Forgiveness: what, why & how

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my Ho’oponopono practice – and how this is a little bit like the Marie Kondo form of decluttering.

Consider this… for a moment… in Marie Kondo’s declutter, you take each object (whether it’s clothes, books, ornaments, sheets, etc.) that you have in your home. You hold that object in your hands and you consider whether or not that “thing” brings you joy.  And if it doesn’t, then you choose to discard it.

What if we took this same approach to our thought patterns? What if we considered how we choose to ruminate or think about a certain event or situation… and we held that in our mind’s eye… and considered “does this bring me joy?”.  Or perhaps “does this bring me growth?” — or “does this lift me up and help me become a better version of myself than what I was yesterday?”.

And what should we do if this way of thinking or this pattern does not live up to that?  What if that pattern no longer serves us? What if it has already outworn its usefulness in our lives?  Can we let it go?

Dr. Robert Enright reminds us:

When we’ve been treated deeply unfairly by others, we should have the tools to deal with that, so that the effects of the injustice don’t take hold in an unhealthy way.

Forgiveness is something that I actively choose.  It is a conscious choice that I make – to release myself from the burden, pain & stress of holding onto resentment!

Release the tearsMany times, we feel responsible… but what are we truly responsible for?  We are not responsible for their actions – what they said.

What they did.

But we are completely responsible for our response – did I respond?

Or did I react?

And I am responsible for all the thoughts – and the pattern of thoughts – that I allowed to develop in my mind after that!

What am I choosing to focus on?

I cannot control what the other person did.  I cannot go back and change the events as they happened.  But I can change and control my thought patterns –> and these thought patterns lead to emotional states.  As a result, while I may not be able to change how I felt at the time of the event, I can change how I feel about that same event today!

When I look at forgiveness and the work that I personally do in forgiveness – I have to look objectively at “what am I telling myself happened?”  Not “what happened” – but what do I regularly and consistently tell myself happened?

For example – let’s say that I slept badly, get up, get dressed in a beautiful dress and go see a friend.  She takes one look at my face… at my tired eyes and says to me “you look terrible”.  She quite possibly means – “you look like you haven’t slept in days and you need to take better care of yourself. What can I do to help?”.  She probably doesn’t mean “you look fat”.   But how often is the story that we tell ourselves, after such an encounter “oh my God, I look so fat. Even so-and-so noticed.”

What is the story that I continue to replay over and over in my mind?

What is the cycle that I need to break?

Whatever the event is… whatever the memory is… I need to focus on my inner work – of lessening the grip that those events (or that person) has on me.  In order to be empowered – to feel that my life is my own again – I need to regain control of my thoughts & feelings.  As long as that person or event is able to control that one part of me… I do not hold the power!

Do I really want to give them free rent in my head or heart forever?

Or am I ready to kick them out?

Do a Kondo de-clutter!

As I’ve already intimated – I cannot go back and undo the past.  I cannot change the event. I cannot change how I felt at that moment in that place.  But I can change how I choose to feel today about it.  I don’t have to “forget the event” – but I do need to release the way that it made me feel, and simply let my emotions (energy in motion) flow.  Allow them to become “unstuck”.

forgiveness, control, thoughts, reconciliation, recognise, emotions, release, choose, forgiveForgiveness does not mean:

  • that the other person is even involved in the process (they don’t have to know that you are working on forgiveness & releasing yourself!)
  • that they have asked for forgiveness
  • saying it never happened
  • condoning what happened
  • reconciling with that person or even having a relationship of any sort with that person
  • letting them “off the hook”
  • that the other person will change
  • trusting that person again
  • making them blameless

The facts will not change. The event occurred. The words were spoken. But… you can change how you look at and experience the event today.

In order to work on forgiveness, there are a few steps we need to undertake.  Possibly the most important step of all – acknowledging how we feel! It doesn’t matter how “stupid” that emotion is.  It doesn’t matter than “this doesn’t make sense” or “I know I shouldn’t feel this way”.  If we truly want to forgive… if we want to move on – we have to start where we are really at!

And that means visualizing the person or event… and allowing ourselves to feel those feelings again and name it! Name the emotion or emotions.  I am feeling XX.  What pain has this caused me? Is there a place in my body that I feel this pain?   Where am I holding this pain within me?

There is a certain liberation simply in identifying it and acknowledging it.

But that is really only the first step.  We then need to go on to identifying what needs (within ourselves) to be healed. Who needs to be forgiven?  Often, in my experience, this is “them, others and me”.   What emotions, thought patterns or states of being do I want to release?  What are the thoughts that start to automatically run through my head the moment I allow myself to remember this event or person?

Once I have done this, I can move on to recognising the true value of forgiveness – because I will be able to say “forgiveness will benefit me because after I release X, I will be able to feel Y”.  It is when I recognise the harm that is done to myself by harbouring these feelings & emotions – how this is still affecting me today – that I give myself the opportunity to move forward.  As I choose to forgive & release – I move away from the role of “victim” and I release the control that this person or event had over me.

It is as I retake the control over my own emotional state – saying this event or person will no longer have this effect on me – that I move to a new place of empowerment!

I want to be free – I want to choose how I will feel!

In this new place, there is maturity, strength, growth & wisdom.

My personal practice of forgiveness has evolved over the years – it has grown and deepened as I have grown spiritually and emotionally.  But it has always been a choice – and it is only when I choose to forgive – when I choose to release and let go – that I am empowered to take back my life!

If you need help with forgiveness & release – reach out for help.  Sometimes admitting we don’t know how to do this is the first step to transformation!


  1. “Forgiveness is something that I actively choose. It is a conscious choice that I make – to release myself from the burden, pain & stress of holding onto resentment!” This really hit home with me. Ive been practicing the notion that forgiveness heals. It’s proven to be helpful. Great read. 🙂

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