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How to Forgive: 7 Steps to Emotional Freedom

March 8, 2014 By Ruth Seebeck 1 Comment

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It’s an old children’s nursery rhyme, but it’s not really true, is it?

Have you noticed how weighted down you feel when a person says something unkind or untrue about you? The problem with hurtful words is they remain in the atmosphere of your thinking. They hurt, often worse and far longer than physical pain. It’s difficult to regain your equilibrium.

Our tendency is to blame ‘them’ for the problem. As we overdose on self-pity, we forget that we have the ability, indeed the God-ordained right and power, to rule our emotions. That includes unforgiveness, anger, sadness, grief and other negative feelings.

God wants you to have stability and peace. That is why your spirit is supposed to be stronger than your emotions, so you can govern your actions and reactions.

When you find yourself in that downward spiral of anger, hurt and a desire for retaliation, it’s important to ‘stop the madness’. Here are seven steps to help you forgive.

  • Remind yourself that the other person is probably unaware that you hurt. Mercy is easier when you see the other person as innocent of intentional wrong-doing. Stuff happens. You know how you feel when something you say or do – with the intent to help – is resented or misunderstood. Extend that empathy to the one who hurt you. Jesus, on the Cross, said, “Father, forgive them; for they know now what they do” (Luke 23:34).
  • Realize that forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. Choose with intent to forgive and move forward. Reinforce your decision as many times as it takes. When the disciples asked Jesus how many times they were supposed to forgive, He told them ‘seventy times seven’! (Matt. 18:22). Like dieting, you will have to say NO to yourself … often. No to your emotions, no to negative thoughts, no to vengeance. Don’t dine on self-pity. Avoid those negative thoughts like calories.
  • Hush! You cannot find emotional distance if you continually tell anyone who will listen what ‘they did to you’. Stop talking about it. To others and to yourself. Resist the temptation to tell it ‘just one more time’. Every time you speak about it, you tear the scab off the wound instead of allowing it to heal. God, in His mercy, said He will ‘remember no more’ (Heb. 8:12), no matter what you’ve done. You can do the same for others.
  • Look for the lesson. In every negative situation is the seed for something positive. What did you learn? How did you grow? What life lesson can you take away? If you can’t seem to find anything positive, look again. Keep looking (sometimes time and distance help) until you can see the situation from a positive viewpoint. Proverbs 19:8 says he who keeps [seeks and hangs onto] understanding shall find good.
  • Forgive yourself, also. Sure, you probably spent some time rehashing the situation, creating different scenarios in your mind, thinking of all the things you could have said. Admit it and move forward. It’s OK to recognize your feelings as human, just don’t camp there. After all, it took the Israelites 40 years to make an 11-day journey … all because they stayed captured by their feelings (Deut. 8:2; Acts 13:18).
  • Make a gesture of forgiveness to reinforce your decision with action. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:44). Send a card or small gift. Meet for coffee or lunch. Do something to bless the perpetrator. Do it without expectation of reward or acknowledgement. Do it to BE a blessing!
  • Practice gratitude. How long did you spend in the doldrums of anger and hurt? Spend at least as much time thinking about all the good things in your life. It will change your focus and put the incident in perspective. Ask yourself, “Will it still matter next Tuesday?”

Unforgiveness is a crutch. It makes you a victim instead of a victor. And I’m sure you don’t want to be on crutches all your life! Take back the control. Do not let another person rule your thoughts and emotions. By allowing yourself to focus on the wrongs, you lose sight of the goodness around you, the possibilities of blessing and joy.

Learn to recognize when you are harboring negative thoughts about another person. It is often easier to forgive major incidents, while you forget to forgive minor ones. If you have been in a relationship for very long, you know how easily you can dredge up past hurts, even the insignificant ones. The desire for recrimination, (“You hurt me, too!”), Is a major factor in divorce and failed relationships.

Forgiveness is not optional. Jesus said, “When you pray, forgive” (Mark 11:25). Your emotions should not control your obedience to Divine instruction. By using these steps, you will be able to follow His plan to release love in every situation. And, after all, love never fails (I Cor. 13:8).

Remember that forgiveness is a DECISION, not a feeling. It takes strength of spirit, mind and purpose to walk in love. You may have to remind yourself several times a day (as your mind tries to circle back to the hurts) that you forgave that person.

Stay with it. It gets easier with practice! You will eventually find yourself ‘rooted and grounded in Love’ (Eph. 3:17) instead of anger, hurt or bitterness. Practicing forgiveness is critical to your emotional freedom and stability. It is the key to peace, joy and contentment.



  1. el cinturon de kiuper says:
    August 22, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of
    my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this.
    I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!