Seven Steps to Forgiveness

“Nothing makes us so like to God as a readiness to forgive.” — St. John Chrysostom

What a blessing Pope Francis gives us in proclaiming a Jubilee Year of Mercy. We live in a fallen world; we wound each other constantly in small ways and in large ones as well.


Without forgiveness, the world quickly becomes hell, but forgiveness does not come naturally to us. Indeed, it sometimes seems humanly impossible.

God, in his mercy, breaks into this hopeless situation through the death and resurrection of his son to wash away our sins and pour his grace into our hearts — grace that can enable us to forgive as Jesus did.

Here are some practical suggestions to help the faithful let go of the past and focus on emulating Christ’s mercy:

  1. Be careful about venting anger. Venting does not dissipate anger, but instead reinforces it. Anger in itself is not bad. Like fire, it is both useful and dangerous; it can spur us to act forcefully to redress an injustice and to protect ourselves and others from harm. This is especially important where an ongoing offense is damaging innocent people. We must focus on doing what can be done to right the situation. We cannot let anger be a motivation for revenge.
Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys. License
Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys. License
  1. Do not keep going over past transgressions, as it will only feed the holding of grudges. Reliving the wrongs done to us simply keeps us entangled in bitterness, which can warp us into becoming the sort of people from whom others flee. Brooding over wrongs opens the door to all sorts of bad things. As St. Paul says,

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil” (Eph 4:26-27).

At some point, we simply need to let it go. Ask God for a spirit of gratitude; this is a good antidote to brooding on wrongs.

Photo Credit: Vic. License
Photo Credit: Vic. License
  1. Don’t involve more people than necessary. It is OK to have a confidante, but we shouldn’t go around discussing grievances with anybody who is willing to listen. This just leads to the sin of gossip, which Pope Francis has warned the faithful against, saying, “The person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying. With their tongue, they are destroying and not making peace.”


  1. Ask forgiveness from others. When we have wronged someone, it is important to give them the opportunity to forgive and be free from the burden. Also, we should make some sort of restitution for a wrong to let the person who has been hurt know we are sincere in seeking their forgiveness.
Photo credit: Rebecca Kennison. License
Photo credit: Rebecca Kennison. License
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. St. Thérèse of Lisieux makes this point eloquently in “Her Last Conversations,” saying,

“What we choose to fight is so tiny. When we win, it’s with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small.”

When we become embroiled in trying to argue, explain and justify ourselves, we lose our peace of soul. Better let the matter drop in silence. Thérèse was never afraid to speak the truth forcefully when duty required it, but she learned to choose her battles wisely.


  1. Act for the person’s good, even when we don’t feel like it. Don’t slam the door permanently. We must allow the person room to change while also acknowledging that ignoring bad behaviour does them little good. Keep praying for reconciliation.


  1. Make forgiveness a ritual at bedtime. Going to bed angry at the ones we love only weakens our relationships by allowing the bitterness and anger to fester overnight. We should make it a habit to resolve the disputes — with our families, especially — before the end of each day.



Celia Wolf-Devine
For more on Forgiveness from Celia Wolf-Devine, see the full article on Our Sunday Visitor.

Celia Wolf-Devine is a retired philosophy professor, author and lecturer. Her CTS publications include the New Companion to Prayer. For more information on her and her work see

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments on “Seven Steps to Forgiveness

  1. How do you forgive people whom you have forgiven so many times, yet they continue to manipulate, lie and hurt?

  2. Hi Amber, I have discovered that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is about me finding healing for the hurt that I have experienced in my life. I have to choose to find healing for myself – to free myself from the bitterness and pain that holds me prisoner at this point in time. I have found that asking God to help me in this process has helped. In your situation, there is also the need to forgive your husband – so that you are freed to move to the next step which is reconciliation. This is a long process and takes commitment, prayer, time and patience. Remember that forgiveness is NOT saying that what happened is ok, or that you are simply forgetting what happened – we can forgive and still not forget. Forgiveness is not pretending all is well when it is not. Nor is forgiveness condoning certain behaviours that have created the need to forgive. Forgiveness is not denying that injury has occurred. To say “I can’t forgive, because I think what someone did is terribly wrong” is confusing forgiveness and approval – it is about the pursuit of healing in your life, so that you can be free again to live the life.

  3. I struggle with forgiveness in one matter greatly. In mass, when we recite the ‘Our Father’, I am moved to tears when we get to “forgive us for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Almost 7 years ago, a young woman tore my relationship with my (now) husband apart. We were going through a hard time, he was especially struggling, and she manipulated the situation in her favor. We spilt for a few months and he started a relationship with her. We eventually reunited and he apologized profusely for the hurt he caused by his actions. This woman, who positioned berself as a friend to me, never has and I struggle finding forgiveness for someone whom so callously hurt me. How can I let go?

    • Wow, your situation sounds a bit like mine. In certain situations what has helped me forgive others is to be greatful to God for everything and I mean EVERYTHING! Even the bad moments because it is in the bad moments when I become closer to Him and learn from each experience. Anyway, I’m grateful because I feel that through that situation, God gave me strength, growth and revelation (revealed to me that this person is not good for me and my family to keep around). Perhaps through this experience your relationship can grow. Last but not least, try not to think about that person too much. It helps if instead of thinking of her, we put our spiritual energy into into growing spiritually through prayer, service, scripture etc…It also helps to do acts of charity. When I go out w/my ministry to help the most needy, I look at my situation and realize that I’m far too blessed to hold a grudge and not forgive. Anyway, hope my 2cents help a little…:) God bless

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *