How to forgive someone: 12 proven steps to letting go of your
How to forgive someone: (without damaging yourself)
How to forgive someone (even if you don’t want to)
Your thinking it might be better to forgive someone.
They’ve betrayed you in some way.
Perhaps you caught them doing something that they know would hurt you if you found out. If you’re in a relationship, it could be an affair or something tantamount to that.
Or someone has physically or mentally harmed you with vicious verbal abuse.
Possibly it is you who has done wrong and you’re wondering if you should be forgiven.
Part of you wants to forgive and move on, but there’s a wall of pain and anger inside you that doesn’t seem to go away. Every time you think of the acts this person has done to you, you question if it’s possible to forgive at all.
“Why should you forgive? Do they deserve it?” these questions buzz around your head. Yet that part of you who wants to deal with this and put the past behind you is nagging at you too.
If any of the above applies to you, then you’ll benefit from these tips on how to forgive.
Forgiveness is not easy, it maybe one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. More often than not it is worth it though, not for the other person, but for you. Read steps below to find out why.
Why is it important to forgive?
Forgiving is something you do for yourself and not for the person who has harmed you.
Importantly forgiving does not necessarily mean maintain or restoring a relationship with the person who has harmed you. Nor does forgiving someone mean you have to excuse someone or condone their behaviour. Some acts are unforgivable.
Forgiveness is about a shift in your mind-set away from seeking revenge and holding on to the anger and sense of injustice inside you.
Plenty of research suggests that forgiveness has a number of psychological benefits for the forgiver.
The act of forgiving releases tension and reduces the amount of time a person spend dwelling on the past in anger.
Forgiving people are less likely to be depressed, anxious, angry, hateful, hostile, depressed and neurotic.
In the long run, the preoccupation, hostility, and resentment that you harbour only hurts you, both emotionally and physically.
Why is it hard to forgive?
It is hard to forgive as the first natural reaction of humans to an insult, offence, betrayal, or desertion is to react negatively.
In these circumstances, because you have been hurt so badly you instinctively want to lash out. Seeing the person triggers the pain and so you may want to avoid them. Your anger may manifest itself as a desire for revenge.
Ultimately the inability to forgive is based on a limbering sense that the person does not deserve it. That by allowing ourselves to forgive someone we are saying we accept their behaviour. And, in truth, you don’t and perhaps never will.
And let’s not forget, humans are emotional creatures.
You are not able to reason your way into forgiving someone. The injury and abuse you have received are forms of trauma and trauma is whole body experience. Forgiving someone isn’t an act of just willing it, the pain and trauma and steps to forgiveness have to be worked thorough.
There are stages to forgiveness and you have to go through them one by one.
How to practice forgiveness
Practicing forgiveness is a process of selecting forgiveness activities and trying them out to find which ones work best for you. Below is a list of forgiveness activities for adults, select ones that you think will help you work through the process of forgiveness. If you don’t seem to be getting the benefits from one activity then switch to another.
Try to complete more than one. It can take several steps to forgiveness.
Remember times when you were forgiven
One of the first steps to forgiveness is to remember a time when someone has forgiven you for something.
Recall a time that you have done harm to another person.
Perhaps it was being hateful to your parents, betraying a lover or avoiding a friend.
If those individuals forgave you, how did they do it? What did they say and what was your response?
Take a step back; see if you can answer these questions:
- Why do you believe they did it?
- Do you think they benefited from forgiving you?
- Did you and your relationship with the person benefit as well?
- Did the experience teach you anything or change you in any way?
- What insight do you have about the experience?
If you can answer these questions it will help you see the benefits of forgiving and perhaps provide a model for your own forgiving.
Imagine what forgiveness is like.
Bring the person who has offended you to mind and try to imagine granting them your complete forgiveness.
Try to see the whole person rather than the particular act or act they have committed against you.
Remember granting forgiveness does not necessarily imply excusing or tolerating the offenders’ behaviour, but it does entail trying to let go of your hurt, anger and hostility and adopting a more charitable and benevolent perspective.
Take your time with this exercise.
Consider your thoughts, feeling and behaviours in detail.
Here’s an example:
- When you imagine forgiving your father for abandoning you, what would you say to him?
- What emotions would you feel and how intensely and in what order?
- What would your facial expression look like?
- Which physical sensation would be triggered in your body?
The more time you can spend imagining exactly what it would be like to forgive, the easier it is for your body to actually forgive.
Write a letter of forgiveness
Writing letters is a proven way of working through deep emotions.
You don’t need to send the letter.
In the letter you should describe in detail the injury or offence that has caused you so much pain.
Spend time to explain how you were affected by it at the time and how you continue to be hurt by it. State what you wished the other person had done instead.
If you can, end the letter with an explicit statement of forgiveness and understanding.
Many of my clients undertake this activity and get a lot from it. Be warned, though. Writing these letters can stir up a lot of emotion that’s more powerful than you realise. Prepare yourself in case there’s a strong after affect that last for a few days.
Sitting down to write anything is hard. If you do attempt to do so, but find it too difficult then perhaps consider putting t aside and trying gain in a few weeks, or make a commitment to write it and then read it to someone at a certain time, that may force you to get down to this difficult task.
Another tip is an old writer’s one, lock yourself in a room and don’t come out until you’ve finished the letter. If none of these suggestions work, try writing to forgive someone for a minor and much less painful transgression.
You can move on to more and more difficult cases with time.
Empathy is the act of understanding another person problems, emotions and thoughts; it is attempting to put yourself in the other persons shoes.
Studies how that empathy highly correlates with forgiveness. The more successful you are at achieving understanding, concern and consideration of the other person’s perspective, the more likely you are to eventually forgive him or her.
One ways to practice empathy in your daily life is to notice every time someone does something that you do not understand.
Try to work out such a person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why did he behave the way he did?
- What factors might explain it?
Could you ask the person yourself? If they are not particularly self-aware you might not learn a lot, but it may still be useful to understand their perspective.
If possible, try to look on the person’s errors in the best light. Take a moment to imagine the most charitable explanation for their behaviour.
What problems were they struggling with?
What have they learnt form their mistake?
If this person is unwilling or unable to apologies to you, try to imagine what reasons they would give for what they did. Imagine they are writing you an apology letter, what would they say?
If you can see things a little more form the others person perspective, this will make forgiveness easier.
Don’t dwell on it.
Dwelling on things is a considerable barrier to forgiveness.
The more time you spend brooding over the things that someone has done to you, the more likely you are to hold onto your hurt and anger and the less motivated you’ll be to forgive.
Scientists often call the act of repeatedly going over the same events (or events) rumination. The more you ruminate the angrier, resentful, and humiliated and put upon you feel. You stir yourself up and send time thinking about what you want to say and do to the person who has hurt you.
The problem is that while it may feel satisfying in the short term, fantasising about how you may physically or verbally hurt someone increases your hostility.
Each time you remember the offence, you are triggering your feelings of hurts, blame, antagonism and rage.
In order to stop ruminating on what’s been done to you practise distraction by immediately diverting your attention to another thought or by absorbing yourself in an engrossing activity.
Say ‘stop’ to yourself and focus your thoughts elsewhere. It’ll benefit you in the long run.
Learn form Others
Forgiving someone can be an incredibly hard thing to do. It can be useful to read stories about how other people have come to terms with transgressions against them.
Whether it is a famous person like Nelson Mandela who after spending 37 years in prison for fighting for the end of apartheid on South Africa said:
“When I walked out the gate I knew if I continued to hate these people I was still in prison.”
Or you can learn from ordinary people who find the courage to forgive their child’s murderers or many other crimes committed against them.
Although it has been a hard and difficult process people have eventual forgiven fathers for alcoholism, wives’ for cheating, friends for using them, bosses for being spiteful and parents that didn’t fulfil their obligations in full.
In many of these cases, the person doing the forgiving decided to re-establish contact with the person they had decided to forgive.
Whether that is the right thing for you, however, is a choice only you can make.
How to forgive
You want to forgive or you bleive that forginv might be the right thing to do, yet you’ve been stuggling to find a way to do so.
The emotions are too strong and the pain still deep and all sorts of things trigger off your anger and resentment.
You don’t want your kindness to be mistaken as accepting and condoning an act. What others’ have done to you is wrong.
Yet you want to move on too.
You don’t want to be dwelling on the past with rage and bitterness eating you up inside.
But now you know forgiveness is a process. You cam forgive and let go. You can pass through stages of forgiveness and there are forgiveness activities for adults.
Try out the different activities and find ones which work for you. Enlist the support of friends and family. Keep working at it. Remember the process of forgiving someone is as much about working through bodily emotion as it is about using a rational mind.
And don’t forget the rewards can be worth it.
The practice of forgiveness can lead to a sense of being in control, after all the choice to forgive is yours only. And it can also lead to less stress, anger and sadness. Freeing you to move on.
Forgiving others, might well be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
12 steps forgiveness
process of forgiveness
steps to forgiveness
stages of forgiveness
Another way to appreicte being forgiven is to seek forgivness for yourself for hurting someone.
Whether it’s for a past or present wrong, write a letter of apology.