Frequently asked questions about forgiveness in therapy:
Question: “What is forgiveness?”
Answer: Choosing to forgive means deciding to release feelings of anger or resentment towards someone or something for their transgression. It is the ability to recognize and accept when something didn’t go the way you hoped it would.
Question: “How do I forgive someone?”
- Take the time to understand and feel how you were affected by the transgression.
- Reflect on how it may benefit you to forgive e.g. lessen the weight of the pain, releasing the hold the transgressor has on you, repairing the relationship, etc.
- If it is safe to, talk to the person who you feel hurt by to explain how you felt by their actions.
- Explain to the person who you felt hurt by what you need from them to be able to move forward. This may involve setting boundaries and clarifying expectations.
- Search for empathy and compassion towards yourself as well as the other person.
- Recognize that forgiveness is a choice. You can choose to move forward and put the past behind you while holding on to hope that the future will be better.
Question: “I am trying to forgive but can’t seem for forget what they did to me. What do I do?”
Answer: Forgiving someone for their wrongdoings doesn’t mean you will forget the pain it caused. As with all healing, you may no longer have a wound, but you may always remember how painful it was when you got hurt.
Question: “If I forgive does that mean I am ok with what they did to me?”
Answer: No, forgiving doesn’t mean you condone or excuse the actions of the person who hurt you. Forgiving means acknowledging that what they did wasn’t ok and also opening yourself up to the possibility that the next time might be different.
Question: “How do I know if someone is deserving of my forgiveness?”
Answer: Forgiveness is something you do for you, not for the other person. However, in the context of repairing a relationship, you want to know that the person who hurt you understands the impact of their actions, expresses remorse and promises to do better next time. If they don’t believe that what they did was wrong, it will be harder to trust that they won’t hurt you again.
Question: “If I forgive, do I have to stay in the relationship?”
Answer: That is your choice. You may forgive while choosing not to repair the relationship. Sometimes the hurt is too deep for reconciliation, and that is ok.
Shezlina Haji, MA, has extensive experience in the area of emotional regulation, personal growth, plus many more. For more information on Shezlina and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.