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“When we are no longer able to change a
situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
-Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Guideposts to Forgiveness
Holistic Therapy LLC (Dr. Ann Recine) & Lou Recine Coaching LLC, updated 2021 from
original 2018 version
Where the forgiveness guideposts come from: The guideposts below come from interviews by nurses with many people who changed their lives through forgiveness. These people were hurt by what often would seem unforgivable. They were justifiably angry but found the power to let go of that anger. The words below express the ideas and example of these people who found a way to live lives of peace and joy in spite of being hurt.
1. Understand your hurt. Before you can forgive yourself or another person, you need to examine what happened to you – what led up to the event, who did what, and acknowledge that it was unjust, and hurt you. Then you need to recognize your feelings. It’s ok to feel sad, lonely, irritable, anxious, or angry. It is important to understand how it’s affecting your health, your body, energy level, concentration, or sleep.
2. Begin with knowledge. Know the definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of your anger and resentment (even though justified) and choosing to have a positive intention towards the person who hurt you. It is not letting the person off the hook legally, nor is it forgetting, or pretending that it didn’t happen, nor deciding you’re going to hang out and be friends. Forgiving does not mean giving up safety or personal boundaries.
3. Press pause. There are ways to learn how to gently stop the noisy circles of angry, painful thoughts in your mind. You can find a quiet place and time to calm yourself. Take time to figure out how you want to respond instead of reacting.
4. Put your health first. Know that the health of your body is connected to the health of your mind. Your health is more important than your hurt. Give yourself the gifts of health, peace of mind, and happiness that come from letting go of anger.
5. Take baby steps. Know that forgiveness and feeling better takes time. It starts with being willing to be willing to forgive. It begins with wanting to get your life back – with wanting to be at peace.
6. Change channels. We might not be in control of our thoughts initially, but we can learn to shift our focus. When you are angry or upset, you have the option to pick a more peaceful channel. You can think of what you are grateful for today. You can notice the pleasant and beautiful things in your life. You can focus on lifting someone else up today.
7. Power-up. When your mind slips back into focusing on the hurt and hurtful person and you feel powerless over your angry feelings, reach out to a power greater than yourself. Notice what gives you strength and inspires hope that you can lead a happier, peaceful life in spite of having been hurt. Develop a practice of meditation, prayer, spiritual reading, religious services, or anything else that connects you to that source of power.
8. Lean on somebody. Don’t be afraid to ask a strong, trustworthy person in your life for help. Choose to lean on people who care about you and are forgiving.
9. See both sides. Think about a time when you have hurt someone in a way that was against your values. Deeply understand what was going through your mind and the pressures you were under. Seek to understand the kinds of pressures and struggles the person who hurt you was experiencing.
10. Look for meaning. There will come a day when you will be able to find the good that has come to you as a result of growing from the hurtful experience and even find the good in the other human being who hurt you. Let the virtues that you value help you make sense of the hurtful experience and achieve forgiveness as a personal victory.
11.Realize life is short. We don’t know how many days we have left. Is there an attitude you would be willing to give up in order to have peace inside? It's empowering to take charge of a relationship by deciding to forgive. By choosing to forgive, you are showing people what you value and how you'd like to be remembered.
12. Forgive yourself. You are human, vulnerable, and you make mistakes. Self-forgiveness is something you learn by understanding your own feelings and the feelings of others in a non-judgmental way. Whether the cause of the trouble is your responsibility or someone else’s, or a combination, you can approach yourself with compassion and a gentle determination to change for the better. That change may include a new pattern of behavior, setting new boundaries, and new ways to care for yourself and others.