Practising forgiveness is a key way to cultivate deeper happiness. However, forgiving someone – or yourself – isn't always easy. Here, Arlo Laibowitz shares some great steps on how to make the process easier, enabling you to let go of suffering and move on with your life. 

To live is to get hurt. We've all been in the situation that we feel that others have done us wrong: by their words, their actions, or even worse, their indifference. And then there are the things we regret doing or saying ourselves. The saying goes, 'to forgive and forget', but in practice, we tend to hold on to our feelings of hurt and resentment.

Forgiveness: what exactly is it?

How can we forgive others, and ourselves, for good? What is genuine forgiveness? And how does forgiving help us to lead happier and more peaceful lives? Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to let go of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you. Forgiveness is not forgetting, or condoning or excusing offences. It is what we do for ourselves to get well and move on.

How to practise forgiveness


How to forgive someone: 12 steps

According to author and Buddhist practitioner Jack Kornfield, we can forgive by following these 12 steps:
  1. Understand what forgiveness is and what it is not.
  2. Feel the suffering in yourself of holding on to your lack of forgiveness.
  3. Reflect on the benefits of a loving heart.
  4. Discover that it is not necessary to be loyal to your suffering.
  5. Understand that forgiveness is a process.
  6. Set your intention for forgiveness.
  7. Learn the inner and outer forms of forgiveness.
  8. Start the easiest way, by forgiving an ‘easy’ individual.
  9. Be willing to grieve.
  10. Forgiveness includes all dimensions of life, including the body, mind, emotions, and interpersonal.
  11. Forgiveness involves a shift of identity, to our capacity for love, freedom and good.
  12. Forgiveness involves perspective.

Forgive and forget someone in nine simple steps shutterstock/fizkes


The nine-steps forgiveness program

On a more practical level, when it comes to knowing how to forgive someone there are clear steps to be followed, as outlined by Fred Luskin of Stanford University. He outlined a forgiveness program that helps us to take things less personally, blaming others less, and offering more understanding and compassion to others, and to ourselves:
  1. Know how you feel and be able to express what you do not consider acceptable about the situation or behaviour.
  2. Commit yourself to feel better. Forgiveness is a personal process.
  3. Forgiveness does not have to mean reconciliation or condoning the actions of the person that has grieved you. Forgiveness is about peace and understanding and taking things less personally.
  4. Get the right perspective on what is happening.
  5. Practice stress management to soothe flight or fight, by doing mindful breathing exercises, taking a walk, or whatever else works.
  6. Give up expecting things from your life or other people that they do not give you.
  7. Put your energy into looking for ways to get your positive goals met, instead of focusing on the experience that has hurt you.
  8. Remember that a well-lived life is an ultimate revenge: look for love, beauty, and kindness. Put energy into appreciating what you have instead of what you don’t have.
  9. Amend the way you look at your past; cherish your forgiveness.


Research has shown that as we forgive, we are less susceptible to stress, anger and hurt. Once we have learnt how to forgive, it becomes easier to do that in new situations and induces more optimism.


Practising forgiveness is one of the essential ways we can lead more meaningful lives. By gifting ourselves the gift of forgiveness, we can live more loving, more compassionate, and ultimately, happier lives. 


Written by Arlo Laibowitz

arlo.jpgArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.


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We've all struggled with the question of how to forgive someone, but I definitely think forgiveness is something you do for yourself rather than for the other person. However, forgiving someone who did something hurtful to you can be really difficult as it is hard to let go of the feeling and hurt. Something that can be helpful if you're struggling with how to forgive somebody is to remember that you can forgive them and still choose for them not to be a part of your life. 

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