Getting Started – Step One in Learning How to Forgive

This is an exciting day. You have decided that your emotional health and well-being is very important, and you are ready to take the first step in letting go of your emotional pain. As with any difficult emotional work it is important to have a strong and healthy emotional support network. Have people around you who love you and support you in healthy ways. It would be great to have a companion throughout your forgiveness journey to be your sounding board and support. Make sure you are under the care of a therapist if you are dealing with difficult issues such as trauma, depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

The first thing you may want is a journal or a notebook. This will become an invaluable tool and is for you only. Writing what comes to mind is one way to give all the stuff trapped inside of you voice. You can write down during moments of reflection or for a pouring out of whatever needs to be expressed. Keep writing no matter what comes up. By writing things down, you are giving your emotions voice, dissipating their energy.

Write in your journal for a few minutes every day while working on this program. Pick your own best time to do this. Find a place where you will not be disturbed and use the same place every time you write. Before you begin, take a few very deep breaths to help quiet your mind and body. Begin journaling by allowing whatever needs to come up to be written even it seems totally off the wall. Allow your writing to guide you.

Step One is about becoming clear. One of the greatest obstacles in learning how to forgive is that people do not have a clear understanding of what forgiveness means. Remember that forgiveness focuses on your inner healing and is not necessarily about an outward behavior. It is not about letting someone off the hook. It is about you releasing your emotional pain so that you can have a happier and more fulfilling life. Part of becoming clear about what forgiveness is involves acknowledgment of our need for revenge. This stems back to the notion of an “eye for an eye,” and it is also what our natural tendencies are. If someone attacks us, we feel that justice is not served until there is some form of retribution. We will talk more about this later, but for now we recognize that retribution is only one way to handle a situation and it never gets us what we really want.

The last important issue to think about in this step is your motivation. A lot of emotional healing may need to take place before you are truly ready to forgive. Acknowledging this is healthy and normal. If you understand the true meaning of forgiveness and realize that revenge will not get you what you really want, then you have set the stage for forgiveness. At the beginning of this process, all you need is a little willingness to entertain the idea that forgiveness can be an option in terms of what you would like to do. A little willingness means that you are receptive to the idea of forgiveness and are willing to let the forgiveness process work itself out, however long it takes. This includes the willingness to put aside any thoughts of revenge and to focus on healing. That little willingness is what will help you open the door for forgiveness to enter your life when you have done your emotional healing work. What is just described is what step 1 is about.

For your journal exercise for step one focus on getting clear regarding what forgiveness is and why you are thinking about the forgiveness process now. Write down your understanding of what forgiveness means and what is happening in your life right now that may be serving as a catalyst for thinking about forgiveness. Some of you may want to write a revenge fantasy. If you do, ask yourself after you finish your story what you will have gained by revenge. Does revenge complete anything, and what are the repercussions of revenge? Explore revenge and ask what the need for revenge inside of you is saying. Write about how revenge will hurt you and what you will need to do to bring about a little willingness to entertain the thought of forgiveness.

Reflection: For this week’s forgiveness activity for Step One reflect on these questions. What steps can I take that will serve me with insight, compassion and wisdom? How will I deal with facing my issue bravely and with willingness to see the reality of the situation from multiple perspectives? Please share your thoughts on to forgiveness, twitter @erborris or

As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang