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7 Simple Steps To Forgiving And Letting Go

Written by: Ajabeyang Amin, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


One of the most challenging things about life as a human being is dealing with hurt. It can be hard to forgive and let go of the anger we feel toward people that have caused us pain. Sometimes, we could slowly distance ourselves from them without realizing why. Other times, it is obvious that we were wronged, and it is difficult to move past what happened. Nevertheless, it can leave us carrying around anger, resentment, vengeance, disdain, and agony that gradually erodes our bodies. Key phrase: “erodes our bodies” not theirs. They might be living their lives unaware of how we feel while we are walking around in anguish. The only way to free ourselves is to forgive.

What is forgiveness and why is it important?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines forgiveness as “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)” “to give up resentment of or claim to requital for” “to grant relief from payment of.” That’s pretty straightforward, but for an even more detailed description, here’s a link to a great read on forgiveness.

More and more research has shown that forgiveness is essential for mental and physical health. It prevents the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones that can negatively affect problem-solving and creativity. Additionally, forgiveness improves the immune system and heart health, increases self-esteem and enhances healthy relationships. With all these benefits, it makes sense that we practice forgiveness. And below are steps on how to do it.

Steps to forgiveness

The following steps are just to simplify the process and give you aspects to consider. Please note that your process could be different.

1. Admit what you need to forgive. To recognize unforgiveness, you need to acknowledge that something hurt you and you have feelings about it. This requires some humility in seeing that you were offended, and it caused you pain. If you can’t admit that you are capable of being hurt, it will be difficult to move to the next step. If you are holding on to negative feelings that keep coming to mind, this is your cue. Be honest and specific. What happened and why did it hurt you? Sometimes it helps to write it down or talk to someone about it so that you can see it clearly.

2. Remember that you are not innocent. An aspect that helps us to forgive is to remember that we have hurt other people as well. When we can see our own humanity in not being perfect, we are more able to accept that other people are not perfect either. Therefore, think about different times when you have hurt other people. Did you want to be forgiven for those times? How did it feel when someone let you off the hook and didn’t hold those things against you?

3. Decide to forgive. To forgive begins with a decision to forgive. It doesn’t just happen, and it often doesn’t feel good. Most of us don’t like to do it because it is emotionally and mentally challenging. However, it is necessary for your well-being and for your relationship with the other person. Therefore, decide to forgive and do it! You can say it in your heart, you can write a letter and not send it, you can pray to state your forgiveness as you give the situation to God, you can visualize having a conversation with the person, or you can actually have a conversation with the person where you express your forgiveness.

4. Decide to forget what happened. I’ve heard people say, “I can forgive but I can never forget.” Well, are you really forgiving? Forgiveness and forgetting go hand in hand. They don’t happen automatically but choosing to forgive also means choosing not to dwell nor bring the incident in mind. Rather, it means you choose to tell yourself when it comes up that you have forgiven and it’s in the past. You are actively choosing to forget even though it may take a while.

  • If you are a Christian, a perfect example is God. He knows everything, but he chooses not to remember our sin when we choose him (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 10:17, Hebrews 8:12). Can you imagine if God forgave us but chose to constantly remind us of our sin? How depressing that would be!

5. Note tangible steps you need to take. For some situations, you need to do more than forgive in your heart. There may be some concrete steps you need to take such as having a conversation with the person, communicating your boundaries to prevent future hurt, or getting other people involved when the offense involves others.

  • This article explains how to approach such conversations as a Christian dealing with issues caused by church members or other believers.

6. Accept and remind yourself that it is in the past. Let’s face it, your feelings won’t disappear overnight. You might have to tell yourself repeatedly that you have forgiven and that what happened is in the past. This requires a level of acceptance that what happened, happened. You can’t go back and change it. But you can accept today for what it is and accept the person for who they are today. Sometimes you may need to accept that things will never be the way you want them to be. You may not have the type of relationship you desire with the person if the person is not willing to change. This happens and you may need to accept that.

7. Pray for God’s help. Lastly, we could all use God’s help, right? God is the ultimate healer, and he can help you. Pray for God to help you to heal. Pray for the person who offended you. If there is one thing we do know, it is that we have no control over others. Therefore, as you pray, surrender the person unto God’s control because God is able to transform this situation.

For more on forgiveness, read What does forgiveness look like in practice and if you are the one that has hurt someone, read How to respond when you’ve hurt someone.

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Ajabeyang Amin, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Dr. Ajabeyang Amin is a psychologist, Christian counselor, and blogger. She founded the blog, African Mind Healer where she writes on mental health, culture, and faith. She is dedicated to helping people heal from their traumas, get unstuck from their past, blossom to authenticity, and do the things they are called to do. She has helped multiple individuals and couples work through various life challenges. She is inspired by her faith, her clients, her experiences living in multiple countries (Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, France, El-Salvador) and 5 U.S. states, and by being a highly sensitive person. She holds a PsyD in counseling psychology from Northwest University, an MPH from University of Michigan, and a BS from Penn State University. As you read her writing, her unique background and perspective might just inspire you to take a pause and think about your life.


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