Have they told you everything about F O R G I V I N E S S?

I remember the first time I did a group session on forgiveness, an African American client asked me, why should I forgive those who have hurt me or the society which every time looks down on me? I believe the biggest misconception about forgiveness is that it is done for others. But the truth is that whenever you forgive someone, you’re doing a favor to yourself because you overcome the pain caused by being hurt by the other person. You let go of any feelings of anger, resentment, shame, and other emotions associated with injustice. Being in peace with yourself is a strong motive to forgive. So, what is forgiveness?

Interestingly enough, when I came across the topic of forgiveness people have a different idea of what forgiveness encompasses. Even in the field of psychology, one side defines forgiveness as “a complex emotion stemmed from different basic emotions.” Whereas, the other side defines it as “the process of uncovering and letting go of anger at someone who has caused pain.”As a psychologist who follows Forgiveness Therapy in my practices, I go with the latter definition, since a process compiles several steps/actions required to reach a particular goal.

Part of the therapeutic intervention of Forgiveness Therapy consists of 4 phases;

The first phase is called the Uncovering Phase. As with any process which has a final goal, the first step is to be aware and recognize any feelings associated with the action done. Therefore, in this case, someone has to recognize what feelings were engendered through the injustice done towards him/her and how they impact his/her life, in the short and long term.

The second phase is called the Decision Phase. During the process, one has to realize that forgiveness is an option and it is his/her choice to reject or choose forgiveness. This phase may be confusing to someone because forgiveness is intangible; hence, it is defined differently by each one of us. Therefore, as a sub-step one has to make a clear definition for himself/herself as to what forgiveness is.

The third phase is called the Work Phase. In this phase, one has to be able to understand the offender. Here is important to highlight, that in this phase you are not required to reconcile your relationship with the other offender because you understand his/her actions. Also, understanding does not mean forgetting what the other person did. This process is more like evaluating the actions of the offender with not being negatively emotionally charged.

The last phase is called the Deepening Phase. If you’ve reached this phase, first you should congratulate yourself. At this point, you’ve reached the ultimate goal of forgiveness which is to mitigate the intensity of negative emotions to the point where it does not impact your life. It is also highly advisable to reflect on your experience and learn about yourself and other people.

The hardest forgiveness is to forgive yourself. You should be brave and patient to understand how unfair you’ve been and still be at peace with yourself. Even though forgiveness is a choice and it can be challenging, it is worth the try. If you struggle to figure it out yourself, it is highly advisable to ask for help from a professional. Once you’ve mastered the process of forgiveness, you will be able to be more compassionate with other people and realize that the actions of others do not impact your life, unless you allow it.


Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. American Psychological Association.