How to Forgive Others – A Powerful Step-by-Step Exercise

By Barbara @ Follow Your Own Rhythm

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Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person you’re forgiving, and everything to do with you. 

You don’t forgive to free the other of what they did, you forgive to FREE YOURSELF of the emotional heaviness that holding a grudge creates. This of course in turn can free the other person as well.

Forgiveness is not about approving or agreeing with people’s actions, or saying that what they did is okay.  Forgiveness is not about forgetting what happened or being a doormat to further abuse. 

Forgiveness is about letting go… it’s about healing from the past, it’s about detaching from the anger, blame, resentment, bitterness, fear and hatred you hold within, and it’s about living in the present and accepting life as is.

Forgiveness gives way to freeing yourself of the emotional attachment you have toward a past event. 

I go into great detail in part 1 of this blog post “The Power of Forgiveness” on what forgiveness actually means, when to forgive others, and why it’s SO important.  So if you’re resistant to the idea of forgiveness, I recommend you read that post first so that the practice of forgiveness will be easier.

You might think that you’re a rather forgiving person and that you don’t hold any grudges.  Or you might think that you already forgave your mom or dad for abusing you as a child, or that you forgave your friend for betraying you. You might not wish anything bad for these people, have no revengeful thoughts, and you might actually love these people.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you truly forgave them.  In order to see if you still hold a grudge, you can go through the following exercise.

How to tell if you still hold a grudge?

  1. Think of a painful situation you experienced in your life and the person/group of people who was responsible for it. Or… think of a person who did something bad that you thought you forgave already.

  2. Go back to this memory and what they did, and try to make it as vivid as possible.

  3. Pay attention to the feelings that arise as you relive this experience. How do you feel towards the person who hurt you?

    1. If you feel anger, blame, bitterness, resentment, hatred, or some other heavy negative emotion, it means you still haven’t forgiven them.

    2. If you feel neutral and emotionally stable, you’ve forgiven them and moved on.

    3. If you feel love and compassion towards the person, you’ve completely transcended your pain.  

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Forgiveness is so powerful because it helps you process your unresolved issues.  Forgiveness helps you let go of what doesn’t serve you.  Forgiveness frees you of emotional baggage and creates space for love, compassion, and peace.   

A very important thing to know in order to begin the process of forgiveness is something I wrote about in part 1 of this blog post, but I will share it here again.

Anytime someone hurts you, betrays you, cheats on you, steals from you, judges you, makes fun of you, rejects you, or causes you pain in some way, it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU and everything to do with them. 

People do things from their own level of consciousness…consciousness being the level of awareness a person has about their true essence and the Higher truth.  It’s basically the extent to which someone is “awake” spiritually.  When people’s levels of consciousness have not reached a higher, spiritual state yet, they operate out of unconscious programming.  And it is this programming that forces them to do things that inevitably end up hurting others.  

However, everyone’s consciousness evolves at its own pace. Everyone has a specific journey that they have to live; a path they have to take, and all of the experiences they have and the mistakes they make, is all there to help them evolve, and awaken, and expand their consciousness, and break away from programmed patterns.

Therefore, whatever someone has done to you is not personal to you despite how it may seem, and it has nothing to do with your level of worthiness, but is a direct reflection of where they are on their soul’s journey. 

You have to know that when they hurt you, they are operating from their own perspective, based on their own level of consciousness, and reflecting onto you their own inner pains, fears, unprocessed emotions, and unresolved issues. When people hurt others, they do it because they themselves are hurting inside. 

Also, sometimes we are simply just too sensitive to the actions of others and take everything personally due to our own unconsciousness and we ALLOW for them to impact us, even if they did nothing wrong. This is something we also have to be careful of.

All in all, you are not a victim of your circumstances and the actions of others.  What people do to you is their problem, not yours.  If you believe that you’re a victim, you’ll always depend on others (or life) to treat you a certain way in order to feel good, worthy, and happy.  

You are responsible FOR YOURSELF.  You are responsible for how you feel.  If you choose to live in resentment and anger for what others did to you, that is your choice.  But just know, that you also have a choice to let that all go and liberate yourself.

And you can do that through forgiveness.   

So let’s go over the step-by-step process for how to forgive others.


Steps for Forgiving Others:

STEP 1: Make a list of everything that has happened to you and everyone who has done something to you that you can’t forgive.

These are people who have hurt you, things that have happened to you, and things you’re holding on to that are painful.

Getting this on paper is great for helping you process your deeper feelings and to identify what is weighing you down.

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STEP 2: Choose one person, situation, or group of people who you want to focus on forgiving.  

Our parents are a great start, there’s always something we blame them for since they influenced us the most.

An important part of this step is to WANT to forgive them.  If there’s nothing in you to want to forgive this person, maybe you’re not ready.  Maybe you have to suffer a little more to finally be ready to free yourself. Like I said, everyone evolves at their own pace and that’s perfectly okay.  

STEP 3: Get revenge.

Since it’s sometimes hard to fully forgive until we get some sort of revenge, let’s satisfy our inner child and do an exercise inspired by Louise Hay to get the revenge we need (only in our mind of course).

This exercise should not be done every day; it should be done ONLY ONCE as a closing exercise. 

Close your eyes and imagine the person who has hurt you.  Think about all of the things you want to do to them and how you want to make them suffer.  Imagine it happening now.

Next, write down on a piece of paper everything you wish to tell them.  Let out all that anger and hatred.  Tell them how you feel and how they have hurt you.  Be as free as possible and say what’s on your mind.  Don’t hold back. 

When you’ve let it all out, take your piece of paper and set it on fire and watch it burn and disintegrate.  This represents the letting go of the built up hatred and anger.  If you can’t burn it, tear it up into small pieces and either flush it down the toilet, take it to a garbage OUTSIDE of your house, or bury it in the ground.  This exercise should make you feel a lot lighter and allow you to open up to forgiveness. 

STEP 4: Recognize that holding onto this anger does you no good.

Ask yourself:

  • What good does it do for me to hold a grudge?

  • How does holding this grudge, anger, hatred, resentment, sadness, self pity help me in my life?

  • How does holding onto these negative emotions hurt me?

Most likely you discovered that this anger doesn’t actually serve you; it only limits you.


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STEP 5: The next step in the process of forgiveness is acceptance.

Accept what happened to you. Accept how this painful experience has affected your life.  Accept what this person did.  

Often times we RESIST what happened because it’s too painful to accept it as a reality.  We try to tell ourselves “no, this shouldn’t have happened, what happened was wrong, what this person did was bad, no I can’t accept it.” 

Just as with forgiveness, acceptance doesn’t mean approving of what someone did.  It simply means that you accept and acknowledge it for what it is, instead of fighting, denying, or resisting it.

So go ahead and tell yourself:

“I accept what happened to me.  I accept how it impacted my life. I accept that this person hurt me. Even though I’m not happy about it, I still accept it and see it for what it is.”

This is a super important step because the truth is, whatever happened already happened.  There’s nothing you can do about the past so why fight with it?

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STEP 6: The next step is to see this situation from a different perspective. 

It is very clear that all these years, you’ve been seeing this situation from one perspective; yours.  You’ve replayed it in your head, cried about what happened to you, and blamed this person or situation for how it has affected you, ruined your life, etc.  

While I am by no means underestimating the pain that this experience caused you, I know that seeing it from only your perspective keeps you small, keeps you in victim mode, and is not going to free you.  So let’s take your power back.

First, I want you to expand your perspective and see it from the other side. Step into the shoes of the person who has hurt you and try to imagine why they could have done what they’ve done.

I’m not insinuating that you justify their behaviors or make up excuses for them, I’m merely suggesting that you try to understand their perspective and why they might have done what they did.

For example, if the person you are trying to forgive is your mom, and you blame her for never being home or never being there for you when you were younger, which made you feel neglected and unloved, which manifested into insecurity and low self-esteem, you can start to see why your mom could have done what she’s done.

I think we can agree that your mom not being home had nothing to do with her level of love for you.  She loves you.  That is a fact. Parents don’t do stupid shit because they don’t love you. They do it because they don’t know any better, it’s what they’ve been taught to do by their parents, or they have their own inner wounds, fears, pains, and unconsciousness that they’re projecting onto you.

So try to understand why she did what she did and tell yourself a different story than the one you’ve been telling yourself.

Maybe your mom was never home because she was always working so that she can pay the bills, provide food, and give you a comfortable lifestyle. Or maybe you felt like she wasn’t around because emotionally she didn’t give you what you craved. Maybe you craved more attention, praise, and love but she was unable to meet that need because she was really young, too focused on herself, or she didn’t know anything about how to be present with you and parent consciously (as most parents don’t). Maybe from her perspective she tried her best and gave you all the love she could, but it didn’t meet your childhood emotional needs. So as you can see, from your child-self perspective, it was easy to develop a belief that you’re not worthy of attention and love. But the reality is, your mom loved you, she just wasn’t capable of meeting your emotional needs.

I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but seeing it from the other person’s perspective makes it so much easier to forgive because it takes the pressure off of you; of not being good enough and lovable, and puts the situation into perspective.

So now that you’ve moved beyond your perspective, I want you to move beyond the other person’s perspective, and see this situation from a HIGHER perspective.  

To see something from a higher perspective is to have a bird’s eye view of the situation. It means to see the whole picture, to see what happened in relation to the whole, and to see it from the eyes of a conscious, aware, and wise being, that you can call your Higher Self.

The goal is to try to see that the person who has hurt you has their own lessons to learn in this lifetime.

They came to this world to evolve.

And they evolve through the mistakes they make and the things they experience. 

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So with regards to the example of your mom not being around when you were younger…she’s here on her own journey, making her own mistakes, and learning and growing from them.

In order to adopt a Higher perspective, it’s important to realize that everything happens for a reason; for a Divine purpose.  There are no accidents.  Try to see that you are also here to learn and evolve through your own life experiences.

Also understand that on an energetic level, you attract people into your life who can teach you something about yourself and help you elevate your consciousness, however brutal and painful it may seem at the time.  And the same goes for the people who have hurt you. They attract those who can teach them something. From a spiritual perspective, everyone you meet, you are meant to meet. In the end, everything connects. 

If you can see your situation from this Higher perspective, there’s no reason to take what happened to you personally and it makes it really hard to hold a grudge.

STEP 7: Take responsibility for yourself

You have to realize that you’re only a victim in this situation if you choose to be a victim. At the end of the day, you are responsible for how you feel and you have to take ownership of what you have control over. In addition, you also have to own up to what you did wrong (if any) and how your unconscious actions may have contributed to this situation.

This step is by no means about blaming yourself for what happened to you, because that again is playing victim. This step is about getting rid of the blame and finger pointing, and rather bringing the attention to yourself.

For example, let’s say that your boss fired you from your job and because of that, you have no money for rent and you got kicked out of your apartment. You are extremely angry at your boss because if he didn’t fire you, you would still have a job, money, and a home.

However, is there anything that you did or didn’t do that may have led him to fire you? Is there anything you can take responsibility for to remove the blame from him, and put the attention on your own actions? Maybe you were constantly late to work, didn’t fulfill all of your duties, or got into arguments with your coworkers often?

This step is about becoming super honest with yourself and becoming extremely self-aware. Like I said, this isn’t about blaming yourself, especially if you were a child when this happened as you clearly did nothing wrong, this is about admitting how you may have contributed to this situation.

And if there’s nothing to admit because you did nothing wrong, such as when you were a child and were abused or neglected, then the way that you take responsibility is by healing the wound.

What can you do, now that you’re an adult, to take care of your needs? How can you heal from this situation? What can you learn? How can you grow? How can you change your paradigm? Who can you see professionally to help you? Who can you talk to? This step is all about taking your power back.

Below is a video I came across on YouTube that is VERY relevant to what I’m talking about: she very clearly and accurately discusses the difference between fault and personal responsibility for those suffering from emotional trauma. It’s only 4 minutes long, check it out!

STEP 8: Letting go

Now it’s time to let it all go.  It’s time to release the past.  It’s time to let go of all of the pain, anger, blame, hatred, sadness, bitterness, self-pity, and resentment and it’s time to truly forgive.

Close your eyes and repeat this statement out loud to yourself until it feels true in your heart and until you no longer resist it.

 “Through forgiveness, I release the pain I carry inside of me.  It no longer serves a purpose.  By forgiving, I free myself of painful emotions, and I create more space for happiness, love, and peace.

The person I choose to forgive is ___________ for _________________________.

Each time you repeat the statement, you might add additional things you have to forgive this person for. Just keep adding things until you feel satisfied and until you feel at peace.

It might be hard to do this at first, but if you can just see this whole situation from a higher perspective and understand the psychological and spiritual reasons behind people’s actions, it will be that much easier to forgive.  

Remember that non-forgiveness keeps you enslaved and makes you a victim of your circumstances.  You want to be empowered, meaning LIVE IN YOUR POWER, so when you forgive, you release control of the past and start living in your light.

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STEP 9: The last and final step to forgiveness to help seal the deal, is to develop compassion for the person who has hurt you. 

This is the ultimate test because not only are you forgiving this person, but you are building compassion for them. This step will truly shift your world.

Before we get into the exercise, here’s a perspective that will make it easier to have compassion for those who have hurt you. A lot of things that people do, they don’t do TO YOU, they don’t do it to HURT you, and it actually has nothing to do with you. They just simply do things. The reason that we get hurt by them is because we CHOOSE to make it about us and take it personally which causes us to be affected by their actions. So a way to build compassion is to see that what another person/animal/group is doing (that may indirectly hurt us if we choose to let it in) is coming from their own pain and hurt.

Here’s a very simple example. Your cat throws up all over the carpet and you get angry at him. You’re angry because now you have to clean up this mess and it’s extremely inconvenient. (Notice how it’s all about you so far).

HOWEVER, if you can see that your cat threw up on the floor not to hurt or inconvenience you, but because their stomach was hurting and had to let it out, then you’d immediately have empathy for what they’re going through and forgive them instantly. Suddenly, you’re not focused so much on having to scrub the carpet, you’re focused on how you can relieve your cat’s pain. A simple shift in perspective changes everything.

The point with compassion is to get out of your head, drop your agenda and expectations, stop making it about you, and see how the other party is feeling in this situation. This goes along with step 6 of seeing the situation from a different perspective.

So here is your exercise for step 9.

You can come up with your own script or use the one below. Depending on the level of trauma, you can replace the word “hurt” with “inconvenienced” or “affected.”

Say out loud while feeling it in your heart: “Even though I was hurt by what you did, I forgive you.  I’m sorry that you didn’t know any better at the time and I see that you were only hurting me because you yourself were in pain (or sick, or in fear, or unconscious, etc.). I feel for you and I’m sorry.”

Next, you’re going to send love and light to this person.  At our core, we are all love and light. I know that’s hard to understand, but in essence, we are all pure energy; pure consciousness. What makes us commit horrible acts and behave selfishly is our ego…and attaching who we think we are to this false persona we’ve created.

To learn more about the false self- the ego and what it is, check out my free online training that will help you discover your own egoic attachments and help you with releasing them.

So by sending light to this person, you are expressing the highest form of compassion and love, which is your truest nature. And embodying your truest nature is what will set you free.

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Sending light exercise: Close your eyes.  Take 5 deep breaths.  Imagine you’re surrounded by an abundance of pure and loving light and with each breath you take, you are taking in this pure energy.  Imagine it flowing through your body, touching every cell of your being.  Feel the peace inside of you. 

Now, imagine the person you want to forgive in front of you and this loving flight flowing right to them. Imagine it surrounding them and entering their body as they breathe.  Imagine them glowing brighter and giving off a strong sense of peace. Imagine them looking at you and saying “I’m sorry.” Feel their sincere apology and know that their Higher self is not the self that hurt you. It was their own wounded self. Make amends with this person, wish them a lifetime of peace, and come back to your body. Feel how good it feels to give love to another. Feel how good it feels to forgive. Feel the peace inside of you and sit with this feeling for a few minutes. When you’re ready, open your eyes.

It might be hard to send light to the person who has hurt you, but because they have hurt you, they need your light the most.  It is those people who hurt others that are suffering the most, therefore they need the most love. I know it’s kind of backwards, but it’s how it is.

Even if the person you’re sending light to isn’t suffering anymore, because let’s say they’ve forgiven themselves, it’s still therapeutic for you to send light to them because by sending light to another, you inevitably raise your own vibration.


Wow.  How do you feel? That’s quite a process I know, but if you truly sit down and commit to this process, it can absolutely free you.

Just to recap the steps for forgiving others….

  1. Make a list of every experience and every person who has hurt you who you have not yet forgiven.

  2. Choose one person or situation from this list who you want to focus on forgiving.

  3. Let out all your anger by “seeking revenge.”

  4. Recognize that holding onto these negative feelings does you no good. 

  5. Accept everything that happened.

  6. See the situation from the other person’s perspective as well as from a Higher perspective.

  7. Take responsibility for yourself.

  8. Let it all go and forgive.

  9. Build compassion and send love and light to the person.

PIN IT!

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person you’re forgiving, and everything to do with you.  You don’t forgive to free the other of what they did, you forgive to FREE YOURSELF.  Forgiveness is about letting go and healing from the past.  Learn the 9 steps that you can take to forgive those who have hurt you so you can release the heaviness that comes from holding a grudge! --personal growth, healing, spirituality, awakening, let go, childhood trauma, emotional pain, freedom, inner peace

On a lighter note, forgiveness isn’t just about forgiving a person who has majorly hurt you such as a mom who abandoned you, a dad who abused you, a boyfriend who cheated on you, or a person who has assaulted you.

Forgiveness is a necessary practice for the everyday happenings in our lives.

We need to learn to forgive in every moment of every day.   

  • We have to forgive the cashier for being too slow

  • We have to forgive the car that cut us off

  • We have to forgive our boss for being an a**hole

  • We have to forgive our spouse for being late to dinner

  • We have to forgive our coworker for being a b**ch

  • We have to forgive the weather for being cold and gloomy

  • We have to forgive our car for breaking down

  • We have to forgive our cat for peeing on the couch

  • We have to forgive the government for raising our taxes

  • We have to forgive mainstream media for brainwashing us

  • We have to forgive Big Food for poisoning us with chemically enhanced foods

  • We have to forgive doctors for prescribing us mind numbing drugs

And the list goes on and on for all the things we have to forgive.

Forgiveness is all about acceptance and not resistance. We have to first accept that what happened happened. We can’t resist reality.

Next, we have to let go of the hatred.  It does us no good. We can do this by understanding the truth I shared with you earlier about why people do the “bad” things that they do. It’s because they’re operating out of fear, pain, and unconscious programming.

And then, we have to forgive and move on so that we can free ourselves from the heaviness.

Then, we have to see the higher perspective and the bigger picture, and try to respond to all of this chaos with love, light, acceptance, understanding, compassion, and peace and take appropriate action from that place.  

This path isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you truly want freedom, forgiveness is a great start.

I wish you great strength on your journey of healing, and if you have any thoughts to share, leave them in the comments below or send me an email!

Forgiving others is just as equally important as it is to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made, the pain we’ve caused others, and the wrongdoings we’ve done. 

Self-forgiveness is really a gateway to self-acceptance and self-love, which is exactly what I cover in this blog post! I also share a powerful exercise on how to forgive yourself as well as a free self-forgiveness guided meditation.  

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