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Forgiveness: In 4 (Not So) Easy Steps

Updated: Oct 12, 2018

Forgiveness is a daunting concept. We want to forgive and be forgiven but often times it seems just out of reach in this every day, real life human existence. It can leave us wondering if it is actually possible to move through this process and truly complete it.

I have personally struggled with this concept over the years and the hurts just kept coming back. Why could I not let these things go? I know I want to forgive this person or myself, but this little voice keeps taunting me in my head. What can I do?

My answer to that, for a very long time, was shut it down. Stuff it away, put it to the side, and ignore it. Guess what? That doesn’t work. After years of repeating what I knew wasn’t working, I made my way back to square one. That’s when I realized this forgiveness thing is a process and I have to allow it in. Here are the steps that I have found helpful to truly process forgiveness and find healing.

1. Allow it come up.

This is hard. Take a time out. What is coming up? Name it. Give it a voice. Name the hurt. Allow its presence. Acknowledge why it’s there. Break out the journal if that speaks to you.

2. Feel it.

Let the yuck out. Whatever happened that we are holding onto is not pleasant. But if we deny ourselves the space to feel it, we are only building up the resentments causing it to actually increase instead of decrease. Name the feeling. Journal it, say it out loud in a private space, acknowledge why the feelings are there. Unsure what feelings are coming up? Use a feelings wheel from Dr. Gloria Willcox.

Let the feelings come. Cry, yell (in private, not at someone), go for a walk or run, dance it out, etc. Do what you do to let the emotion out, in a healthy and non-destructive manner.

3. Release it.

Once you have allowed the hurt to come up, given it a name and a feeling, and let the yuck come out, it’s time to release. Science tells us it takes 3 deep breaths to re-center our thinking and emotions. Take 3 nice, long, slow belly breaths. In through your nose as your belly goes out, and then slowly out your mouth as the belly goes in. You have allowed space for the process. You do not have to keep holding on to it. As you breathe, release.

4. Repeat.

Wait a second... Repeat? What? I thought I was done? Yeah, I know. That’s not how this forgiveness thing works. It is a process. The good news is that each time you allow yourself this space to process, it eventually gets less and less. You’ve spent time building this resentment, and it also takes time to fully release the resentment.

So now you have my 4, not so easy, forgiveness steps. It’s hard. Give yourself grace in this process. We all struggle with this concept at one point or another. If you’re reading this, and struggling to find your way through, please come in and visit with myself or another of therapist’s at Great Oaks Therapy Center. We are here to meet you where you are.

Jill Hamilton is a clinician at Great Oaks Therapy Center. Contact Jill at or (816)977-9821


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