1. Understand that forgiving does not mean forgetting, or giving permission for the behavior to be repeated. It does not mean saying that what was done was acceptable. Forgiveness is often needed for behaviors that were not acceptable and that you should not allow to be repeated.
2. Recognize that YOU are the only one who is being hurt by your non-forgiveness. You feel the anger, the tightness in your stomach. You are the one rehearsing in your mind what you would like to say or do to ‘punish’ them. When there is no forgiveness, the bitterness lingers — and when you could be enjoying today’s pleasures, you are upsetting yourself with yesterday’s injustices. You give control of your emotions to the person who hurt you. It’s been said that the best revenge is your own calmness.
3. Make a list of what specific actions you need to forgive. What was actually done that caused your pain?
4. Acknowledge your part in each of the items on your list. Did you stay when you could or should have left? Did you draw this energy to you in some manner? If so, then you, too, have some responsibility. Seeing this lets you move away from a pure victim stance.
5. Realize that the other person(s) did the best that they could have done. Why did the person hurt us? They like you are an imperfect human being. Instead of thinking that you would never do such an offense, realize that if you had been that person (with his or her karmic situation), you could have done exactly the same thing. The incident was not about you; it was about the wrongdoer’s misguided attempt to meet his or her own needs.
6. Realize the futility of “grudges.” Sometimes we hold a grudge as if that would punish the person, but it rarely has that effect. Nor does it assure that he or she will behave considerately in the future. Many persons actually prefer holding on to resentments because of the hidden “fringe benefits” or payoffs. Examine what your possible pay-offs may be in playing the victim or martyr roles.
7. Acknowledge to yourself in writing or out loud what you have ever gained from the relationship with the person(s) who hurt you.
8. Center yourself, and verbally forgive yourself first for anything you might have done, on any level, to contribute to this hurt and resentment. You might say, “I completely forgive myself for anything I have done to contribute to _____.”
9. In a similar manner, express forgiveness for the hurts on your list, one by one. Allow yourself to experience the full range of feelings that emerge.
10. It may also be helpful to create a ceremony in which you get rid of your resentments, symbolizing the ending of the link between you. You may choose to visualize placing them on a raft and watching it drift gently away down a river. You may prefer to burn them and scatter the ashes of your resentment list.
11. Visualize the person you are forgiving being blessed by your forgiveness and, as a result, being freed from continuing the behavior that hurt you.