4 Steps to Forgiveness

Just like the art of apologizing, figuring out how to forgive can be hard work. With Yom Kippur, we not only are offering apologies for our past mistakes, but are also getting and, ideally, accepting apologies from others.

For better or worse, Jewish tradition generally requires a person to accept an apology and offer forgiveness at a certain point.  Even after verbally forgiving someone, it can take some work to really feel at peace and to heal, to the extent it’s even possible. Here are four actionable steps you can take toward forgiveness this year:

1. Acknowledge and consider the person’s point of view. Take a moment to try to understand why they might have done what they did and the factors in their life that could have caused conflict. Acknowledging – not justifying – the complexities in someone’s life can help you come to terms with what they did and see them for more than just their mistake.

2. Focus on the good – it’s easy to forget someone’s positive qualities when they have wronged you, but the good often outweighs the bad. Considering the ways they’ve contributed to your life in a positive way can bring you one step closer to forgiving them.

3. Show you’re willing to move forward – letting someone off the hook and closing the door is not the final step in forgiveness. It’s important to show you’re willing to maintain your relationship with them, and it takes two.

4. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean returning to the previous status quo – just because you’ve forgiven someone doesn’t mean that everything goes back to the way it was before. If might be that forgiving someone comes with setting boundaries on how much time you spend with them or how you engage with each other.

Taking actionable steps toward forgiving someone, even if they aren’t trying to make amends, is an important practice that can protect you from unwanted stress, but true forgiveness takes work from both sides.