How Do I Forgive?

Experiencing the power of forgiveness starts with your willingness and desire to begin this transformative process. Discover what forgiveness is and is not, and then decide whether you are willing to work on forgiving. Genuine, deep forgiveness improves your personal well-being, your relationships, and your ability to be the person you are meant to be. Truly forgiving a major offense takes effort and it transforms you.

The people I interviewed for my Ph.D. dissertation forgave through the 4Cs of connections, courage, compassion, and creativity, which are described below and in more detail in my dissertation and forthcoming book. When I am having trouble healing from a painful event, whether it was caused by myself or others, I use the 4Cs and ask myself the following questions.

Connections – Am I reaching out to positive people, praying, reading and listening to wise words?

Courage – Am I being honest with myself? Am I taking responsibility for my feelings and behaviors?

Compassion – Am I acting ethically and morally? Am I trying to understand other perspectives?

Creativity – Am I developing news ways of thinking so I can problem solve and move forward?

I have included a brief summary of each of these four components below that may help you in addressing these questions.


The forgiveness process is difficult and often painful and fear-provoking, so connections to spiritual and/or social support may be essential. 

Consider the list below. Which of these resources resonate with you? Who could you reach out to in order to discuss your current challenge in a safe and compassionate space?

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“Forgiveness is not a struggle with another person; forgiveness is really a struggle within yourself.” Quote from Basil in Being Human is Hard: Choose Forgiveness

Forgiveness involves overcoming destructive emotions so a forgiveness issue can be courageously confronted calmly, without anger, avoidance, excuses, or denial. 

Identify the source of your angry or shameful feelings. Uncover your emotions and take responsibility for them. Enter the house of sorrows but have the courage to emerge ready to move forward. Examine beliefs and assumptions. Accept reality (you don’t have to like it though). Adjust expectations of self and others (wishes instead of musts). 


“Voltaire, French philosopher in the 17th century, said something that stuck with me. He said that before we sit down and converse, let us define our terms. That was something I never did before. I just flew off the handle. I thought I understood what someone else was saying, but I really didn’t. I didn’t take the time to listen or make the effort to understand.” Quote from William in Being Human is Hard: Choose Forgiveness.

In order to proceed from decisional forgiveness to emotional forgiveness, time and effort are needed to process the transgression with empathy, understanding, humility, and gratitude, and without vengeance or resentment. 

The world’s religions and wisdom traditions teach that anger and retaliation imprison individuals in themselves. Break free and expand your space. Put time and effort into understanding other perspectives as well as your own pain. Stay true to your moral identity and values. 


“Anger has been a part of my life and it has used me. Anger is an emotion that has the power to control me. So I try to work on it, sit with it, and transform it into something useful. Forgiveness makes me more aware of the choices I have and the importance of taking responsibility for those choices. Forgiveness moves me along a path to being who I am.” Quote from Jacob in Being Human is Hard: Choose Forgiveness

Forgiveness involves rethinking and changing a harmful thinking pattern in a way that leads to peace of mind, improved relationships, growth and transformation. 

How can you transform a hurtful event into an opportunity to grow and help others? What can you learn?  Can you find a purpose for your pain? What assumptions, beliefs, and expectations need to be modified? How can you create a new chapter in your life in which you let go of unproductive thoughts and behaviors, uphold your integrity, and feel empowered?