Written by : Fred Luskin, Ph.D. 

9 Steps to Forgiveness

These nine steps are the result of extensive observation and research at the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. You, too, can learn to let go of a grudge or grievance and move on by using these proven tools—and find increased health and hopefulness in the process.

1. First, be aware of your feelings

Know exactly how you feel about what happened; be able to articulate what, in particular, was not OK about the situation in which you feel you were wronged. Tell a few trusted people about your experience.

2. Know that forgiveness is for your own sake

Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you, not for anyone else.

3. Do not expect reconciliation

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person who hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you’re looking for is a sense of peace and closure.

4. Recognize how the event is affecting you in the present

Recognize that your primary distress is coming from hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended or deeply hurt you two minutes—or 10 years—ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.

5. Learn to activate the relaxation response

At the moment you feel upset, practice a simple stress management technique of deep breathing to soothe your body’s flight or fight response. Focus on your breathing and try to bring your mind back to a peaceful state.

6. Concentrate on what you can control

Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Remember that you can only control your own thoughts and actions, not anyone else’s.

7. Move on

Instead of mentally replaying your hurt over and over, stop ruminating and seek out new friends and new situations that can give you positive situations instead.

8. Be the agent of change in your life

Remember that a life well lived is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power to the person who hurt you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.

9. Change the story

Amend your grievance story with a new ending: Your heroic choice to forgive.

Fred Luskin, Ph.D., serves as the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and is the author of the best-selling book Forgive for Good

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