I serve as the Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects and have led the largest research project to study the effects of forgiveness on hurt individuals. I have taught forgiveness for the past 17 years, written best-selling books on the topic, and have conducted numerous research projects that attest to the mental and physical health benefits of learning to forgive.
I have studied forgiveness in populations around the world who have struggled with simple wounds like a break-up or getting fired or severe traumas such as the murder of a child or the rape of a spouse. What you see below are our research-proven steps to forgiveness. When people forgive by following these steps, they generally lower their blood pressure, anger and stress levels and become more hopeful and happy.
These nine steps are educational in nature … they are not therapy. Almost anyone can learn to forgive. You, too, can learn to let go of a grudge or grievance and move on to happier and less stressful life by using these simple research proven tools
9 Steps to Forgive Those Who've Hurt You
1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK.
Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better.
Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
3. Know that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person who hurt you, or condoning of their action.
What you're after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that comes from blaming whoever has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
4. Get the right perspective on what's happening.
Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes — or 10 years — ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
5. Manage your stress.
At the moment you feel upset, practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
6. Give up expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek new ways to get what you want.
8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge.
Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence.
Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.