How to forgive someone

Sometimes, it’s very hard to forgive someone for something they’ve done that’s hurt you, but forgiveness has a lot of benefits. There are a bunch of strategies you can use to help you learn how to forgive. Find out what they are, and what to do if they’re not working.

This can help if:

  • you’re experiencing a conflict with someone

  • you want to manage your relationships better

  • you need to relieve anger and stress.

Man and teen boy talking

Why forgiveness is helpful

In order to forgive someone, you need to be able to deal with the hurt and anger you associate with them. Holding on to anger and hurt feelings can weigh you down and have a negative impact on your physical health, your overall happiness, and the quality of your relationships.

How to forgive

Here are some steps that might help you to forgive someone:

  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to understand from their point of view why they hurt you. Maybe they’re going through something you don’t know about. Was it a misunderstanding?

  • Try to visualise the situation or event objectively, taking your emotions out of the picture for a second. What happened? Can you see both sides?

  • Think back to times when you’ve made a mistake, or made someone feel bad, and they forgave you. We’re all human.

  • When you’re ready, share with others the fact that you’ve forgiven someone – write a letter, tell a friend, tell the person. Once you’ve said it, you’re committed to sticking to it.

  • Every time you think about what happened, repeat the steps you’ve taken above. It doesn’t matter if the hurt and anger come back; just challenge those feelings each time. You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you feel about it.

What if I still can’t forgive?

It’s okay if you aren’t ready to forgive someone; just take some time to think about it. If you decide you are ready, but you’re having trouble working through the steps, you can also try these suggestions:

  • Talk about the situation with people you trust. An outsider’s perspective can help shed new light on things.

  • Write down your thoughts and emotions. They can become clearer once they’re on paper.

  • Speak to a professional. If your experience is particularly hard or complicated, it can be really useful to talk to an expert, such as a counsellor.

Forgiveness isn’t always an easy process, and it’s understandable if you struggle with it. But it’s worth trying out some of the suggestions above, to see if you can re-shape the way you think and feel about the past and let go of any hurt feelings around it.

What can I do now?

  • Get some support on the ReachOut Forums.

  • Record your feelings in a journal.

  • Talk to a professional if you’re finding it hard to forgive.