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Forgiveness tools 

There are many tools for forgiveness. These tools are found in places like religious institutions and internet quotes about letting go, but they are often vague. Here are a few detailed tools for the next time forgiveness is needed. 

Keep a journal: 

Journaling can help us let go of our thoughts. Taking the thought that has been running on a track in your head and giving it to pen and paper can give the thought running in circles a chance to forge a new path. Perhaps on this new path, the thought slows to join the rest of your wisdom in the long walk of life. Some of us might think that they talk it out and that is how they process. However, there is a difference when you journal. When we are hurt and we rehash something to a friend there are many things that flow in conversation that may not be what we really feel upon thoughtful analysis. When we put something in writing there is a permanence and a structure that is demanded. This is especially true if we see our journal as a tool for later reflection and hopefully clarify our thoughts moving forward. 

Use the Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique (PERT):

This tool is found in the book ‘Forgive For Good’ by Dr. Fred Luskin. 

Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique, is a way to ground yourself when the pain or anger from a situation in your life hits you and you need to regroup yourself before moving forward.

Begin by taking a few deep breaths and just pay attention to only that for at least 30 seconds. 

Bring to mind something you are deeply grateful for and continue your breathing. 

This part of yourself that is grateful, loving and at peace is the one you want to consult

Another way to imagine this is to imagine this part of yourself as your best friend.

Ask yourself the following questions 

What does this part of you do to resolve the inner conflict? 

Where does the loop of this thought pattern close so you can set it aside and move forward?

What advice does your best friend full of love and gratitude give to you to resolve your pain?

This technique is a powerful one to come back to the present and be aware of our blessings. 


This technique is suggested in Dr. Fred Luskin’s book ‘Forgive for Good’ but is a widely used technique for forgiveness in mindfulness exercises and you can find many variations of this. 

​This technique involves imagining sharing space with the person who has hurt you. In this space, you can see and hear one another but you cannot touch each other.

You then visualize giving your forgiveness to this person. As you do this, imagine any ill feelings of resentment or vengeance falling away from you as you give them forgiveness. As you visualize you can eventually bring this into reality. This might mean forgiving and letting go within yourself or giving forgiveness in person at some point. 

This exercise is very similar to visualization in sports. If you ever played a sport maybe you can relate to this. I was a swimmer and one of the most important things in swimming is your start. I have played this moment of a race over in my head probably a million times. I have imagined every bit of it from how my toes grab the edge of the block when I jump, to how many strokes I take off the wall before I breathe. In my mind's eye, I could feel the slipperiness of the plastic under my feet and the shock of the cold water. Every time I visualized it, I was a little more prepared for the real thing. I was less likely to slip or breathe right off the wall. This practice is true in forgiveness too. Playing out the scenario in an intentional and non-judgemental setting for ourselves can help us hold on to the abstract idea of forgiveness when there is often no direct closure. If there is an opportunity for closure, this exercise can help you prepare for that in a safe setting. 

Follow the 12 steps to forgiveness:

that Jack Kornfield, an acclaimed author, and teacher lays out for us in accordance with Buddhist philosophy. 

  1. Understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is not always reconciliation or forgetting. It is most often releasing our resentment toward someone regardless of an apology. 

  2. Sense the suffering in yourself, of still holding onto this lack of forgiveness. Anger has a way of often doing more harm to the person who is angry than the person that they are angry at. Holding anger is like drinking poison and then expecting the other person to suffer.

  3. Reflect on the benefits of a loving heart. When our heart is full of love, we give often and willingly. This, in turn, fills our life with more love. 

  4. Discover that it is not necessary to be loyal to your suffering. There are peace and joy available even after the darkest of circumstances. We are NOT beholden to honor or hold tight to that suffering. We can let it go. We can choose to live in peace and joy because they are fostered from within and no one can take that away. 

  5. Understand that forgiveness is a process. It is likely that we will not wake up tomorrow with a completely joyful and peaceful mindset free from any hurts that have come to pass. It is a process and we let go slowly until one day we go to bed and realize that we didn’t think of what had hurt us for a week. Then, maybe, it doesn't cross our mind for a month or even a year. We must commit to forgiving and let that commitment be meaningful and long-standing.  

  6. Set your intention. The long-standing commitment toward forgiveness translates to all areas of our life. It becomes a value system that gives intention when provided new obstacles. Intention can keep us focused on how we may keep our journey through life peaceful.     

  7. Learn the inner and outer forms of forgiveness. Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful tools for us to heal our mind, body, and spirit from within. However, forgiveness is not limited to the inner self. Confessions and making amends are powerful parts of healing for our relationships and perhaps even our communities. 

  8. Start the easiest way, with whatever opens your heart. Loving our pets, our plants, and even some of our possessions is often far easier than loving people who have hurt us, so we start by opening our hearts there. We can begin with our pet, that wants nothing else other than to give you love. Then maybe a warm fuzzy pair of winter boots that have never failed you or someone in your life that you have a wealth of love for. When you can tap into this love and be aware of it, it becomes clear that your love runs very deep.  It also becomes clear that you have more than enough to share it in new places that might need love the most. 

  9. Be willing to grieve. Your emotions are valid. When you are hurt, emotions are a natural part of the process. Be willing to really feel angry, sad and hurt. As you move through grief you can let them go. 

  10. Forgiveness includes all the dimensions of our life. Forgiveness goes from the innermost part of ourselves to our emotions, our cells in our bodies and into the relationships in our life. It is in everything. 

  11. Forgiveness involves a shift in identity. We must accept that we are not, what has happened to us. Regardless of any circumstances all human beings will reach to live freely and joyfully because it is an innate part of ourselves. We must open ourselves to this nature that is neither doomed by or destined for anything. This part of ourselves wants to forgive and be forgiven so that it can feel joy and peace untethered.  

  12. Forgiveness involves perspective. Our pain that we feel in life is so much bigger than the stories that we tell. Every person on earth in their lifetime will feel pain and loss. Pain is a part of life and it connects us all as deeply as it hurts. 


The text directly next to each number is from a transcript of a Youtube video of Jack Kornfield speaking at a University in 2011. What is in bold is from a transcript of a speech given by Mr. Kornfield at Berkeley which you can access in the link below. The additional explanation is provided by me after an extensive review of his lecture and other material. 


What if these tools are not enough? 

While these tools can help, sometimes we need help outside of ourselves. If you are completely emotionally overwhelmed, and/or your emotions are consistently interfering with your daily activity, then please seek professional help online or in person.

 If you are in crisis please call a crisis line. You are not alone. 

Online counseling 

Find a counselor near you 

If you are in crisis please call

 1-800-273-TALK  or connect at

You can also text a crisis line by texting “MHA” to 741-741

 Sierra Johnson  last edited November 1, 2019 

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