4 Steps To Learning How To Forgive

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Anyone who has been wronged by a friend, relative or even stranger knows that learning to forgive is hard. Yet, in order to heal a hurting heart, one must learn the art of forgiveness.

Dr. Andrea Brandt, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Monica, California says, “To learn how to forgive, you must first learn what forgiveness is not. Most of us hold at least some misconceptions about forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is not a feeling.

Forgiveness is not pardoning or excusing a person’s actions.

Forgiveness is not acting like the hurtful actions never happened.

Forgiveness is not trusting the offender.

Most importantly, forgiveness is not something you only need to do for the person who wronged you. Rather, it’s something you need to do for you.

Dr. Brandt astutely says, “By forgiving you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. This can be a gradual process—and it doesn't necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving.”

True forgiveness cannot occur until you are ready to forgive. You must be willing to initiate the process. This will likely require you to push past the deep, painful hurt experienced or even anger, but the act of forgiveness can help you heal and experience freedom from consuming emotions.

Here are four steps to begin the healing process:

  1. Accept. In order to forgive, you must acknowledge the reality of what occurred and how it affected you. Accept what happened and how it made you feel.

  2. Acknowledge. Consider how the difficult situation helped you grow. What did it help you learn about yourself? Did you discover new personal needs and boundaries?

  3. Contemplate. Every single person is flawed. Because of this, every single person makes mistakes and acts from his or her limited beliefs and skewed frames of reference. Therefore, when the person hurt you, he or she was trying to have a need met. Take time to think through what that need was. Utilize empathy to understand how this need could have resulted in the hurtful behavior.

  4. Decide. Choose whether you want to verbally tell the person who wronged you he or she has been forgiven. If you decide not to express this directly, it is still good to practice the act in the absence of the person. Say aloud, “I forgive you,” and add as much explanation as you feel needs to be said.


Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. Of course you will still remember the wrong that happened to you but you will no longer be held hostage to those thoughts and memories. Instead, you can now be equipped to move forward with your life.

“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.” – Desmond Tutu

InspirationalHeidi McDow