What is Forgiveness?

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What Does True Forgiveness Look Like?


What is forgiveness? 

True forgiveness embodies a complex yet transformative process that transcends superficial reconciliation. It necessitates a deep, often challenging journey into self-awareness, where one must confront and release the tangled web of hurt, resentment, and desire for retribution that can bind us to our past grievances.

As we explore the nuanced layers of this process, one might ponder: does achieving true forgiveness alter our interpersonal dynamics, or does it primarily serve as a pathway to individual liberation and growth?

Definition of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a multifaceted concept often misconceived as a simple act of reconciliation. The definition of forgiveness encompasses a deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness. 

This process does not necessarily require you to forget the offence, nor does it obligate you to reconcile with the offender. Instead, it involves a personal choice to overcome negative emotions and thoughts concerning the incident, which can lead to healing and peace.

Importance of Forgiveness

Forgiving is crucial for several reasons: 

  1. It promotes emotional healing and allows individuals to let go of negative feelings such as anger, resentment, and bitterness – feelings that can weigh heavily on their mental and emotional well-being. 
  2. Forgiveness fosters healthier relationships by promoting understanding, empathy, and reconciliation, leading to stronger connections with others. 
  3. Forgiving others can contribute to personal growth and development, enabling individuals to release themselves from the past and move forward with greater resilience and positivity. 

Ultimately, forgiveness is important because it allows us to free ourselves from the burden of grudges and cultivate peace, compassion, and inner harmony.

The Journey of Forgiveness 

Embarking on the journey of forgiveness is a profound and transformative process whereby individuals can find healing, peace, and the opportunity for personal growth and reconciliation.

Processing the Hurt and Pain

The process of forgiving begins by fully confronting the emotional impact of the offence. 

  • Intense feelings, from anger and betrayal to sadness and confusion, often characterize this phase. 
  • Validating these emotions rather than suppressing them is vital, as they are fundamental to understanding the harm caused. 
  • Acknowledging the hurt isn’t just about empathy; it’s also about achieving the health benefits of forgiveness, which include reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improved heart health. By confronting and verbalizing this pain, both parties can begin rebuilding trust.

Accepting that forgiveness is a process highlights the necessity of patience and time in healing wounds. It involves gradually working through these emotions, which can be challenging and require considerable emotional resilience.


An important aspect often overlooked in this process is how to forgive yourself. 

This includes forgiving oneself for allowing these feelings to surface and perhaps for the role one might have played in the situation. 

Self-forgiveness doesn’t mean absolving oneself of responsibility; rather, it involves acknowledging mistakes and learning from them, thereby fostering self-compassion and understanding.

definition of forgiveness

Decision to Forgive

Deciding to forgive involves understanding how the offence has affected one’s life and well-being. This process is important as it entails acknowledging the pain and disruption caused, thereby setting the stage for genuine healing.

Forgiveness is not about glossing over or dismissing the offence but recognizing its impact while choosing to move beyond it. This decision can lead to significant emotional relief and is a key step toward rebuilding inner peace. It involves a deliberate choice that frees the individual from ongoing resentment.

Letting Go of Negative Emotions

True forgiveness often begins when one consciously releases any lingering resentment or anger towards the person who caused harm. 

  • This decision is not merely about forgetting the past but involves a deep, psychological process of actively letting go of negative emotions. 
  • Such a choice requires significant mental resilience and an understanding of the benefits of emotional release.
  • It’s about reclaiming personal power rather than allowing past hurts to dictate ongoing feelings and behaviours. By letting go of bitterness and resentment, individuals open themselves to healing and peace, which negative feelings might otherwise crowd out.

Moreover, releasing negative emotions is facilitated by recognizing the offender’s humanity. Acknowledging that people can change and that everyone makes mistakes can help reduce the emotional charge associated with the memory of the offence. This doesn’t excuse the behaviour but rather places it in a context that makes forgiveness psychologically feasible.

What True Forgiveness Is Not

True forgiveness involves a deep and genuine release of resentment, which starkly contrasts what we might consider ‘false forgiveness.’

False forgiveness occurs when someone outwardly claims to forgive yet inwardly harbours resentment and anger. This form of forgiveness is often superficial, temporarily placating a situation rather than resolving the underlying emotional discord.

  • It may manifest in passive-aggressive behaviours, continued mistrust, or subtle digs at the offending party. Such actions indicate that true forgiveness has not been achieved and can lead to further conflict and damage in relationships.

Genuine forgiveness involves a deep, heartfelt release of bitterness, allowing for personal and relational healing. Without this, the cycle of negativity persists, preventing the growth and closeness that could otherwise flourish from a truly reconciliatory process.

False forgiveness, hence, is not only deceptive but detrimental.

Embracing Forgiveness: A Pathway to Healing and Wholeness

Authentic forgiveness represents a significant emotional undertaking that transcends superficiality. It requires deep empathy, the relinquishment of resentment, and a commitment to personal peace.

At Your Path Counselling, our team of skilled practitioners has extensive experience guiding individuals through this transformative process. By choosing to forgive, individuals foster their emotional healing and contribute to healthier, more resilient relationships.

This profound act, hence, is not merely a response to others but a pivotal step towards self-liberation and emotional well-being. True forgiveness is essential for sustained personal and relational growth.

If you are ready to embark on the path towards forgiveness and emotional well-being, Your Path Counselling is here to support you. Our Victoria office is conveniently located at 102-777 Blanshard St, Victoria, BC. For more information or to schedule a session, please contact us at (250) 818-1623.

Let us help you unlock your potential for personal and relational growth through the power of true forgiveness.

Free 15-Minute Consultation