9 Steps to Forgive Yourself and Others

Updated on February 16, 2018
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Yvette is a Christian with a passion for helping people find God's purpose for their life. Her Bible studies inspire daily Christian living.

If you are hurt deeply by other people's actions, it is easy to hold on to bitterness and resentment. When others cause you pain, for example, when you are harshly criticized by someone in your church or workplace or if you experience marital infidelity, it is challenging to let go of the hurt.

Despite the pain you experience, it is necessary for your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being to forgive those who hurt you. When you forgive, you make a decision to free yourself of the pain, bitterness and resentment,.and push forward to achieve the purpose God has for your life.

Even more, as a Christian, when you forgive you make a choice to obey Jesus' instructions that "If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you" (Matthew 6: 14). When you forgive, you open yourself to your heavenly Father's forgiveness and a life of hope and joy.

You can rebound from your hurt and pain, and find hope, happiness and a new life through forgiveness.
You can rebound from your hurt and pain, and find hope, happiness and a new life through forgiveness. | Source

What is Forgiveness?

When you forgive you decide to let go of your resentments and even thoughts of revenge. But it is important to remember that forgiveness does not mean that you deny your feelings such as sadness and anger, but you make a choice to let go, and not act resentfully or seek revenge.

According to the American Psychological Association (2006) "Forgiveness is a process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender." Forgiveness is a decision to let go. While this is usually very difficult, in the long run, this act lessens the grip of the offence and pain.

In my own journey as a Christian, I have had to choose forgiveness over holding on to resentment and pain many times. Just a few days ago, I struggled because I felt that my motives were misunderstood and I was seen in a negative light.

The author of the book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall, explains that "the ultimate proof of total forgiveness takes place when we sincerely ask your Father to let those who have hurt us off the hook ..." This seems to be an impossible task but the book helped me to understand that I totally forgive those who cause me pain only when I set God free to bless them. You too can get the help you need to totally forgive.

But the Holy Spirit brought 2 Corinthians 2: 11 to my heart. When I read the verse and it's context, I realised that the Scripture was encouraging me to respond to the situation with forgiveness and love, and not allow Satan to "outsmart" me (2 Corinthians 2: 11 b).

The point is that if I refused to forgive, then I would fall for Satan's scheme to cause a rift in a relationship that was important to me. In the long run, my bitterness and resentment could block my relationship with my heavenly Father, and hinder my spiritual growth and blessings.

4 People You Need to Forgive - Brian Tracey

Research on Forgiveness

Since the 1980s there has been an increase in the research on forgiveness. This helps us to better understand the processes involved in forgiving as well as the outcomes and results of forgiveness. The American Psychological Association (2006) Forgiveness: A Sampling of Research Results highlights some of these studies that include:

  • Frank D. Fincham and his colleagues researched "Forgiveness and Conflict Resolution in Marriage." These studies indicate that forgiveness is not just the absence of unforgiveness. But forgiveness in marital relationships results in better conflict resolution.
  • Robert Enright and his colleagues developed a forgiveness process model which consists of four stages: uncovering, decision, work, and deepening. The therapy model has been used with adults in different settings including emotionally abused women, and men who have been hurt by their partners' decision to terminated their pregnancies.The results include reduction in anxiety and depression and improvement in hope and self-esteem of the participants
  • The Stanford Forgiveness Project led by Frederic Luskin, conducts research in a workshop format. Forgiveness skills are taught in a group setting for a variety of interpersonal offenses. This initiative has resulted in the improvement in the physical and emotional well-being of the group members.

Research conducted by Professor Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet and her colleagues also indicates that forgiveness is good for your health. Researchers at Hope College in Michigan measure the responses including heart and sweat rates of participants who have been offended in the past. There are indications that there are greater stress responses such as increased blood pressure and heart rates for unforgiving than forgiving conditions.

Understanding Forgiveness

Which of the following definition reflects your understanding of forgiveness?

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Bible Quotes On Forgiveness

The need to forgive others, is one of the issues that the Bible is very clear on. Here on some Scriptures that deal with forgiveness from the Good News Translation of the Bible..

  • "If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • " Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?' 'No, not seven times,' answered Jesus, 'but seventy times seven because the kingdom of God is like this' ' (Matthew 18: 21-22).
  • 'So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once to make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God (Matthew 5: 23-24).
  • "A they stood there asking questions, he straightened himself up and said the them, 'Whichever one of you has committed no sin, throw the first stone at her' " (Matthew 8:7).
  • "The kept stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit!' He knelt down and cried in a loud voice, 'Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!' He said this and died" (Acts 7: 59-60).
  • "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).
  • "If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good.. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it ... Instead as the scripture says, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink;' ... Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).
  • "Now, however, you should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely. And so I beg you to let him know that you really love him ... In order to keep Satan from getting the upper hand of us; for we know what his plans are" (2 Corinthians 2:7-8, 11).

Take some time to read through these verses and the context surrounding them in your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a heart that is sensitive and responsive to what he is saying to you.

Total Forgiveness - R. T. Kendall

Embracing Forgiveness: 9 Steps to Letting Go

Remember that forgiving is not excusing the person's behavior or condoning with the wrong or inappropriate action. Choosing to forgive is deciding not to allow your unforgiveness and by extension, the person who wronged, to destroy your life. You will find R. T. Kendall's "Total Forgiveness" video above very helpful on your journey of forgiveness.

Here are nine steps you can take to help you forgive that person who hurt you deeply.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit for help.Take time meditate on the verses on forgiveness in the section above. Then believe that God will help you every step of your journey to total forgiveness. Don't depend on how you feel. The Holy Spirit knows your deepest needs and he will help you as you depend on him totally. .He will show you how to totally forgive and ease the pain and regret you are experiencing.
  2. Acknowledge your pain. Don't push it aside or pretend it did not happen. You will need to grieve over your loss of a relationship, grieve the betrayal of trust. This could be a part of the process of relieving the pain, experiencing healing, and moving on to forgiveness.
  3. Get a fresh perspective on the situation. For example, try to understand whether the act was deliberate or committed out of sheer insensitivity. As you gain a new perspective on the situation, this could help you to work through your emotions, and eventually lessen the pain.
  4. Make a decision to forgive. Consider the benefits of forgiveness to your physical, emotional and spiritual health. This could give you the drive to work through your decision to forgive.
  5. Cultivate empathy.Try to understand the factors that could have caused the person to act the way he or she did. Consider how you might have responded in a similar situation and the probability that you might have made the same mistakes.
  6. Pray for the person. Some persons on their journey to forgiveness have found it helpful to pray the same things that they desire for themselves for the people who hurt them. For example, in a case where you know the person's greatest desire or need, say, for a suitable job, you could pray about this. Your praying should not be just going through the motions, but a heartfelt desire to bless the person. (See Romans 12: 17).
  7. Set your focus on gratitude and kindness instead of wallowing in the misery of unforgiveness. Take time to think of the positives that could have resulted from what the person did and express your thankfulness. You could find it helpful as you consider Joseph's response to his older brothers who had sold him into slavery. Joseph said to his brothers, "You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened" (Genesis 50:20, Good News Bible).
  8. While you take you the steps to forgive and free yourself of resentment and bitterness, be sure that you do not open yourself to further abuse or victimization if the possibility exists.
  9. You might find that you need to talk to an experienced Christian counselor who can help you to clarify and work through your feelings associated the offense. The person could assist you to move through the process of forgiveness.

In the video below, Matthew West shares the heart-warming story of Renee and how she forgave the drunk driver who killed her twenty year-old daughter. But it gets even better, watch what she did for the person who caused her family so much pain!

Matthew West - A Story of Forgiveness

"Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth, love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail."

— 1 Corinthians 13: 5-7, Good News Bible

Take Steps to Forgive Yourself

Many times people find it difficult to forgive themselves but it is just as important that you forgive yourself as forgiving others. You will need to take the same steps outlined above to forgive yourself and move beyond you past.

It is very important that you recognize the wrong you have done or the hurt you have caused. Forgiving yourself is not about minimizing your actions or justifying your behavior. With a deep understanding of what you have done and with a repentant heart ask God to forgive you. According to pastor Jack Hayford, repentance is in essence, "to change one's mind and reverse one's thoughts and deeds to align with righteousness."

Having repented, believe that God has forgiven you for he assures in his Word that he "remembers our sins no more" (Jeremiah 31:34). This means that God no longer hold your wrong against you. According to motivational speaker, Brian Tracey, the "very act of repentance can set you free". So accept God's forgiveness, then forgive yourself, and resist the devil's lie that you are still guilty.

All About God writer points out that forgiving yourself gives you an opportunity to become an over-comer instead of being a victim of your scorn. The writer explains that failure to forgive yourself is a form of pride. The fact is, God freely forgives, could it be that you are holding yourself to a higher standard than others? Even more, are you rejecting the forgiveness that God freely gives by not forgiving yourself?

Father God, I thank you for the great love that you expressed by sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to take my punishment. Thank you for forgiving me, pouring your love in my heart, and giving me the ability to forgive.

Today, I take a decision to forgive, _____, who has hurt me deeply and to forgive myself. Thank you for healing the hurt and pain. Just as Christ bore my pain on the Cross, you are setting me free from the tyranny of unforgiveness through his power. Amen.

Steps to Forgiveness Poll

Steps to Forgiveness

When you were deeply hurt by someone, which of the following was a critical step in the process of your forgiving the person?

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Take the Leap to Forgiveness

If you choose not to forgive this could retard your progress in achieving the God-given purpose for your life. It could also adversely affect your emotional and physical health. No matter what injury you experienced, whether a physical attack, burglary, marital infidelity, bullying at the workplace or emotional abuse, you can move from anger and wanting revenge to genuine forgiveness.

You can begin the process of forgiving the person(s) who hurt you today. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can reach to the place where you earnestly pray for the offender and bless him or her instead of being consumed by the pain of your past victimization.

You can be like Joseph in the Bible, and experience the blessings that emerge as you forgive. These blessings, which begin with a deep peace of mind, could blossom into changing your outlook and your circumstances.

It's time to begin your journey of forgiving. Consider what the Word of God and research findings say about forgiveness. So what is hindering you? Why not start now?

Reference and Further Reading

American Psychological Association (2006). Forgiveness: A Sampling of Research Results. Washington, DC: Office of International Affairs. Reprinted 2008.

© 2014 Yvette Stupart


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    • Inspired Heart profile image

      Yvette Stupart 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks you. Forgiveness is critical in human relationships because we are not perfect. As we forgive, we free ourselves and and even the people who offend us.

    • The Stages Of ME profile image

      The Stages Of ME 4 years ago

      Love it, I am always pleased when I see people teaching theact of forgiveness, I know the world will be better for it.

      God Bless

    • Inspired Heart profile image

      Yvette Stupart 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Ann1A72. I'm happy you find my hub informative. Great testimony about the power of forgiveness in your own marriage.

      Most offenders do not express sadness or seem to need our forgiveness. But the key motivation for forgiving is to free ourselves from bitterness and offense that could hinder positive outcomes and blessings in our lives.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 4 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Very informative and well though-out hub. It is also well-researched. I can tell you put a lot of thought into it. Forgiveness saved my marriage, and I'm a firm believer in it. It is important to know that forgiveness is sometimes one-sided. The person being forgiven may never accept forgiveness from you, but as long as you forgive, your peace and joy will come from God. Voted up.