our everyday life

How to Forgive Someone Who Does Not Deserve Forgiveness

by S. Grey, studioD

When someone does something to you that you feel does not deserve forgiveness, you may find it easy to hold onto anger -- but you can still forgive. You do not have to tell them you forgive them and release your anger. Forgiving people you think do not deserve forgiveness does not give them a pass to hurt you, but it does offer you the freedom to move forward.

Reframe Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be difficult, but reframing your views on it can help you give it even though you feel others do not deserve it. Forgiveness does not condone others' actions toward you, and it does not mean you have forgotten what people have done to you. Forgiveness also does not require an apology from people who wronged you, so you do not have to be around them. Instead, forgiveness is an act of healing for yourself. Holding on to a grudge has adverse effects for your mind and body. According to WebMD, the effects of grudges can range from depression to cardiovascular issues. Forgiveness leads to reduced anxiety, depression and lower blood pressure.


Accept your emotions and circumstances to be able to forgive. Acceptance does not mean being okay with how others have treated you. It does mean coming to terms with what people have done to you and acknowledging that those events cannot be undone. This process is considered a form of secondary control, in which you adapt to things beyond your control. By accepting the feelings and events around a situation with someone you feel does not deserve forgiveness, you are better able to process them.

Express Emotions

Emotional expression aids in forgiving someone you feel does not deserve forgiveness. This process allows you to release mental tension that builds as a result of bottling your emotions. Give yourself permission to feel anger, sadness or even shame. One exercise that aids in emotional expression is the empty chair activity. This activity is used in therapy to help clients release and process emotions by talking to a "person" in an empty chair. Set up a chair opposite yourself and let the "person" in the chair be the person you're working to forgive. Let loose your emotions and thoughts -- since the chair is empty, it is safe to be as open and uncensored as you like. Once you finish the activity, you are likely to feel a sense of catharsis that leads to healing as well as forgiveness.

Move Forward

Letting go and moving forward are major aspects of forgiveness, because they are an active transition from anger and hurt to freedom. Letting go means making the choice to no longer harbor resentment toward others, regardless of how much you feel they do not deserve forgiveness. Much like letting go, moving forward entails making a decision to no longer let others' actions affect or influence you. Both of these elements reduce the hold that resentment has on you and enable you to have a more positive future.

About the Author

S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.

Photo Credits

  • John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images