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How Forgiveness Fatigue Ruins Relationships

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

A man and woman face off or having an argument
Image Credit: Wix Media

A man who was probably frustrated by being repeatedly offended by his brother (or maybe sister) went to Jesus and asked a question.

Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22, KJV).

This man was like all of us. He wanted to know what the allowable tolerance level was so that he could set his breaking point. He needed to know how far he should tolerate his brother before cutting them loose.

Focus on the offender

Whenever we read this text, we often talk about the need for the offender to seek forgiveness. At the same time, the one who is wronged is often encouraged to continuously offer forgiveness.

It is no wonder that the man who was repeatedly wronged became exhausted. Such persons would remain agitated and frustrated as long as they continue to see themselves as innocent and helpless victims in an endless loop of offenses.

Constantly offended?

Seventy-seven times - a day, a week, or perhaps in a month? Whatever the timeframe, seventy-seven is a lot of offenses to keep track of.

It takes a lot of mental and emotional bandwidth to keep such detailed and meticulous records of offenses. In fact, it says a lot about the one keeping the record.

They may be too easily provoked, and like an active volcano, are always ready to erupt without notice.

Figuratively speaking, they may have too many eggshells or delicate edges. People around them may tiptoe as much as they can but the relationships will always be fragile and crises prone.

When people complain of others frequently stepping on their toes, they often forget to check if their toes occupy too much space in the first place.

If their toes take up less space in the room, the chances of people stepping on them would be much less.

Another factor that could fragilize a relationship is expectations. Having unrealistic expectations of others increases the chances of being constantly irritated and offended. Lowered expectations would naturally lower the number of offenses.

An angry man pointing finger
Image Credit: Adi Goldstein in Unsplash

Grace wanted

To be gracious means to provide an allowance for others to be human. This is the same way accountants make provision for bad debts.

Faults need to be provided for in human relationships the same way businesses make provisions for bad debts as a normal and healthy business practice.

Constant offenses could mean grace is lacking. Someone forgot to make provision for bad debts - which is what sin and offenses are.

Grace provides the platform to be kind and courteous even if the other fellow does not deserve it.

The absence of grace could also cause a high propensity for conflict. On the flip side, high-conflict individuals lack grace and tend to find reasons to be unhappy with everyone and disgruntled about everything.

Effectively, such people lack the self-regulation needed to pick their battles and prioritize peaceful co-existence.

Any relationship that lacks grace cannot escape constant bickering and bitterness.

The presence of bitterness, malice, and resentment certainly increases the chances of offenses happening multiple times a day.

The man or woman in the mirror

This is a call for us all to look inward. We focus too much on the offenses, behaviour, and attitudes of others. If you focus too much on what is wrong with others, you will never see what is wrong with you.

Jesus said:

You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye (Matthew 7:5, GNT).

What is the point?

Forget about your brother or sister, neighbour, or whoever you think is constantly annoying and offending you. Stop the count!

Determine in your heart to be gracious, kind, and peace-loving; and you will see the quality of your relationships improve exponentially from bad to good, or from good to great.


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