Using Forgiveness as a Tool to Support Recovery

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of anger or resentment after being wronged or doing wrong. Simply saying the words “I forgive you”, or accepting an apology, is not forgiveness. Contrary to what some may believe, forgiveness also does not mean condoning the wrongdoing, or even reconciling the relationship.

When we think of forgiveness, what comes to mind most often is about forgiving an offender.  However, there are other forms of forgiveness as well:

  •  We may struggle to forgive ourselves.
  • We may find ourselves needing to ask someone else for forgiveness.
  •  We may need to accept a request for forgiveness.
  • We may find ourselves needing to find forgiveness related to existential concerns.

Forgiveness is an emotional change that occurs within the person who has been wronged (this includes yourself). This change can be incredibly freeing and is an important part of a person’s wellbeing.

Why Forgiveness is Important

1.  Forgiveness allows us to take responsibility for our own happiness. By holding onto anger and resentment (even in our subconscious mind), we are pre-paving our journey to be filled with anger and resentment.  The way we feel and the emotions we hold are what we use to create all of our future experiences. 

2.  Forgiveness allows us to see everyone in our lives as a teacher. Adopting the view that everyone in our lives can teach us more about ourselves (family members, friends, bosses, etc.) allows us to take a positive view of negative experiences. Thanking them for being a part of our journey and teaching us lessons that we now no longer need to learn is an incredible step in expanding our consciousness.

3.  Forgiveness helps us stop playing the victim card. Adjusting your perspective to a place of forgiveness and gratitude is empowering. When you continue to blame someone else, you automatically give control of your life to someone else and thus set yourself up to be a lifelong victim. Take the control back, through forgiveness.  

4.  Forgiveness forces our own level of consciousness to expand. The process of growth is continuous.  The moment we stop learning, searching for lessons, and expanding our consciousness, the ego steps in and takes over. 

5.  Forgiveness creates a space to let go and love. Many aspects of our life are temporary, this includes people and experiences. Letting go creates space to let new people and experiences in.

The Phases of Forgiveness

We can think of forgiveness as having four distinct phases.

1.      The Uncovering Phase. During the first phase of forgiveness, you will improve your understanding of the injustice, and how it has impacted your life.

2.      The Decision Phase. During the second phase, you will gain a deeper understanding of what forgiveness is, and make the decision to choose or reject forgiveness as an option.

3.      The Work Phase. During the third phase, you will start to understand the offender in a new way, which will allow positive feelings toward the offender and yourself.

4.      The Deepening Phase. During the final phase of forgiveness, you will further decrease the negative emotions associated with the injustice. You may find meaning in the experiences, and recognize ways in which you have grown as a result.

How to Find Forgiveness Within Yourself

Forgiveness is an action word. Below is one method that can help you find forgiveness. To use the method below, start with something small until you get the hang of it, then progress to larger issues.

 Get a piece of paper.

  • Step 1: Write down who you need to forgive and for what.
  • Step 2: Write a list of your current unhappy feelings about the situation. It is best if these are your honest feelings, not the nice, polite things you think you ‘should’ feel. You need to move forward from how you really feel, because that is where you are. You cannot move forward from where you would like to be; you can only move forward from where you currently are.
  • Step 3: Write a list of the benefits you will get from forgiving this situation. These will often be the opposite of what you are currently feeling. Sadness will become happiness, anger will become peace, heaviness becomes a feeling of lightness, and so on. If you are not sure about the benefits, just choose a few general good feelings that you would like, in order to get yourself started (“peace”, “freedom”, “more at ease”, “more confident”, etc.). It might help you to see the benefits, if you imagine how much better you will feel when you have forgiven.
  • Step 4: Forgiveness Affirmation. Pick of a few of the benefits you wrote in Step 3, which most

appeal to you just now, and write a Forgiveness Affirmation including them. This is simply stating who you intend to forgive and then acknowledging the benefits which come from forgiving them.  Then you say this sentence (in the silence of your mind) slowly, at least three times and then return to Step 1, and go around again. Keep going round until you feel the release of unwanted emotions. .

I forgive __________ [who] and I accept the __________ [benefits from Step 3] that Forgiveness brings.

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.