“Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” – Ghandi

Forgiveness is a voluntary, deliberate decision. It’s a change of thinking, and a change of emotion and attitude toward those who offended you. It is a key ingredient to relationships of all types — between family members, friends, colleagues and within oneself.

While the emotional road to forgiveness can be difficult, there are well-documented health benefits to finding a way to forgive, including:

  • Decreased stress.
  • Less anxiety and depression.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduced risk for substance abuse.

Finding a path to granting forgiveness — whether through a personal process, a spiritual means or with the help of a therapist — is a unique journey for each person. Fortunately, there are several models of forgiveness (for example, the Process Model and the REACH model) as well as a psychological intervention—Forgiveness Therapy—which is supported by research.

If you would like to start the process of forgiving on your own, these well-founded steps from the Stanford Forgiveness Project may help you toward a rewarding outcome.

9 Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Understand your feelings and what about the situation is not OK. Share your experience with a trusted person.
  2. Commit to yourself to do what is needed to feel better.
  3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean condoning what has happened or reconciling.
  4. Recognize that your distress is not about the past, but how you are feeling now. 
  5. Practice stress management skills to care for yourself.
  6. Give up expecting things from others that they choose not to give you.
  7. Direct your energy toward positive goals rather than recalling the experience that hurt you. 
  8. Turn your mind from revenge to focus on love, beauty and kindness.
  9. Remind yourself that forgiveness is a heroic choice. 

Getting to forgiveness does not require condoning or forgetting what has occurred, or reconciling with the offender. It does require letting go of negative emotions toward those who offended you. You may notice that the conscious decision to forgive soothes your mind and spirit. It can be a freeing — and healthy — choice.