How to Forgive Someone Who Has Let You Down

It may seem difficult to forgive someone who has let us down. However, before we get lost in a haze of anger and indignation over the perceived let-down, it might be a good idea to look within to understand our own role in the issue.


Could I Be to Blame, At Least in Part?


No one likes to feel let down, but it is important to look within to see where the source of these feelings may be coming from. You might think this is an odd thing to do. “The feelings are coming from the person who let me down, of course,” we hear you say.


The trouble with this is that it makes you into a helpless victim of the actions, or inactions, of others. They do or don’t do what you expect, and you feel let down and disappointed.


The phrase to “let someone down” implies there was an expectation that was not met. Let’s imagine a few common situations so we can get a better grasp of what might be going on.


For example, imagine your romantic partner agreed to meet you for dinner at your favorite restaurant, then canceled at the last minute. The first thing to consider is whether or not it was unavoidable. Do they have to work late, did their car break down, and so on? In these instances, it is disappointing, of course, but not something the other person should be blamed for.


“If they really cared about me, they would…”. What if you were expecting a fuss for your birthday, such as a romantic dinner for two and a nice gift? Most people do give gifts to each other for birthdays, so that is not an unreasonable expectation. But what about the romantic aspect of it? For some people, a candlelit dinner is enough. For others, it should be no expense spared, with champagne, plus a nice gift at the end of the lavish meal.


The trouble is that most people are not mind readers. They might think pizza with a bottle of wine and a movie is the perfect way to celebrate your birthday. They did make an effort, and as the phrase goes, it’s the thought that counts.


Giving Up on Notions of Perfection


People are not perfect. Nor are birthdays, meals, gifts and so on – except in the eye of the beholder. If we expect things to be “perfect” all the time, we are going to be let down a lot of the time. If on the other hand we cultivate an attitude of gratitude and are happy that the other people in our lives are doing their best, we will feel a lot more appreciative and a lot less disappointed.


Feeling less disappointed means that you won’t feel let down so often, and that means you will have a great deal less to forgive.


When Is Forgiveness Required?


If you offer unconditional love without expectations, then forgiveness and deciding whether or not to forgive someone isn’t really a question that will ever arise.


If you are 100% certain that they have deliberatly set out to hurt you, then you might need to consider it. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat – not the other person. Living a life of honesty and integrity will allow you to love without expectations because you understand that everyone makes their own choices for various reasons which often have nothing to do with you.


Be honest when your feelings are hurt, but don’t fly off the handle just because you were expecting one thing and got another.


Is it possible to forgive people when they let us down? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.



Will Burley has worked in the legal field since 2001 as a paralegal and small business owner. Will has an interest in small business formation and management and partners with organizations to advocate for issues that work towards the advancement of those that are disabled, LGBTQ and racially diverse. Will’s hobbies include singing, travelling and being a great guide dog daddy.

Will Burley – who has written posts on Will Burley's Blog.


  1. The problem as I see it, Will, is that many “forgive”, but they remember. So, the next situation where expectations are unmet become graver in proportion. Which eventually leads to a great schism.
    I feel that is among the primary reasons that couples divorce so often. It’s the accumulation of perceived failures to satisfy that become overwhelming. (And, explains multiple divorces, as well.)
    I am not being pollyannish- sure there are abuse issues, outside-the-marriage liaisons, but those account for – at best 50% of the marriage failures.

    • Hi Roy.

      I can see your point. What I’m trying to do, which is sometimes not successful, is being a better communicator. I can only hope that makes any situation have a better chance at resolution. Thanks for your continued wise words…

  2. As for being let down by my spouse, it’s never happened in the 53 years we have been together. We are far from “fancy” so I’d prefer a romantic dinner of a burger or pizza in our living room. Gifts also are not a big thing, we have each other and that’s enough for us. He does constantly bring me flowers, not large store bought bouquets but a single rose from our garden. But don’t get my wrong, I have been let down many times by others that I realized were just using me. I am a forgiving person on all but one. When someone hurts my grandchildren, all beats are off and there is no forgiveness or forgetting.

    • Hi Ms. Martha!

      You are definitely an inspiration! Like you, I’m a pretty simple guy and can only hope that we can reach 53 years and beyond… Thanks so much for your post and uplifting words that I truly needed…

  3. When I got married, it wasn’t long before I realized my husband and I had vastly different expectations for how special days should be celebrated. In his culture, birthdays didn’t get much attention, whereas in my family they were always big deals. I learned to adapt and he learned that I liked to go out to dinner on special days. We stopped buying cards and presents long ago and spend the money doing something together instead. For me it wasn’t about forgiving, even though at first I was let down. My own expectations were a big part of the problem. So I decided to accept my husband the way he was and not try to make him fit into a mold of expectations I had. We’ve been married over 53 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *