How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:
- Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
- Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
- Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
- Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them
- Choose to forgive the person who's offended you
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
As you let go of grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
What happens if I can't forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who's hurt you doesn't admit wrong. If you find yourself stuck:
- Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person's point of view.
- Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
- Reflect on times you've hurt others and on those who've forgiven you.
- Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you've found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
- Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn't always the case, however.
Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn't.
What if the person I'm forgiving doesn't change?
Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn't the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
What if I'm the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you've done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly.
If you're truly sorry for something you've said or done, consider admitting it to those you've harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.
Remember, however, you can't force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.
Nov. 04, 2017
See more In-depth
- Rakel D, ed. Forgiveness. In: Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 5, 2017.
- Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/01/ce-corner.aspx. Accessed Oct. 5, 2017.
- Akhtar S, et al. Understanding the relationship between state forgiveness and psychological wellbeing: A qualitative study. Journal of Religion and Health. 2017;56:450.
- Ferrell B, et al. Nurses' responses to requests for forgiveness at the end of life. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2014;47:631.
- AskMayoExpert. Forgiveness. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.