Forgiving When It Seems Impossible

Taylor Jankowski

9 mins

Recently, I learned of the power, necessity, and path to forgiveness—true forgiveness—and I’m better in so many ways because of it. I just wish it didn’t need to come through heartbreak and losing a close friendship.

This friend and I were the best of friends. I’m talking trips together, matching tattoos, being there for all the highs & lows kind of best friends. She took me under her wing when I moved to my current city and helped me meet so many people—including a tight friend group I became a part of. She even helped me land a job working with her after nine months of desperately searching for employment.

Then, the unexpected happened. I was approached about a leadership opportunity that my best friend was hoping for. I didn’t want to accept the role, but felt as though God was pushing me toward it, and I wanted to be obedient. When I accepted, my friend cut me out of her life and our friend group. It was painful, raw, and a complete surprise.

No closure or apology came, and I was left to endlessly jump to conclusions about why I was no longer worthy of being her friend. I lost not only my best friend, but my only friend group in a brand new city. It hurt. Bad.


How Culture (and I, Usually) Go About Forgiveness

My brain spiraled as I cycled through so many ways in which I wanted to respond to my friend (and to my pain). I felt justified to seeth in bitterness and revenge—and I knew most people wouldn’t call me crazy for doing so.

I remember the vivid temptation to tell mutual friends what she had done to me, how she had betrayed me, and the hurt I was still experiencing. Maybe then they would see who she “really” was and drop her the way she dropped me. I remember the anger and resentment I felt that other people got to remain her friend while I was unfairly outcasted.

Culture tells us to “forgive but not forget.” Culture wants us to white-knuckle forgiveness and only offer it out if they apologize or if their behavior is deemed reasonable enough. Culture lets us be selective about whom we offer grace and when we want to do so. Culture fantasizes about being the “bigger person,” yet then wears it as a crown and proudly and publicly proclaims that we’re better than the person we “forgave.”


But, in this situation and many others from my life, all this pride and accumulated grudges weighed me down like a heavy backpack with one fraying strap. It’s crippling and never actually helped me get over any of the hurt, pain, or anger. I’ve seen it stay with me and eat away at my jaded heart, little by little until I have no more trust or grace to give out to other people or myself. It holds the people in my life to an impossible standard of perfection they were never meant to achieve and never will.

In my darkest of moments spent hurting over this lost friendship, where I was bitter, sad, and all the above—I was hit with the way Jesus speaks of forgiveness.

Why We Can Forgive

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” (Colossians 3:13a).

When I came across this verse, I realized it doesn’t say, “Forgive one another if they’re truly sorry” or “Forgive one another if they give you a sincere apology.” It doesn’t even tell us to think about forgiving someone. It simply says just to do it: forgive.

But…why? Why should I forgive, especially if that person doesn’t deserve it?

The rest of that verse explains why: “…Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13b).

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”, said the late C.S. Lewis. If I’m to freely accept God’s gift of grace, I realized, who am I to withhold that from others? Who am I to act like I hadn’t done things that required forgiveness from others, even when I wasn’t deserving?

In the Gospel of John, an account of Jesus’ life, there is a story where some teachers of the law caught a woman who had committed adultery and were prepared to stone her to death. Jesus intervened and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). Spoiler alert: no one was able to throw a stone. They all knew they had sinned greatly and were nowhere near perfect.

And Jesus, who was perfect, and God, would have had more of a right to throw a stone than anyone. Yet He didn’t.


Though I didn’t hurt my friend in the way she hurt me, I am certainly not without flaws. Throughout my life, I’ve been the one being stoned, but I’m sad to say I’ve also been the one throwing stones at times. I accepted that God wanted to heal me of my bitterness toward my friend because he’s forgiven the unforgivable in me. I chose to lay my stones at his feet. Holding onto the weight of the stones that I was never meant to carry did me no good.

But it wasn’t as simple as choking out the words “I forgive you” yet having my stomach churn with hatred and trying to move on. I needed more words of wisdom from Jesus.

How We Can Forgive

One practice I began to help me forgive my former friend was (and still is) intentionally praying for her every day—yes, every day—because I realized a one-and-done strategy didn’t make me that much less bitter toward her. I’ve been consistently praying blessings over her, her family, and her relationships, and just as Jesus said, forgiveness has gotten easier and more effortless.

I realized that the more I prayed for her, the more I started to see her how I believe God sees her—as someone to be loved and, like us all (myself included), a work in progress. It’s also what Jesus tells me to do with those who have wronged me:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45).


Figuring Out What “Moving On” Means

To be clear, I don’t believe forgiveness has to mean reconciliation. I think boundaries are great to have. In the book of Galatians, when the apostle Paul and the disciple Peter get into a disagreement, we don’t see them high-fiving and becoming best friends afterward. They seem to go their separate ways in ministry after their conflict occurs.

I believe it’s possible to forgive someone peacefully and quietly with the Lord, and I don’t think it means you have to let that person back into your close circle or trust them again. By spending time in prayer for forgiveness, I’ve seen how God can help give discernment in that space on whether reconciliation is possible or should happen.

In my case, reconciliation didn’t happen. But I’ve seen that same former friend hurt others, and I no longer miss the friendship. In fact, it was rather freeing to lose that close friend and the friend group.

Now, a few years removed from the situation, I’m soon to be married to the love of my life, whom I met shortly after that incident. I believe he was a direct blessing from God, and if I were knuckles-deep in bitterness in dealing with my friend or still in that friend group in general, I might not have met him or even been ready to date him. By pressing into dependence on God during that isolating time, I found someone running with a similar mindset and set myself up to be in a healthy place.

At many times in my life, though, and maybe for you, the “happily ever after” ending doesn’t happen. Sometimes, I’ve seen you just choose to forgive and not get the silver lining or justice you think you deserve. Sometimes, the outcome isn’t fair. Sometimes, most times, I believe God calls us to forgive just because he did.


I don’t know what your situation is. Maybe you’ve been cheated on, perhaps a friend betrayed your trust, or maybe someone stole from you or lied to you. I’m not saying it’s easy to forgive. I think it’s one of the hardest things I do. And I believe there are certain things that only God can forgive, and that’s where I lean on his strength to forgive, not mine. I’m sensitive and can quickly judge, and where I fall short, God does not.

I can freely give grace that God gifted me, even if an apology or explanation never comes. That’s because one doesn’t earn a gift, and we never earned the greatest gift: the life Jesus has offered us from his work on the cross, where the most significant story of love, grace, and forgiveness was displayed.

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Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

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Taylor Jankowski
Meet the author

Taylor Jankowski

From Kids' Club to staff, Crossroads has a special place in my heart. When I'm not listening to Taylor Swift or playing with my cat Crouton, you can find me reading, traveling, hanging with my fiancé, and dreaming about writing a book I'll probably never finish. Big fan of the Oxford comma.

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