A close-up image capturing the worn pages of a Bible, highlighting the words on forgiveness, emphasizing the struggle and longing for reconciliation when someone refuses to forgive.

What To Do When Someone Won’T Forgive You According To The Bible

Dealing with unforgiveness can be difficult. When someone refuses to forgive us, it’s easy to become discouraged, angry, or resentful. However, God calls us to take the high road and continue extending grace, even when it’s not reciprocated.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what the Bible teaches about pursuing reconciliation when forgiveness is withheld.

If you’re short on time, here’s the key point: Even when someone refuses to forgive, God calls believers to have forgiving hearts and make every effort to pursue genuine reconciliation through repentance, patience, love, and prayer.

Understand Why They Are Struggling to Forgive

They May Be Dealing With Deep Hurt and Pain

When someone has seriously wronged us, the resulting emotional pain can run very deep. Feelings of anger, betrayal, fear, and sadness are normal. These painful emotions can take time to heal. Rushing to “forgive and forget” right away may feel impossible for the wounded person.

As the famous saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” When people have been deeply hurt, especially by those closest to them, it damages their ability to trust others. Even God understands the depth of human pain.

In the Bible, He speaks gently to those struggling with unresolved anger and grief: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18).

Unresolved Conflicts or Betrayal Make Forgiveness Harder

Serious relational wounds often involve a violation of trust. Common examples are infidelity in marriage, abuse by a parent, lies and slander from a friend. The closer we are to someone, the more their wrong actions can pierce our hearts. Breaches of trust are intensely painful.

They can make victims feel powerless.

Trying to forgive in the middle of an unresolved conflict is extremely challenging. The Apostle Paul knew this truth well. When a fellow Christian acted against him, Paul advised: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Luke 17:3).

Reconciliation requires both parties—the offender admitting fault and the wounded person offering forgiveness.

Their Trust Has Been Severely Damaged

Serious hurts damage our ability to trust the person who hurt us. Without trust, a close relationship cannot thrive. When trust has been broken, both parties must work hard to rebuild it. The offending person needs to earn back trust by consistently demonstrating change through their actions.

And the wounded person needs to learn to risk vulnerability again by slowly re-opening their heart.

Restoring trust is not quick or easy. The process takes humility, courage and patience from both people. Since trust can take years to fully establish, it often takes years to fully restore. Rush forgiveness may bypass the rebuilding of trust.

That’s why deep hurts cannot be brushed aside but need gentle, honest care over time.

Examine Yourself and Take Responsibility

Reflect on How Your Actions Contributed

When seeking forgiveness from someone, it’s important to take an honest look at your own actions first. Here are some tips for self-reflection:

  • Think carefully about what you did that caused offense or hurt. Don’t downplay your actions.
  • Consider the impact and consequences of your behavior. How did your actions affect the other person emotionally or practically?
  • Look for patterns. Is this an isolated incident or part of a broader trend in how you relate to others?
  • Ask God to search your heart and reveal any wrong motives or sinful attitudes behind your actions. We can often blind ourselves to our own faults.

This type of humble self-examination is essential. It’s very hard to receive forgiveness if you fail to see and acknowledge your own role in the situation.

Don’t Make Excuses – Own Your Part

When you’ve hurt someone, it can be tempting to downplay your actions, shift blame, or make excuses. But blame shifting often backfires. According to marriage experts, taking ownership for your part of a conflict is crucial:

“We’re usually tempted to blame our spouse entirely for problems in our marriage. But we have to realize that it takes two people to have a conflict.” – Marriage counselor Les Parrott

Here are some practical tips:

  • Resist defending yourself or firing accusations at the other person. Stay focused on your own contribution.
  • Don’t say “I’m sorry, but…” This invalidates an apology by shifting blame.
  • Use “I” statements like “I was wrong when I…” This shows ownership.
  • Assume your share of responsibility, even if it’s just 10%. Don’t refuse to apologize until the other person owns their 90%.

Taking ownership this way can powerfully pave the way for forgiveness. As Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

Ask God to Reveal Any Hidden Motives or Sins

Even if we admit fault, we can still be blind to the deeper sins at play. That’s why prayer is essential. As Psalm 139:23-24 says:

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me.”

Some questions to ask God include:

  • What fears, insecurities or hidden pain influenced my actions?
  • Did selfishness, pride or anger play a role?
  • Did I act out of a desire for revenge, to get my own way or prove a point?
  • Was I trying to cover up or justify my own sins or failures?

Asking God to shine His light on our heart’s true motives can lead to deep conviction and repentance. And as 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Repent Genuinely Before God and the Person

Express Sorrow and Regret for the Hurt Caused

When seeking forgiveness from someone you’ve wronged, it’s important to start by expressing genuine sorrow and regret for the pain you caused them. A heartfelt apology goes a long way. Use “I” statements like “I am deeply sorry for…” or “I truly regret…” to take ownership of your actions.

Explain specifically what you did wrong without making excuses. Validation of their feelings shows true remorse.

The Bible says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This teaches that real repentance involves feeling bad about the sin itself, not just its consequences.

So reflect on how your actions hurt them and damaged the relationship, not just on how getting forgiveness would make you feel better.

Ask for Their Forgiveness While Respecting Their Choice

After apologizing, ask if they can find it in their heart to forgive you. But don’t demand forgiveness or get upset if they struggle to offer it immediately. Forgiveness is a choice and can’t be forced.

The Bible says we should ” Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). So respect their freedom to forgive you on their own timeline, if ever. Keep owning your actions either way.

You could say something like “I don’t expect you to forgive me right now. What I did was very hurtful and healing takes time. I respect whatever decision you make, but I sincerely hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me at some point.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to make amends in our relationship.” This shows you care more about their wellbeing than just getting off the hook yourself.

Make Restitution Where Possible

Part of the repentance process involves trying to make right whatever damages your actions may have caused. The Bible calls this “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). For example, repay anything you owe, fix whatever you broke, or replace what you took unfairly.

These actions don’t obligate someone to forgive you, but could help remove barriers to healing the relationship.

In situations where making literal restitution is not possible, you can still try to restore what was lost more symbolically. Apologize for violating their trust and reassure them of your commitment to acting with integrity going forward.

Or if you damaged their self-esteem, affirm their value and compliment their strengths. Restoring broken intimacy may involve consistently demonstrating lovingkindness over time.

Making amends requires understanding the real impacts of what you did. Don’t assume you know – ask! Say something like “I want to make right what I’ve done wrong as best I can. Can you explain what this situation cost you so I can understand what I need to make amends for?”

Then try your best to redeem what they say was lost.

Give Them Time and Space

Don’t Force Reconciliation Before They’re Ready

When someone is hurt by your actions, they need time to process their emotions before they can forgive. Pushing for reconciliation too soon can feel invalidating and make the situation worse. Give them space and let them approach you when they feel ready, as hard as that may be.

Send occasional messages reaffirming your care for them, but avoid demanding a response if they need more time.

As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Trust that God is working in their heart to bring healing and restoration in His timing.

Show Patience and Understanding During the Process

The path to forgiveness varies for everyone. Some people may forgive quickly, while others take months or years to regain trust after deep hurts. Regardless of the timeline, respond with compassion rather than judgement or resentment.

Displaying fruits of patience, kindness, and empathy as described in Galatians 5:22 will demonstrate the sincerity of your apology during their healing process. This may involve giving them space when asked, listening without defensiveness about their hurt, respecting their boundaries, and supporting them through emotional ups and downs.

Focus on Your Own Spiritual Growth

Rather than obsessing over the state of the relationship, shift your focus to your personal walk with God. Spend time praying for the other person’s healing, examining your own faults through Scripture, and surrendering pride and selfishness to become more Christlike.

As taught in Matthew 7:3-5, be attentive to the plank in your own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s. Make needed changes like seeking counsel from your pastor or Christian friends, journaling about lessons learned, and identifying temptations to avoid in the future.

Drawing nearer to God yourself positions you to extend the same grace you receive from Him. And when reconciliation happens, your spiritual growth makes unity more meaningful and lasting.

Continue to Act in Love Toward Them

Even when someone refuses to forgive us, the Bible calls us to continue treating them with love and kindness (Romans 12:20). This can be extremely difficult when we feel hurt or angry, but it is key to restoring broken relationships.

As the saying goes, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

Speak Well of Them to Others

When talking about the person who won’t forgive you to mutual friends or acquaintances, make an effort to say only positive things. Counter hurtful words with blessings and well-wishes instead of reacting in kind (Romans 12:14).

This prevents bitterness from taking root and shows you still care for them, even if reconciliation is not possible right away.

Counter Bitterness with Blessing

Pray for the person who won’t forgive you, asking God to bless them rather than repaying evil for evil. Studies show that praying for someone releases oxytocin and decreases anxiety – ultimately making you feel happier and more positive toward them over time.

So overcoming bitterness through focused prayer can soften hearts on both sides.

Look for Ways to Serve Them

Finally, actively look for small ways to meet your estranged friend or family member’s needs without expectation of repayment. Is their birthday coming up? Send an anonymous gift or donation in their honor. Did you hear their child is sick? Drop off a hot meal or gift card for groceries.

These quiet acts of service show that reconciliation is still possible and you care about their wellbeing, even if forgiveness isn’t immediate.

Research overwhelmingly shows that responding to wrongs with love is the best path to forgiveness and restored connections. While it can be extremely difficult, intentionally blessing those who hurt you opens the door for them to eventually move past bitterness.

So stay hopeful! With continued patience and acts of kindness on your part, their heart may eventually soften and reconciliation can occur.

Pray for Their Healing and the Restoration of the Relationship

Lift Them Up Regularly in Prayer

When someone has hurt us deeply, one of the most powerful things we can do is pray for them. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Bring their name before God daily, asking Him to draw them close, soften their hearts, and heal whatever wounds or pain may be causing their actions (James 5:16).

We should plead for God’s unconditional love and grace to overflow into their lives. Faithfully interceding for them demonstrates Christ’s redeeming power.

Ask God to Soften Both of Your Hearts

Forgiveness and reconciliation are a two-way street. As we pray for the one who hurt us, we must also ask God to soften our own hearts and show us any ways we might have contributed to the brokenness of the relationship (Matthew 7:3-5).

Pride, selfishness, judgment, and impatience often create an environment where hurt easily grows. As God helps us become more humble and gentle, peace is restored. According to Ligonier Ministries, God softens hard hearts through His word, His Spirit, and His rod of correction.

Trust God to Work Even When You Don’t See Progress

Sometimes it can feel discouraging when we pray day after day without seeing our offender soften or apologize. But we are called to trust God is working behind the scenes in ways we cannot see or understand (Isaiah 55:8–9). We may not witness the actual breakthrough in this life.

Yet as Christians, we look forward to the day when all wrongs are righted and every broken relationship restored in God’s glorious kingdom (Revelation 21:4). Our continued prayers are deposits into this future promise of redemption.


Though challenging, extending forgiveness even when it’s rejected aligns with God’s Word and character. As we navigate unforgiveness from others, we can draw close to Jesus who modeled grace and mercy from the cross.

When we do the hard work of self-reflection, repentance, and loving the other person well, reconciliation may eventually follow. However, even if the relationship isn’t restored, we can rest knowing we have obeyed God’s command to forgive.

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