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5 Keys To Forgiveness

Linda-Ann Stewart

Barbie insisted that she'd forgiven her parents for their mistreatment of her as a child. But every time she spoke of them, I could hear the anger in her voice. When I mentioned it, she angrily asserted that she'd already forgiven them and didn't need to revisit it. In her mind, that door was closed. But the door can not be closed until the injury is healed.

Far too many people use a blanket forgiveness to erase their discomfort, and this simply deepens the wounds. They say "I forgive" or intend to forgive. But even with intention, action needs to be taken. The action is the process of exploring the wound and discovering something positive from it.

Wounds caused by what loved ones, friends, colleagues and employers say and do can affect you at a deep level. However, hanging onto the hurt can harm you even more. Unforgiveness poisons your mind, body and affairs. Healing traditions from religion to psychotherapy to 12-Step programs agree that forgiveness of self and others needs to occur before you can have peace of mind.

Forgiveness is a powerful process that will give you greater understanding of yourself. It will also free more of your energy and access to your power. But forgiveness of these deep wounds shouldn't be done lightly, otherwise, you're just covering up the hurt.

For true healing, you need to acknowledge what happened, how it affected you and discover what you can learn from it. Any true forgiveness changes you at a deep level. To work towards forgiveness, apply these five points when someone has hurt or offended you.

1. Identify the injury. This doesn't mean relating what actually happened, but what you feel was broken. Before you can actually forgive, you need to understand what you're forgiving. What principles, beliefs or expectations were violated? For example, did you believe this person wanted the best for you and would never hurt you? Or was your trust betrayed by a friend gossiping about something you told them in private? Whatever you feel was shattered has to be identified before you can truly forgive.

2. What do you feel about the offense? What did the injury mean to you? Journaling about how it made you feel can help you understand it better and reprocess the experience. It will probably be uncomfortable, but you need to acknowledge how you're feeling and how it affected you. Most people experience anger as a result of some wound. Don't try to deny or suppress this emotion. That will simply cause it to fester into resentment. If you hold onto anger, you're doing so to try to protect yourself and keep the event from happening again. As long as you continue to move through the process, the anger will be transitory because you've internalized the lesson.

3. Mourn what has been lost or changed. You may feel a loss of belief in another person, in fairness, or safety. Grieving over the loss in necessary and appropriate. Your life has changed irrevocably. The relationship with the other person has also altered. There is no going back. But you will emerge stronger from this process.

4. Uncover the lesson for you. You could decide that no one is trustworthy, but is that belief going to be useful for you? That's not necessarily the best lesson from what happened. You can decide what message you want to take from the event. What do you want to believe that will help you in the future? Wouldn't a more reasonable belief be that some people can't be trusted, and to be more vigilant for red flags in the future? By doing this step, you're reprocessing how you fit into life and adjusting your beliefs to reflect the new you. This can help you learn what values you hold most dear.

5. Choose to forgive the person. You are not pardoning or excusing what happened. In this step, you're making a choice to let go of any anger towards them. They're human, with their own faults and character flaws. By accepting them as they are, you recognize that they can't fill all your needs. Let go of the illusion that you can fix them or make them care for you in the way you want. The relationship will be different, because you'll be more self-reliant and aware of their imperfections.

Just because you've forgiven them doesn't mean that there aren't consequences from their actions. You may forgive the person but not want them in your life any longer. Their offense may be so severe that any trust is permanently broken and you realize they won't change. In this case, you want no further association with them. By forgiving them, you're freeing them and yourself to move on with your lives.

Forgiveness also doesn't mean forgetting what happened. If you erase the memory, you don't have it to remind you to avoid the same situation in the future. It also means you won't identify any patterns that might be forming. For example, you fight over the same issue every week. If you "forgive and forget," you won't recognize that this same problem keeps popping up. This will prevent you from addressing what the core issue might be.

Unless it's a minor infraction, true forgiveness takes deep thought and introspection. If you don't take the time and consideration it needs, unresolved issues and emotions will surface later to interfere with your life and relationships. But if you follow it through, forgiveness is a powerful balm that truly brings peace to your soul.

Copyright © 2009-2023 Linda Ann Stewart
All Rights Reserved

As a focus coach, hypnotherapist, and speaker, Linda-Ann Stewart motivates women to focus and transform their business through deliberate actions that break through distraction and overwhelm to greater success, freedom, wellbeing and prosperity. Watch her FREE training video on Set Your Course to Success: 4 steps to strategically achieve your goals with confidence and ease. Register for the video and accompanying action planning guide at You can contact her at or 928-600-0452.


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