But how do you do it? Are there some 3, 5, 7, 10 or 12 steps to
forgiveness that you can memorize and which will never fail?
and no. Wouldn't it be great if forgiving was as easy as following a recipe:
just combine these ingredients, let them sit for a while, bake them, cool them,
and voila! - instant forgiveness?
In the end forgiveness is but a
decision, and so you can actually do it real quick (almost like 'instant
forgiveness'), but forgiveness can also be hard work whilst walking a long and
meandering path, because if you really feel that you have been badly hurt or
wronged you're likely to take some convincing before you just let it go.
That said and recipes aside, learning how to forgive is actually learning a
skill - one that has wonderfully freeing and life-giving results, and which will
greatly benefit you for the rest of your life - provided you use it, of course.
It is very easy to see that whomever you
feel has hurt, slighted or otherwise wronged you - the wrongdoer -
is the one to forgive. But actually the picture is more nuanced than
that, because you to harness the power of forgiveness you ALSO need
to forgive yourself (self forgiveness) - and life itself.
Does that sound weird? Forgiving yourself, and forgiving life? It
isn't. No matter what happened to you, you yourself played a role.
Both in the nasty situation (the trauma) and in the time that
followed the trauma.
Even if what happened to you was totally
random. Even if no-one other than yourself was involved, YOU were
involved. Both when it happened and afterwards. If nothing else then
you decided how to interpret what happened, and that interpretation
may well have hurt you, and still be hurting you to this day. And so
there is a very high possibility that you need to forgive yourself (self
The same is true of life. No matter how we look
at whatever happens in our lives, it will always be a part of, well,
life. That is to say, the things that happen in our lives affect how
we look at life. If there is something we have not forgiven, then we
feel like victims, and we are very likely to feel that life just
isn't fair or just or even that 'life's a bitch' - or whatever we
may want to call it. In other words, we blame life itself for what
So, there is often a real need for us to forgive
life itself - right along with the human offender and ourselves.
In short, whenever you have a need to forgive, you need to at
least consider the options for forgiving:
a) the offender
b) yourself c) life itself
And if it applies, you really
need to forgive all three parties!
Unforgiveness - What
Happens If You Don't Forgive Yourself, Others and Life?
VERY briefly said, your mind and feelings assume the characteristics
of a victim as they get rigid and trapped in the past, whilst
fearing for the future (a repetition of the trauma). This focus in
the past and future makes you partially or entirely unable to
experience the present the way it is, which in turn makes you feel
disconnected, disempowered, sad and alone.
And as if that
wasn't unpleasant enough in itself, there's more:
when you remain unforgiving, the mental and emotional inflexibility
leaves you not only stubbornly and egocentrically self-righteous ("They're
guilty and wrong whereas I'm innocent and right") but also more
vulnerable to hurt because you refuse to let old wounds heal, so to
Also, as is always the case whenever you are overly
identified with your ego (as opposed to your heart or soul), you
will be more prone to fear, anxiety and depression than you would
otherwise have been - as well as blind to
The latter 'blindness' to absolute reality is extremely unpleasant,
because absolute reality is where you would have experienced love,
inner peace, freedom and happiness - had you been able to access it
... say, by letting go and forgiving.
unforgiving requires an enormous amount of energy. Not only do you
feel vulnerable and on constant guard because of the wounds you
won't allow to heal, but you need to be able to contain hurt,
sadness, resentment, anger, blame and maybe even hatred for an
extended period of time. Add this to that the fact not being present
in the here-and-now is draining (as mentioned above) and you've got
a cocktail that's nothing short of exhausting.
If all of this
sounds nasty, that's because it is. Being unforgiving isn't a
pleasant or even healthy state of being. This has been proven by the
scientific fact that actually being forgiving is not only very
pleasant but also very good for both your mental health, your
emotional health and your physical health, whereas being unforgiving
is just the opposite: very detrimental to your health.
the power of forgiveness is great and learning some steps to
forgiveness is worthwhile.
Why We Don't Want to Forgive
Confusion about what forgiveness is probably the primary
thing that keeps us from forgiving others. We are afraid that it
minimizes the dreadfulness of the offense, or somehow says that
whatever happened is okay. We struggle with the fear that if we
forgive, then somehow the offender gets off free, or they will go
and repeat the same offense. (Those feelings have nothing to with
reality, of course; they're just fear based feelings).
Forgiveness seems costly, and in judicial terms, unfair. Our
primitive instincts tells us that punishment is what the other
deserves. Yet, as we wrestle with the idea of setting the other free
from the debt of their offense, we find that we are bound to them.
Yep, that's right: as long as we don't forgive, we're bound to
the offender. Closely connected, even if that is the last thing we
want to be. We think about them, feel lots emotions to do with them,
and in our mind's eye we may play through different scenarios to do
with justice and perhaps even vengeance. We are imprisoned in the
memories of the wrong and the wrongdoer, and are caught in a
corroding cycle of anger, bitterness and hate.
definitely not healthy. We need to forgive.
10 Steps to
Forgiveness: Forgiving Others, Yourself and Life Itself
Forgiveness can be quick (as it is a decision), but it can also be
an ongoing process that takes time because you need to convince
yourself that forgiving is the right thing for you to do - and the
best way to find inner peace.
If your forgiveness process
turns out to be a longer one, you may need to go through these steps
to forgiveness several times until you are able to forgive and set
You may not have to make a big deal of each
step, though; sometimes it is enough to go through some of the steps
fairly quickly. Other steps may require you to spend more time and
maybe write things down - and perhaps also talk to one or a couple
of very non-judgmental friends (or a life coach, a psychiatrist or
some other mental health professional). First, here's a brief
overview of all the 10 steps:
1. Make a commitment to feel
better 2. Count the cost - both of what happened AND of your
unforgiveness 3. Attribute responsibility - to others, to life
itself, and to yourself 4. Feel your feelings in their fullness -
and express them. State what is not okay 5. Check your personal
boundaries - and set + enforce better ones 6. De-monsterize the
other (the offender) 6.1. De-monsterize life 6.2.
De-monsterize yourself and let go of the guilt and shame 7.
Realize that you're telling a story of grievance - and stop doing it
8. Relinquish revenge, retribution and even justice 9. Perform a
ritual of forgiveness (and, if applicable: apologize) 10.
Practice mindfulness and live each day as if it were both your first
and your last
Next, here are the steps, described in more
1. Make a commitment to feel better If you're
reading this and you're wanting to learn how to forgive because
there's something you need to forgive, it is almost a certainty that
you are not feeling as good as you might. Grief, anxiety,
depression, disempowerment, bitterness, resentment, anger,
loneliness, alienation and feelings of being trapped are very common
with people who really need to forgive.
When you forgive, it
benefits YOU. Forgiving is all about you and at all not about the
ones you forgive.
To move on you must wholeheartedly want to
do so, and you need to make changes to your own mental, emotional
and spiritual status. Write your commitment to a change for the
better down, and, if you like, place it somewhere you'll see it
If you prefer, you can also keep a diary or a
personal development journal
- those are excellent ways of helping yourself, because when you
write down your commitment in your journal that entry will be there
for the duration of the time you keep the journal.
Count the cost - both of what happened AND of your unforgiveness
Take time to weigh the losses and other consequences of the wrong or
trauma you experienced. What are all the ways that it affected your
life? Make a detailed inventory of all consequences, both the
physical ones, the mental ones, the emotional ones and the other
ones that have to do with the status of your life today. Consider
writing them all down.
Also, there's a cost to NOT forgiving.
We sometimes forget that. Unforgiveness means that we have closed
off our heart and that we live with resentment, anger and maybe even
hate. There's a documented health risk to doing that. Please include
that in your analysis of the costs.
responsibility - to the offender, yourself and life Clearly
identify the responsibility of those who wronged you.
notice if other people (and situations and life itself) had some
part in the responsibility - people who weren't directly involved.
Then move on to your own responsibility: What is your part in
this situation? Both when it happened and later (as you interpreted
and reacted to what happened).
And make no mistake: even if
you hardly played any part in the situation back then, you DO play a
part in it today - if you didn't, there would be no need for you to
Even though it may seem unpleasant or unfair, you
REALLY need to assume responsibility ... not guilt, not shame,
responsibility! Perhaps for your part way back when, but CERTAINLY
for for your life experience today. Only by assuming responsibility
for your PRESENT life experience can you empower yourself.
Please do not minimize or exaggerate anyone's part, but simply note
and acknowledge all of them. Writing all this down is a very good
4. Feel your feelings in their fullness - and
express them This is where you state what is not okay. It is
quite possible that in order to fully forgive, you need to allow
yourself to fully feel and work through anger, bitterness, hate and
any other negative feelings you might harbor.
(negative) feelings verbally, say it out loud, or go to a deserted (or:
soundproof) place and scream it out!
Add physical activity,
if you like: Go running, or hit a pillow, a log of wood or a body of
Also, please consider expressing your feelings through
some form of art, even if you aren't the least bit artistic; it
On a somewhat different note you should keep in
mind that remembering all the things for which you are grateful is a
very useful and powerful self improvement technique. Some people
swear by it and do it every morning or every evening. If you keep a
diary or a personal development journal, you can write it down there,
but you can also keep a dedicated 'gratefulness journal' - or you
can simply say it out loud to yourself, if you like. Either way, 'counting
your blessings' and expressing your gratitude on a regular basis is
a really good idea.
5. Check your personal boundaries -
and set + enforce better ones Remember that forgiveness is not
the same as trust, and it is not opening yourself up to repeated
hurt and abuse. You need clear boundaries for what you will accept
and put up with, and you need to know where you stand on the issue
of responsibility - yours and other people's.
might want to check your
self esteem to see if perhaps it is low, and if it is then commit to doing
something about that.
You may also want to soberly consider
if you are currently holding some
beliefs that aren't serving you - specifically if you are holding any
beliefs that say that you are not the one in charge of your life and
your life experience.
By asking yourself the simple question,
"How many percent do I feel that I am in charge of my life and my
life experience?" you get an indication: If your answer isn't
between 90 and 100 then you have work to do. You need empowerment,
so check out the page
As for boundaries it is all about what you decide is acceptable
and unacceptable behavior and the consequences you decide to enforce
in case of unacceptable behavior. You probably already know that at
a subconscious level, but at a conscious level you may not be aware
of it, and you may allow other concerns to overrule your
subconscious boundaries (e.g. if you're trying to be nice when
really you're starting to feel abused).
That kind of self
defeating behavior needs to stop ... and you're the one who needs to
put an end to it. You do this in three steps:
a) You decide
once and for all what is and what isn't OK, and you commit to always
enforcing that decision.
b) You employ very clear
communication and send out clear, unequivocal messages as to what is
and what is not tolerated.
c) You have decided in advance
what consequences you are going to enforce in case of unacceptable
behavior - and you live up to your decision, every time.
achieve these things you might participate in boundaries training,
seek out professional help, or simply take some informal lessons
from a close friend who is real good with the whole boundaries thing.
6. De-monsterize the other (the offender) It is so easy
when we have been deeply hurt to make the offender into a
one-dimensional monster. But you know what?
The offender is
probably human, just like you. So even if it feels all wrong, try to
put yourself in their stead; imagine everything that happened from
the offender's point of view; put on the shoes of empathy and walk a
mile in their shoes. Remember your own weaknesses, failures and
similar experiences, remember how people you know have similar
weaknesses, and do your level best to understand their motivations
and frailties. 6.1. De-monsterize life If the trauma you
need to forgive is more of a situation without any obvious human
offenders, then it is life itself you need to forgive.
help to remember that life for humans happens as a result of human
choices. In the end what happens to people is a result of the
choices they themselves made - even if it is just a choice to be in
the wrong place at the wrong time and getting hurt or even killed as
If you love someone unconditionally, you know that
you can help them and give them advice but in the end you need to
let them make their own choices, no matter how lousy those choices
turn out to be. Life is like that - it lets us make our own choices
and live or die with the consequences.
On a physical level
the law of conservation of energy tells us that nothing that exists
ever ceases to exist - it may change form, but it will always exist.
On a philosophical level life itself is whole: life is wholeness.
Every occurrence in life is a part of that wholeness, and every
being and thing in life is a part of that wholeness, too, so each
and every person - alive or dead - is, has always been and will
always be whole.
If you are comfortable with the concept of
souls, it may help to remember that no matter what happened, perhaps
the souls involved chose that experience. If someone lost their
physical life, perhaps the soul of that person may have had (and
given to others) the experiences it needed to. From the human
perspective souls are immortal, and they can and do experience
physical life more than once.
If remembering some or all of
that that doesn't help, just remember that life happens - shit
happens. It always has and it always will, and there is nothing any
of us can do about it - other than learn to live with it. But that
we CAN do!
6.2. De-monsterize yourself and let go of the
guilt and shame If you figure that you yourself played a big part
in whatever happened, then you're likely to feel guilt and/or shame.
(Note: guilt and shame are NOT at all the same as grief, they're
much more problematic).
The consequences of allowing guilt
and fear to nag you are dire - and even more so if you allow them to
bug you for an extended period of time.
Guilt and shame are
the close cousins of fear, which means that in the light of absolute
reality / absolute truth what they have to say is a lie, plain and
On top of that guilt and shame make you stupid (just
like fear), as well as eat away at your energy.
If you allow
guilt and shame to nag you for more than just a brief moment, they
will eat away at your self esteem - much quicker than one should
Finally, if you consider guilt and shame objectively
they aren't really very useful - how is feeling guilt and shame
useful in making your life better? It isn't. Of course you can
CONVERT guilt and shame to something useful, like helping other
people, but in and of themselves, those two feelings are basically
useless, no worse, they're damaging.
So, in short, not only
are guilt and shame liars, they are also energy-vampires and self
esteem-cannibals. They can be converted to something useful but in
themselves they are poisonous.
You really need to say goodbye
to guilt and shame as quickly as you can manage it. Use a method
the Let Go Method
or Brandon Bays' The Journey to
get rid of them as fast as you can.
7. Realize that
you're telling a story of grievance - and stop doing it Something
unpleasant happened in your life. Nobody is denying that. The
question is this: Are you going to let that incident control and
form the rest of your life or are YOU going to control and form the
rest of your life?
A fun way to look at it is this: You can
form your life with two kinds of 'clay' or 'wax' or 'play dough'.
The bright, pleasant, healthy kind or the dark, unpleasant,
poisonous kind. The healthy kind is seeing all unpleasantness as a
learning and growing experience; and the poisonous kind is focusing
on the negative aspects and associated feelings and seeing yourself
as a victim. Which kind do you choose?
As long as you keep
telling yourself (and others) a story of grievance in which you are
the victim, you are effectively undermining yourself in every way.
First step is noticing that you are telling yourself and others that
Second step is to not tell it anymore - simply notice
when you start telling yourself the story and then stop doing it.
You will soon get more and more adept at this and be able to stop
the story at an earlier point in the telling. Eventually you will be
able to NOT tell it anymore. Not to other people and not to yourself.
The third step is to use whatever happened to you to move on -
let it empower you to help yourself and help other people. For
example, whatever happened to you doesn't need to happen to other
people, and if it has, you can do your best to help them. You might
work for restoration and reconciliation, or you might work to change
any systemic causes of your offense. But please do so gently,
without expectation or demand.
If you want to tell a story,
the fourth and final step is to tell create a new and better story -
the one in which you learned something and used it to make your life
and the world around you a better place - the one in which you are
empowered. And tell that story to yourself and others. You might
also want to use positive affirmations on a daily basis.
8. Relinquish revenge, retribution and even justice Here's an
interesting fact for you: the betrayed risk becoming betrayers
through unforgiveness and punishment.
If you hold on to
something for a long time, you 'take it in' - it becomes a part of
you and you become like it. This doesn't really take additional
explanation, at an intuitive level you know it is true: people who
focus a lot on something start identifying with that thing.
So if you focus on something negative, like betrayal, for a long
time you risk becoming a betrayer - of yourself, of the one who did
you wrong and of other people, including the ones you love. Surely
you don't want that, and the way forward is to let go of your hurt -
Roberto Assagioli (creator of 'Psychosynthesis', which has been called a psychology of
the spirit) said, "Without forgiveness life is governed by ... an
endless cycle of resentment and retaliation." And
said, "If we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,
soon the whole world will be blind and toothless." (For more quotes
on forgiveness, please see the page forgiveness quotes [LINK: Ny
side på TPDG, som Rita modtager samtidig med denne - kommende link
bør være: www.thepersonaldevelopmentguy.com/forgiveness-quotes.html]).
This was actually proven in the island country of Iceland some
number of hundred years ago. As described in Njáls saga and other
sagas of Icelanders
they followed the practice of blood vengeance (or: blood feuds, or
vendettas) between families, a life for a life, but that kind of
thing never ends ... in the end they had to stop or there would have
been no more Icelanders.
If the Icelandic story sounds crazy,
that's because it is! That doesn't make it any less true. Revenge
Forgiveness requires great courage, though.
You need to feel sure what you're doing when you're forgiving is the
right thing ... and trust me, it is. In order to set yourself
free, you take on the cost of the offense in your life, and give up
the demands for revenge, justice and payment.
Sure, the legal
system (and other factors) may exert their form of justice all the
same, but that has nothing to do with you and your forgiveness.
Remember, YOU are the reason why you are working on forgiving in the
first place. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender and
everything to do with you and your life experience.
Perform a ritual of forgiveness (and, if applicable: apologize)
Everett Worthington, who writes about forgiveness from his own
experience of violent crime (check out thepowerofforgiveness.com),
says, "If you don't make it public in some way, then you may not
believe that you've truly forgiven."
you'll want to do a ritual letting go of the offences and hurts
you've been through as well as a letting go of the resentment that
came with the offences.
You could make a list of offenses and
hurts and put the list in a bottle on the sea. Or wrap the list
around a rock with a piece of string and toss it into the sea. Or
float the list on a leaf raft in a stream. Or tie it to a helium
balloon and send it off into the sky. You can also bury the list or
burn it (safely, of course). Burying it and thus leaving it to
compost over a period of time appeals to some people, but burning
the list is a long time favorite of a lot of people.
can write each offence (and the name of the offender as well as your
hurt) on a separate piece of paper and put them somewhere you'll see
them every day. Then, when you feel ready to set yourself free you
pick up the piece of paper and slowly and deliberately tear it up
into tiny pieces as you let go of the past hurt and forgive the
offender and the offence. To enhance the process further, you can
finish off by burning the pieces in a sink or in an ashtray.
It doesn't matter what you actually do, as long as you ritualize
your letting go, your separation from the offense as well as your
letting go of the pain and the bitter thoughts and emotions that you
harbored along with it.
Secondly, having realized in step 3 (where
you attribute responsibility) that you may actually carry some part
of the responsibility for what happened, you may actually want to
apologize. Yes, since you were the one hurt (or: hurt the most),
this may well seem to go against the grain, but it is actually an
important part of the forgiveness process, and it doesn't have to be
as 'bad' as it sounds.
If possible, it is preferable to
apologize to the other person's face (and you may be surprised at
the positive results this can yield), but if that is not an option
then at least you can write them a letter or an email (which you may
or may not actually send); or you can simply imagine them being in
front of you and go solo through the process of apologizing to them
for your part in the happenings.
A simple "I'm sorry," is
generally inadequate; you need to express your full understanding of
responsibility and verbalize your true regret and sorrow - though
you'll still want to keep your apology simple and sincere.
10. Practice mindfulness and live each day as if it were both
your first and your last Mindfulness [LINK: upcoming!] has to do
with the simple concept of being present with what is. It is very
useful for managing stress, anxiety and depression as well as for
enhancing health, well-being and creativity.
about seeing ourselves as we are and befriending ourselves, as well
as seeing other people and life as they are and befriending them in
a non-insisting, but kindly curious manner.
first step in mindfulness is awareness of the body, which helps
anchor your attention in the here and now. The next step is to
deepen your ability to observe yourself and life in every way, from
thoughts and emotions to actions and habits.
curiosity and simple awareness are incredibly powerful, and very
often they are the first and primary step to positive change and
The whole point of practicing mindfulness is to stop dwelling in the
past (or trying to live in the future) and to not take the
roller-coaster ride of your thoughts and emotions, but rather live
in the here and now - something you will find not only healing, but
also strangely exhilarating.
You choose to live life anew
every day, and in a way you do so as if this day were both the first
and the last day of your life. It actually works, and it has the
added benefit of making forgiveness much easier to do. The same is
true, by the way, of meditation - for some people this can be a
great way to achieve physical relaxation, quiet the mind and expand
their spiritual understanding.
Final Words on How to
Forgiving others as well as ourselves and life itself is
primarily important to YOU. You are the number one benefactor of
your own forgiveness. In a way you are the only one benefitting from
it. When we forgive ourselves, someone else or something we set
When we have fully forgiven, we no longer
harbor the damaging thoughts and feelings of resentment, hate and
bitterness, and our health thanks us for it.
Try out the 10
steps to forgiveness and remember, learning to forgive is possible -
forgiving is a wonderful skill, and the more you practice it, the
better you get.
The Personal Development Guy's Self Improvement Ezine (FREE)
Would you like to keep in touch - and get high-level tips and special bonuses? Then please sign up for my self improvement newsletter The Personal Development Guy's Self Improvement Ezine. It is totally FREE.
I LOVE Your Support
If you've found the free personal development content on this website useful, please click the Donate button. Your donation will help me to keep producing free, high-level self improvement information. I am VERY GRATEFUL for your support!
PayPal is one of the largest payment processors on the Internet. When you click the Donation Button, you can make a donation of your choice on an encrypted and secure page.
Thank you very much!
Inspirational Quotes, Poems and Funny Short Stuff
If you want, you can also get your personal development, spirituality and general wisdom in an ultra light version - or even add your own wisdom to the site. Just go to the other sister of this website at:
Quotescoop.com - World's Best and YOUR Best Quotes, Poems and Short Funny Stuff
Quotescoop.com is also known as: (http://www.inspirational-quotes-short-funny-stuff.com).
This is where you might go for a quick 'fix' of wisdom and humor.
A special treat is that this site has forums for you to present your own wisdom and humor in the form of inspirational short funny quotes, jokes, notes, letters, stories, SMS text messages and poems. Share your wisdom and witticisms with the world!
High-Level Positive Parenting Advice and Deep Insights
Positive Parenting Ally is the parenting equivalent of the Personal Development Guy. This is where you go if you want really deepen your understanding of parenting, empower your kids and make everyday life more easy and joyful.