Forgive and Find Peace

Forgive and Find Peace

It’s often easier said than done. Forgiving that person who has done you wrong (and is perhaps still continuing to do so) sounds like something that may end those sleepless nights and moody days – so why can’t some of us do it all the time? In fact, why should we? What does forgiving mean and how is it done?

While there is consensus1 on what forgiveness entails, such as forgiving does not mean forgetting and that it helps in de-escalating emotions (eg. anger) that can have devastating effects when they get out of control, there is a rich diversity on defining forgiveness and that it is subjected to individual perception and interpretation. People can forgive in varying degrees and forgiving does not always lead to a better2 well-being for the forgiver.


Case (*names have been changed to protect the identities of individuals)

Janet and Jason are tired of fighting with each other. They have been trying to avoid conflicts or anything that may create situations where they would disagree with each other but it has gotten to the point where each of them feels he or she is walking on eggshells and any form of communication is stressful. Janet tries to cope by talking to her friends even though sometimes they make her more stressed from the way they try to advise her. Janet is not close to her family-of-origin and so she does not share much with them. Janet’s father senses things are not going well for Janet and has tried to ask her about it, only to be met with replies such as “Don’t worry, just the usual stress, no big deal”. On his side, Jason tries to cope by sharing with his family and engaging with his hobbies more regularly. He is close to his family and often updates them on what has been happening in his life, including minute details about his relationship with Janet. Both Janet and Jason share a common characteristic – holding grudges. Both of them keep mental (and sometimes physical) records of the wrongdoings committed by the other. The records were initially meant for them to be accurate about what actually happened and why they were upset so that they could “talk about it” but they soon became reminders of the wrongdoings that constantly stayed in their minds. 

At some points in our lives, each of us will do something that makes ourselves or someone else unhappy. After all, we are individuals with our own ways of doing things and many times we will do things based on our own perceptions and benefits. Choosing to forgive a person who has done something wrong is certainly not as easy as it sounds. Like many things we do in life, forgiveness can come in different forms and levels. This also applies to the type and seriousness of the wrong done by the person, as well as the pain or suffering it has caused the others.

Nevertheless, you can choose to forgive if it helps you to move on with your life, instead of feeling dragged by the rumination. While it may be common for a person to go into a loop with their negative thinking as they attempt to process the events that have impacted them, rumination in the long term can cause a person’s state to spiral downwards.

If you feel that you want to or, for some reason, you are ready to forgive a person for your sake more than theirs, you could consider the following:

  • Be clear on what or who you are forgiving
  • Decide if there are different levels or types of situations where you forgive
  • Define what forgiving means to you


As you go through different approaches to forgiving, you may at times wonder how this helps you to get the closure that you need. You probably realise that while closure does not need to involve the person whom you are trying to forgive, you can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness, or disappointment, and perhaps even wonder, over the possibility of involving the person within the process of forgiving, getting a closure, and moving on. As much as you’d hate to admit, you may wish for the person to somehow make the much needed apology and provide an adequate explanation of what actually happened – and – if there are options now that can alleviate3 the discomfort of the loss or wrong that was done.

Assuming, of course, that the person is also in pain and wants to be relieved of it, or that they also require the same in order to move on.

The what ifs can grow beyond a laundry list as you attempt to analyse and hope for the outcomes that you actually desire and not simply make do with. You know, however, that more often than not, it will become the latter. So, what else can you do  now?

For one, you could focus on coming to peace with your current situation, which comprises of all parts of you and your experiences. In other words, your past, present and future are but a common linear process of your life. In this manner, you get to decide what you think, how you feel, and what you’d like to do with these three dimensions. This is more than rewiring your brain or changing your narratives about what you have always been used to.

This is about going through a reflective process, which is what you have actually always been doing throughout your life. There are many reflective models and you could start from there.



  1. Belicki, K., DeCourville, N., Kamble, S. V., Stewart, T., & Rubel, A. (2020). Reasons for Forgiving: Individual Differences and Emotional Outcomes. SAGE Open, 10(1).
  2. Stewart T., DeCourville N., Belicki K. (2010). Experiences and ideals of forgiveness. Operant Subjectivity, 33, 149–178.
  3. Weir, K. (2017). Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. Retrieved from
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