt someone.

      God IS Good... all the time! Thank you for this fine article. Voting up, pinning, tweeting and sharing! All the best to you in the New Year, Cynthia

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      pstraubie48: Yes, if we hold on to something and do not forgive in our hearts we only hurt ourselves. What a blessing it is that when we ask our amazing God to forgive us, He does, and the tablet is wiped clean. Thank you for your good wishes and may 2015 be a great one for you.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Forgiving is such a beautiful way to move forth. And sometimes those that you forgive do not know or will not accept the forgiveness. But in my experience the act of forgiving allowed me to let go of what I had held on to for far too long

      Angels are on the way to you this evening and many wishes for a Happy New Year ps

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      AudreyHowitt: Thank you. It's good to hear from you. Sorry I'm not on more often, I'm supposed to be resting my hand.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Well said !!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      ARUN KANTI: I know your first quote, but I'm not so familiar with the second - how true! Forgiveness is important, both for the offender and the offended, and as your second quote suggests, to truly forgive is also to forget.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image

      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      Your excellent hub reminds me of the famous quotes-“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” “One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”

      While smaller grievances may be easily forgiven, serious offences are fraught with danger and should not be treated leniently. Thank you for the well written write up.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      That is true, it is so much part of life and we need constant reminders. Thank you so much for your comments.

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 4 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      You know, forgiveness is a biblical subject that needs to visited frequently by every Christian. Very well written with extremely valuable information .

      Be blessed

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Scarlett Rain: I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Thank you for your comments.

    • Scarlett Rain profile image

      Scarlett Rain 4 years ago from Bakersfield

      This is a very lovely hub, simply beautiful.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      drpastorcarlotta: That must have been so hard to do, but praise God that you did forgive him. We truly have an amazing Heavenly Father! May God bless you richly this day.

    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 4 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      Wonderful Hub on forgiveness. I had to forgive a man who molested my daughter, the benefits I have received from that act was so amazing GOD IS GOOD. I voted-up on this Hub!!! Praise God!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      shofarcall: It does hurt. It took about three years with one of mine, but the reconciliation was so wonderful it was worth trusting God and waiting. Thank you for your lovely comment and God bless you.

    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Hi Blossom,

      North Wind has just written a hub on saying 'sorry' and true repentance. How glibly people do say sorry today without realising that when we repent, it is supposed to be a "turnaround" from that behaviour and not just an apology for that occasion!

      We know when someone is truly sorry and forgiveness is asked for. The heart, the tone of voice and the eyes tell it all. And I would have to agree with Teacherjoe, that if that is obviously not so.....the forgiveness I do give willingly anyway, but will distance myself from further abuse even if it is my adult child but will ensure they know that the door is always open. This is possible to do. Forgiveness is separate from subjecting oneself to further abuse of unrepentance.

      I have had to do this with one of my adult children and I heard clearly from the Holy Spirit that they need to learn to honour you as their parent. If they cannot honour their earthly parent, how will they ever learn to honour their heavenly Father. So, I trusted in God. It took 16 months, but my child did return, humbly and repentant, recognising the wrong that had been done. Amen. Wonderful hub which I shall undoubtedly read again. God Bless.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Jackie Lynnley: I think you're right, it seems to be doubly difficult when it's family that you expect to be able to trust and feel part of. If they're rejecting our offer of forgiveness and refusing to listen, it might need to be just a time of waiting, but in that time we need to forgive them through Jesus in our hearts, or we may become bitter and hold a grudge which does no one any good. This is an important point and thank you for bringing it up. God bless you.

      Becky Puetz: Thank you so much for you lovely, positive comments. May God bless you.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      You present these teachings beautifully. I especially love when you wrote; "When we ask for and accept God's forgiveness, when we learn to let wrongs go and forgive others and ourselves, then we find true spiritual health and can live in fellowship with others and with God." This is so true. You have a wonderful God given talent of getting the message across. Thank you for writing this uplifting Hub.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      It is not always easy to forgive someone when we have been hurt badly and cannot forget. I wonder sometimes too about the ones who will not admit guilt and go on trespassing against others? If you go to them and they merely lie about it, what then? I know the bible tells you to go to the one and work it out that has offended and I know you must forgive them as many times as they ask, but if they merely deny guilt, what then? It is hard to have a relationship with someone like this, even if family. Actually, especially family.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      barbat79: You are so right, it's not up to us to judge other people's actions and words, we leave that to God. Your father was a wise man. Thank you for your comments.

    • barbat79 profile image

      B A Tobin 5 years ago from Connnecticut

      What a wonderful piece! Yes forgiveness is a practice..sometimes there are actions which are unforgivable so it is a "forgive but dont forget" category. This is from my father's words of wisdom. The greatly unforgivable actions I feel should be let go of any animosity or anger and leave it in the hands of God to judge. We are inperfect beings, however some actions are of a truly dark nature.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      skye2day: Thank you for your lovely comments. Love and hugs and God bless you, too.

      bettybarnesb: God bless you for your kind words. I do pray that my hub will be helpful to those who come by.

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 5 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Good morning BlossomSB!

      Wanted to first thank you for becoming a 'follower.' Forgiveness is so hughe in the lives of believers as the scriptures tells us 'to examine ourselves.' Nothing is worth the risk of becoming disconnected from God. I wish everyone could read your article who are struggling with unforgiveness. It will definitely help them to change their hearts. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Blossom Your writing is awesome. The Spirit of God moves in you sister. I am touched. The flow in your words is heartwarming and healing. God has spoke to me in your words sista.

      I loved how you used the old testament and new testament on forgiveness. Thank You. You keep going girl. Phil 4:13 You are a beautiful and gifted writer. I am linking this page from my forgiveness hub. UP and Beautiful

      In Christ, sending a hug your way, Skye

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      livingsta: Thank you. It's such an important issue. Until we have truly forgiven and accepted God's forgiveness we can only stumble along on this journey called life, but when we do it, we have real freedom to pursue the course God has set for us.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Wow, that was a good read on forgiveness!

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      God bless you too little sister.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Ceegen: Thank you. May God bless you, too.

      teacherjoe52: True. God bless you.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      Hi Blossom.

      The point is that they must repent before a relationship can continue.

      It is important to let them know the door is always open, but they must repent of thier abusive behaviour..

      Maybe God will bring them into a difficult experiance to help bring them into repentence. He did it many times in the Bible so why not now?

    • Ceegen profile image

      James 5 years ago from Maine, USA

      Oh, and I forgot to mention: God bless you. :)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teacherjoe52: Bless you. I see your point, but going back to my question, "What if the other person is one of your adult children?" If you cut them off completely and then they have problems, perhaps you are the only one they can trust, but now they can't communicate with you. What will they do? Will you be responsible for their actions? When God forgives us, He does not cut us off, but is there to help when we ask. Another interesting point.

      Ceegen: Thank you for your lovely, encouraging comments.

    • Ceegen profile image

      James 5 years ago from Maine, USA

      Great stuff here. Loved the writing style, and neatness of the text. Very well organized and thought out.

      I also like how you combined both the "Old" and "New" testaments to make it into one complete story: The way it should be told!

      Very awesome.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      Hi Blossom.

      If you ask any marriage councillor they will say the same thing: if the abuser refuses to repent do not go back. If you do go back without them repenting, they will know they have gotten away with their abuse and it will only get worse. That holds true no matter if it is in a family or marriage or friendship. Would you suggest a wife go back to a drunken husband that beats her? Would you suggest a daughter return to a father that raped her if the abuser did not change thier attitude and behaviour?

      Yes it is possable to forgive but not return to an abusive realtionship. I am living proof. There are some that abused me terrably. I have forgiven them but they refuse to apologize and stop the abusive behaviour. I pray for them every day.

      Be careful of your advice. When people recover from abusive relationships many want to return believing it's their fault and they must try harder. How many have ended up killed that way?

      Interesting thought, yes?

      God bless you.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Marcia Ours: Amen! Bless you.

    • profile image

      Marcia Ours 5 years ago

      Great article on forgiveness! Forgiveness is such a wonderful thing. Thank God that He forgives us and we can also forgive!

      Marcia Ours

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teacherjoe52: Are you sure about cutting off the relationship? Wouldn't that mean that we hadn't truly forgiven them? What if the other person is one of your adult children? Makes one think, doesn't it? Thanks for your interesting comments. God bless you.

      Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you so much. It's not always easy to forgive, but when God does, the slate is wiped clean, and so much we do that too.

      Frank Atanacio: You're so right! When we forgive, we are free.

      stars439: May God bless you, too. It is a great subject - enormous, in fact, it has so many facets. How can we fill our hearts with the fruits of the spirit if they are filled with the fruits of the flesh? Forgiveness is a great blessing to the giver as well as the recipient.

      aviannovice: You've hit the nail on the head! If we don't completely forgive, we are the ones who suffer most.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      If we just learn to forgive, forget, and carry on, we will be doing ourselves a better service.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful hub, and a great subject. Forgiveness is a good thing. Anger can take up a lot of space where the heart should be. It is not easy to forgive, but it helps get rid of hate, rage, anger , and some negative feelings. Love You. God Bless You.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      sometimes we need a hub like this so we don't forget forgiveness... it's easier to ignore and hold a grudge.. but when you forgive .. you feel complete.. a great hub Blossom

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and awesome. A wonderful reminder of forgiveness. Many a time I have looked toward the Lord to give me the compassion to forgive someone and He has and I have. God bless. Passing this on.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      Hi Blossom.

      Very well said.

      One thing many Christians find difficult to understand is for a relationship to continue it is a two way street.

      Yes, we are to forgive. But, if the offender has not repented we must not go back because it is an abusive relationship. If you go back and they have not repented, they know they have gotten away with it and will coninue.

      Great article,

      God bless you.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      cynthtggt: Yes, forgiving ourselves is often the most difficult thing to do. Thank you for your comments.

      flashmakeit: To be truly forgiven we must truly repent, as you say, and we really should not just repeat the Lord's Prayer glibly without thinking of the consequences of such a powerful prayer. Is that why I wake up with a clear mind - I have all sorts of ideas, but if I don't write them down they evaporate as soon as I get out of bed!

      grinnin1: I think it helps in our thinking and praying when we wake up to that fact, it really is committing another sin. Thank you for your comment.

      always exploring: Thank you! I do agree that we so often continue to mull it over and over - and we should not!

      teaches12345: I think it is really interesting how we humans have been so slow to understand the implications for ourselves of not forgiving and how God has patiently, over aeons, led us to a deeper understanding through His word.

      May God richly bless each of you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Your words are healing for those who may be unable to forgive. I try to remember how much I have been forgiven when others cause me grief. You have posted some wonderful examples from the Bible that will help to understand the path to forgiveness. Voted up.

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      Ruby Jean Richert 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Beautiful teaching told in a loving way. Thank you. I think it is more difficult to forgive ourselves than another. Blessings to you...

    • grinnin1 profile image

      grinnin1 5 years ago from st louis,mo

      Very good article. I think the hardest thing is to truly forgive yourself, and not allow yourself to relive/rewrite what happened. Like you say in your article, this is sin in itself! Thanks for a great hub!

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      This article is a great reminder about forgiveness and repentance, which are requirement as we may say in our nightly Lord's prayer. It will help you wake up with a clear mind.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      Cynthia Taggart 5 years ago from New York, NY

      A great hub on forgiveness and our forgiving Lord. He said, "My thoughts are not your thoughts," so when we doubt His forgiveness we ought to also keep in mind that as a powerful spiritual entity He has certainly seen it all. We all need to forgive ourselves for it is from self-loathing and feelings of guilt that hate towards others surface. Thank you. Voted up.