Feelings: Is unconditional forgiveness scriptural?

As we approach the Feb. 25th Bible study many of you are sharing your stories, and your questions. This is one of them.

Unburdened Heart_Ice Trees_smallDear Suzie,

Why is it that so many Christians try to unconditionally forgive? God doesn’t unconditionally forgive us, right? He loves us, but He asks us to change.

I read your devotional To Fly Again. It seems like you and others tell people to forgive those who are abusive or unrepentant?



Dear S.,
I spend a lot of time right in the beginning of The Unburdened Heart talking about this topic, because it’s important.

You are correct in that we often confuse unconditional love with unconditional forgiveness, and that can be confusing, especially to the person who lives or is trying to love someone who is harming others with their sin.

Let’s look at an example. Elderly grandparents love their granddaughter who is addicted, and want to forgive this grandchild for using them. They want to forgive the manipulaiton. Her destructive choices, But they also want to love her.

So they confuse forgiveness with giving her more money, or shelter, or allowing the abuse to continue. After, all they love her.  And they want to follow scripture which says that we should forgive.

But unless this granddaughter runs into a brick wall of her own making, this “unconditional forgiveness” will not lead this granddaughter to God’s best for her, but keep her addicted and broken. She can keep on blaming others for her circumstances or shortcomings, and change never comes.

God unconditionally loves each of us. That’s foundational.

He loves us right where we are. He meets us right where we are. But He leads us to a cross where we He becomes our Heavenly Father, our Lord, and we find absolute redemption which leads to a brand new direction, and transformation.

It’s a beautiful gift. He doesn’t just love us. He changes our hearts and our lives!

Christ’s example helps us to understand what unconditional love looks like. These grandparents love her right where she is. They pray for her. They believe that God marked her life with purpose.  They believe in her when she can no longer believe in herself.

But they also love her enough to let her own choices lead her to a place of healing, rather than to help her stay broken.

They say no to money that will feed her addiction, or no to manipulation, or speak the truth about her addiction and her choices and the effect upon those she loves. All the while keeping the door open in their hearts for the future.


Will that be hard? Oh my goodness, yes.

They’ll wear the carpet threadbare praying for this loved one.

They’ll struggle with the brokenness in which she’s trapped, but be fully aware of the true enemy, who desires to steal, kill, and destroy.

All the while trusting and believing and calling out her name to the One who loves her more than any, who desires to give her life, and life to the full (John 10:10).

Forgiveness in this instance is just as powerful as any other. It’s accepting what and who you cannot change, all the while allowing God to transform you.

Your joy is not stolen. Your hope is not destroyed. It’s so hard, but you place your loved one in bigger hands, allowing their choices to draw them to the Father.

I hope this answers your questions.

Do you have questions?

I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers, because I don’t. I’m just someone who has traveled this rich, and often challenging road to living as a forgiver.

But we can look into scripture together. We’ll also go so much deeper in the study, and The Unburdened Heart takes today’s topic deeper still in Chapter One.


  1. Cat Travis says:

    I have been struggling with forgiving several people for quite some time now. I say the words, but I don’t feel like I have forgiven. The worst of the hurt was caused by my first husband when he destroyed our 18 year marriage by admitting to 11 years worth of adultery and left me to marry his current mistress – who he is now divorcing – then turned both of our children against me. My children have come back, but it took a long time. I married again, but found myself in an abusive, controlling marriage, which I was able to break free of two years ago. It seems I have been able to forgive the second man easier than the first. I have talked with my daughter about my struggle with forgiveness because she’s battling it herself. I’m trying to be honest with her about my feelings without going into any more detail than she already has, but I won’t lie to her because she’s had enough of that already. How can I finally come to the point where I can truly feel the forgiveness in my heart that I keep saying with my head? I know there is one that that I have to do and haven’t done yet, and that is to tell my ex that I forgive him, I don’t know if that is what will make the difference here or not, I just don’t know that I’m ready to deal with him yet. We barely said two words to each other when our son got married last year. I just don’t know where I’m at right now, but that I’m still dealing with so much pain, and so many strongholds in my life from both men.

  2. I’m so thankful I have come across this website and very excited to start the bible study! I have been struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt me over and over the past 12 years. Who has caused problems in my marriage (intentionally trying to destroy a bond that God created), my relationship with my step child, and has just made my life miserable. I’m praying this gives me the guidance to forever banish the feelings I have. Thank you for taking the time to help others in their journey!

  3. I too have tried dealing with hurt and forgivness in my own way, my timing but not able to do the forgive-forget. This study comes at the perfect time for me to learn to accept that appologies dont always come and this will be ok as long as I do what I am suppose to do and that is swallow my pride and my hurt and ask them to forgive me for allowing my emotions to rule over me.

  4. I think the person I need to forgive the most is myself. I walked away from The Lord several years ago and have since returned, but I’m fearing I’ll do the same thing again. I just can’t seem to get over that I thought I knew better than Him and it kills me. So now I live in guilt and shame, instead of in His peace and freedom. Looking forward to this book!

  5. I’m hiding. I always have. I do it to protect myself learned from an abusive, poverty filled childhood where I had to survive. I started reading the bible and listening online 9 mos ago and nobody knows. It is my secret life where I go for strength. I read and read about forgiveness, struggles, kindness and love. I knew only struggles. Just reading online I have found encouragement but fear talking to anyone because I am afraid I will do or say something wrong. My life is good now, but my responses are from my past. Even writing this is hard but I know I have to keep going forward.

  6. This devotion today and the upcoming study really has me thinking, thinking allot. I have been doing so more lately but today seems to just bring things more into perspective. I was in an abusive relationship for almost 30 years, it cost me dearly.. some in my relationships with my children, some in the way they now are as they are adults and dthe guilt I feel over it.. even in the new marriage I am in and how the ways I took on then to cope have carried forth into my life today. I have a problem giving it all to the Lord and leaving it there. I am constantly putting myself down for any and everything. It has effected my relationships now with my husband and my children. I cannot or do not make friends and have just resigned myself to living out my life this way. Reading your words today gives me that small spark of hope (dare I really hope?) that maybe things can be different……. part of me keeps thinking that I should have stayed where I was years ago and hopefully he would have eventually just killed me and this would all be over… part of me just wishes I could lay down and go to sleep forever. … and yet there is that small thought that keeps popping up in my mind… maybe there is something more to this life, maybe I can be happy, maybe I can accept what Christ suffered and died for on the cross for my sins without the hesitation I always seem to have when I get closer to God.. seems the harder I try to get close to HIM the further away I get.

  7. Today’s devotion on collateral damage resonated deep within my heart & reflected many of my responses to ongoing hurt within my extended Christian family. For years I have wrestled with wanting to respond to the conflicts within our family in a manner that accurately represented the unconditional love, grace, mercy that Christ poured out to us, but after years of little to no lasting fruit & may other go rounds with the familiar offenses & hurts of others, I admittedly have become weary. I am concerned that perhaps I have missed the difference between unconditional love in action verses the reality of how forgiveness acts when even other Christians wound our hearts & don’t act in a manner that seems to be in line with the Truths we all claim to live by. I am praying that through this study, I can learn….learn first where God needs to work in me & secondly, how to deal with the conflicting (even hypocritical) “biblical” approaches to dealing with our families hurts. I so deeply desire to be apart of the restoration process within our professing family, but as of yet do not feel adequately equipped or confident enough to deal appropriately with my hurt or theirs. I am excited to see how God will use this study to grow me up to be used for his Glory….may it be so Lord!

  8. Thank you Lord . . . I have been praying for direction and deliverance from unforgiveness and anger that I have been harboring for a very long time. I look forward to the upcoming Bible study. Thank you all for putting yourselves out there.

  9. This is exactly what I have needed. I have been stuck in the unforgiveness rut in a couple cases. Thank you so much! I am looking forward to this study and the grace our Father will provide. God Bless

  10. Forgiveness is for the one who forgives more than for the one who needs forgiveness. It frees the mind and heart. And, we don’t forgive what a person has done, we forgive the person for their terrible choice. If a person says “I can never forgive what they did” I would respond that they would not be expected to do that. Sin cannot be forgiven, only a sinner can be forgiven. And forgiveness must be given even if the one forgiven refuses to change. So in that sense it is unconditional. However, if that sinner refuses to change then they must answer to the One who alone has all the answers.

  11. Throughout my life, most of my relationships have been with people who do not accept any responsibility for hurt or pain caused in relationships. For example, although my mother didn’t have a relationship with any of her children, I was the problem. Due to my faith, I wouldn’t participate in the “triangular” gossip of others. My mother would also deny actions and statements; creating a deep rift of trust in her relationship with me and my siblings. I have carried a lot of the burden for not having a closer relationship with her.

    I know my relationship with my mother carries into my marriage and my relationship with my children. My husband has a passive aggressive personality. He too will deny actions and comments. And now that we have teenagers in the house, they are showing the same type of behavior. Truth is ingrained deeply in me. And unfortunately, I show anger when people lie, deceive or try to manipulate situations.

    My question is “How do you take a stand.” “How do you not receive the blame or accept other people’s denials and twisting of a situation.” I do forgive but the behavior still exists. How do you live in the same household, continue a loving relationship, and not see changes being made, especially in your husband?

    • In the study and scripturally we’ll look at our own responses, and how we emotionally live free. That may be setting boundaries, not to punish, but to work toward the healthiest relationship possible. Forgiving in these cases, is not an easy process, but one that leads us deeper to trust God, to sometimes sacrificially love, and also to find the strength to respond in a way that does not protect them from discovering a new way to live and love others.

  12. Beautifully said, Suzie. And can I just say how excited I am that your book is coming out RIGHT NOW, with the book study, right when I’m back in the saddle of eating, sleeping, and breathing forgiveness issues and questions with my girl moving home and writing this book about it!??! Impeccable timing. Praising God that it’s true for so many other women, too. Can’t wait to see what God does with this awesome resource of yours!! <3

  13. Rosetta Reeves says:

    WOW, Praise GOD for knowing what I need or should I say what I am ready to hear. I have one grown son addicted to drugs, {he has been in prison for a little over a year now} and one grown son addicted to alcohol and abusive situations… He has 30 days clean and sober tomorrow. I am giving these two to GOD on a daily sometimes hourly basis. I have enabled their issues thinking I was going to “love” them better. I have been backing off and praying ALOT but not helping with money or a place to stay, Just encouraging them, getting bibles in their hands and trying to live my life in the light of Christ so they can see It really is the best place to be. Thank you for your story. Their names are Randy and Rodney. Ill take all the prayer help I can get.

  14. Thank you for answering this question. Your posts bring me such comfort. I am an enabler in a verbally abusive marriage. I have made many mistakes and have allowed my guilt to excuse behavior all the while knowing God does not think the things about me that I am being told. I have felt helpless and hopeless and wanted forgiveness from my spouse. But I am enabling him to continue in his sin by not setting boundaries. If I truly loved him, which I do, I would help him get help for his anger. But by not doing anything, I am giving him permission to continue. I can’t wait to get my book and begin this lesson because this journey has been hard and I know it will be worse yet because the enemy does not want me to take a stand and he does not want to let my husband go either. Thank you. I am eager to learn and pray for other women in similar situations.

  15. I am looking forward to this study, your illustration above between unconditional forgiveness and unconditional love has just helped me to see forgiveness in a different light. We can become enablers and not even realize it. Only God can change hearts, and I know this heart of mine needs changing. Hopefully my book will come soon……..

  16. Thank you for this….this will be great for those in abusive relationships….forgiveness, but NOT allowing the abuse to continue….

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