Asking Forgiveness: A How-to Guide—The Practical Side

Now that I have kids I often think about what my life was like growing up. Lately, I have been thinking about forgiveness and what my parents taught me about this difficult subject. They did a great job unpacking the idea that forgiving others—even if you do not condone or agree with what they did—brings peace, freedom and healing to your mind and body. They also stressed the importance of choosing forgiveness (over anger, hatred, etc.) as soon as emotionally possible.

However, one thing I was not taught was how to forgive. I was taught some basic helpful skills like look the person in the eye, ask for forgiveness and try to make it up to them. And these practices are a great start.  But if we want to have deep, meaningful healing in our closest relationships—especially lifelong relationships—we are going to have work a little harder. 

We are going to have to lean in, listen hard, clarify feelings and make promises to our loved ones—yes, promises.  Please do not misunderstand me. We are NOT to make promises we cannot keep—resulting in more damage. Yet we are to promise to try as hard as we humanly can to do better for those we love and hold close. This is how we will grow as individuals, couples, families and communities.

If we are to experience the greatest fulfillment in our most important relationships we need to get good at forgiving because we are all human and all make mistakes. 

Here are the steps of forgiveness I recommend. 

  • Restate your offense. Be concise and check it out for correctness with the other person. Do not “explain away” your offense/make excuses. The less you say the better. And remember, this step is NOT about defending yourself. 
  • Restate the person’s hurt feelings and check it out to make sure you understand what they are feeling. For example, say, “It sounds like you felt left out when I did that. Is that correct?”
  • State your feelings about hurting the person. For example, “I feel sad I caused you pain.” Or, “I feel hurt knowing I hurt you.”
  • Promise to try never to do what hurt the person again.
  • Ask for forgiveness. 

This approach to forgiveness can be used with virtually anyone anywhere. It can be used at home, work, with spouses and partners, children, etc. If you are struggling in an important relationship or having trouble with the concept of forgiveness as it relates to your life, a trained and licensed Orlando therapist can help you. She can provide a safe environment where you can identify and process feelings related to forgiveness. And she can also teach you communication skills to improve and deepen your most valued relationships. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced counselors.


Yolanda Brailey