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4 Steps to Forgive

2. Don’t try to forgive when your emotions run high


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Leonardo Salvatore

3 years ago | 3 min read

How often have you heard that “forgiveness is good,” that “forgiving is the greatest virtue,” or that “by forgiving you let go of the past. And letting go of the past is the only way forward”?

It all sounds amazing. And who wouldn’t want to do it? I’m sure there are lots of people out there who’d rather hold grudges forever, but I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to feel happier, more relaxed, and freer.

But as is often the case with textbites (i.e. catchy quotes), it’s hard to understand how to actually put the theory into practice. And as enlightening as it is, wisdom loses value if never enacted.

How do I forgive? What is the process like? Where do you even start?

With the help of Deepak Chopra, we can begin to answer these questions. More important, we can begin to enact them with 4 practical steps.

I’ve followed these steps several times, and I’ve found them liberating — a helpful bridge between wisdom and practice. I hope you do the same.

(You will need something to write.)

1. Every time you try to forgive, aim for relaxation and relief

Be clear on your intention: you want to let go of your burden for your own good, so that you can become freer. This is forgiveness.

As Deepak Chopra reminds us:

You don’t always forgive someone because they deserve forgiveness. You forgive them because you deserve peace.

However you want to word your intention, write it down at the top of your writing pad and keep it mind as you go on.

Remembering it throughout your journey is essential to forgive truthfully and experience the sense of relief and freedom that forgiveness can bring about.

2. Don’t try to forgive when your emotions run high

Take a minute to think about how you’re feeling right now. Ponder what’s going on with you as you confront the thing or person you want to forgive.

Are you agitated? Frustrated? Angry?

Or are you calm, clearheaded, and fearless?

Write down those feelings.

If you’re agitated, frustrated, angry, or are feeling emotions that make you uneasy, wait until they go. It might take you a few moments or a few days. However long, don’t force it upon you.

If you are feeling calm, then .

Forgiveness is a process, one that can be decades-long if the wound is deep enough. Since the aim is to release negative emotions that smother us incessantly, it cannot begin with those same emotions.

3. Take responsibility for your feelings

Write a list of things you’re able to stop blaming others for. (I know this is very personal, so try to be relaxed about it.)

Can you take responsibility for your self-pity, holding on too long, being blindly angry, feeling self-righteous, waiting for an apology that you think you deserve, wanting revenge?

These impulses prevent forgiveness, so you need to take responsibility for them and push them as far away as you can.

Writing them down will clarify what they are, so you can hold yourself accountable for resisting them.

4. Release your resentment, grudge, or hurt a bit at a time

List two or three things you know you can release right now.

Maybe it’s your self-pity, or your taxing impatience for an expected apology, or even your anger.

Visualize what these states look like. Picture what you look like when you feel them. Give them an image.

Are you ready to let go of them, even just a bit?

When you are, take as many deep breaths as it takes to feel relief. While you breathe, picture the image of these negative states dissolving. A bit at a time.

You will gradually drift from feeling heavy and congested to feeling light and loose.

Forgiveness is not a one-time transaction. It isn’t a thank you note or a quick exchange of apologies. Depending on the matter’s seriousness, true forgiveness can take a lifetime.

That’s why you neither can nor need to forgive all at once.

Small, consistent steps go a long way.

Final Words

This probably sounds like a one-size-fits-all magic formula to suddenly let go of the past and become a masterful forgiver (if it were that easy…). It isn’t. We’re all holding different grudges and tending different wounds, and forgiveness looks different to everyone.

You might be mad at someone who honked at you this morning because you were going 5 miles below the limit, but someone might be wrestling with themselves to forgive (or not) the one who betrayed them or caused them unfathomable pain. Whichever it is, only true forgiveness can give you relief.

Easier said than done, which is why these steps are not meant to oversimplify the complexities of loss, hurt, and pain. They are simply meant as practical steps to ease embarking on the liberating journey that is forgiveness, should you choose to embark.

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Leonardo Salvatore


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