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Notebook and Pencil

5 Reasons Why You Must Forgive People Who Do You Wrong

If you’ve read any of my posts, you will realize that my academic ride hasn’t been the smoothest one. I have come face to face with conflict and confrontation on more than one occasion. Every time I’ve engaged with these situations, I have had a choice either to retaliate in anger or to turn the other cheek. Although I have (almost always!) turned that proverbial cheek, I am learning that if I don’t forgive others, bitterness can settle in my heart quite quickly and can cause a host of problems (e.g., stress, frustration, and resentment).

Most recently, the topic of forgiveness was highlighted by the families of the nine people murdered during a Wednesday night Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. As the confessed murderer stood handcuffed before the family via a television screen, numerous family members spoke through their pain to say that they prayed for the killer’s soul. A barrage of media commentators voiced astonishment at how people could forgive in the midst of such vicious assassinations.

The theme of forgiveness resonated with me, and I reflected on how forgiveness plays a role in my professional life. In true Reverend Dr. Monica Cox fashion, allow me to break down why you need to forgive your professional colleagues even when they don’t seem to deserve your forgiveness.


1. You delay your happiness.

A few years ago, I was involved in a research misconduct case. A team of individuals across several campuses and I worked together to submit a $2.5 million grant to a federal agency. Our proposal was not funded, but I realized after several months that content from our grant was duplicated in another grant that was eventually funded by the same agency. I chose to follow proper protocol and file a complaint against the only person who was engaged on both grant teams. After 1 1/2 years of research investigations and questioning across two institutions, the research misconduct committee confirmed that duplication had occurred, but they couldn’t prove who duplicated the content.

Imagine my anger and distress. I had worked diligently to lead efforts on this grant submission, and at the end of the day, no one would be held accountable for the “duplication.” I could not understand why someone would lie about copying my work, but I realized that I couldn’t force this person to come clean just because it was the (seemingly) right thing to do. Just three weeks ago, I saw my work on the funded grant’s project website. Surprisingly, I didn’t blow up. In my heart, I knew that the ideas on that page originated from my team, but I actually had compassion for her, an individual who felt the need to copy someone else’s ideas. That woman had moved on with her life, and I should do the same.

Takeaway: You can kick and scream, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. After you’ve done all that you can ethically and from a policy perspective, know that the people who are dishonest must live with their actions. Forgive them, because you have other ideas to pursue and other people to impact.

2. You remain connected to people who add little to no value to your life.

My Pastor presented a great analogy about forgiveness. He said that unforgiveness is like a poison that you drink while the person who does you wrong sits back and watches. In other words, you are killing yourself, yet the other person is walking around as free as a bird.

This hit home for me when I realized that if anything important happened to me, the people who had done me wrong would not care, and if the thing that happened to me was negative, some of these people would be quite happy about my demise. Birthdays would come and go, and there would be no message. A significant life event would happen, and there would be no acknowledgment of it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how stupid it was for me to expect a person who had hurt me to care about me as much as I cared about them.

Takeaway: You can stalk a person’s social media page all day to see what they are doing, but they aren’t giving a rat’s tail about you. Count your losses and move on. Learn from your experience, and forgive them for trespassing against you. Believe me when I say t