How to Forgive (Without Letting Anyone Off the Hook)

I always had a problem with the word “forgive”. It puts the burden on the person who was hurt to simply (er- not so simply) forget about what happened. As if they have to just take the high road because somebody has to do it, it might as well be them. The forgiver is the martyr and the forgiven is the winner by default.

I’ve heard that it’s important to forgive because you’re the only one walking around with it. I get that in concept but not in reality when whatever happened feels unfair, maddening, and downright wrong.

I had a work situation that I couldn’t get over. I’d wake up, go to sleep and every moment in between be bothered by it. Someone told me I should just forgive it. Let it go. That made no sense.

But I did think about the word “forgive” and figured out I could reframe it in a way that resonated with me and helped me do it in a productive way. Let me share the insight with you to save you some time.


1. For.

The “For” part of “Forgive” is for yourself.  What is it that you actually want in this situation, or in life? If you can be clear on your goal, it will save you a lot of time. For example, are you stuck in family drama to try to change some history and family dynamics, or do you just really need to pick a time that you can arrive at Thanksgiving?

Or, in the larger sense, do you need to move forward finding love or a new job? Try spending time taking actions to support what you want instead of spending time mulling on what someone f**ed up for you. You can still process what happened while you take healthy actions for yourself.

2. Give.

The “Give” part of “Forgive” is giving up the need to change the past. It’s giving up the need to have the other party regret or even understand what they did. This is incredibly challenging. So how do you do that? You focus on your “for”.

3. A Little Self-Compassion Here?

I think it’s hard to forgive for some good reasons. For one, the strong physical feeling protects us from letting it ever happen again. Resentment sticks around because the issue seriously disrupted your life and sent you off course. Unfairness is a horrible feeling. What Could Have Been is even worse. Try not to add frustration about your inability to forgive on top of the situation. Just get to your “for”.

4. Be Willing To Change the Relationship.

If this is an ongoing relationship your connection might be drama. I’m saying that drama might be the only way you know to connect. Perhaps you’re looking for more depth than the other person has or wants to give. In this case, keep things simple. If you’re dealing with an instigator, answer them literally (not their agenda but their question) and briefly. Save time.

5. Talk To Someone You Trust.

Sometimes you just gotta vent. Unfairness is unfairness. Kids cry over it all the time. I’m a big fan of therapy because we all need a third party to hear our point of view and guide us to recovery.

In fact, I’ve come to realize that recovery is a huge part of life because when you do recover, even with small daily things, you get more freedom with your time. Your emotional time, I mean.  So focus on your “for” because once you cut down on the drama and get to your new goal, it’ll be much easier to forgive anyway. It’s much easier to forgive an ex when you’ve found a new love, or forgive your old boss when you’ve got a new kick-a** job. Recovery is another word for forgiveness.

I now for-give the word forgive.

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10 Comments on “How to Forgive (Without Letting Anyone Off the Hook)”


    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thanks for the note. That’s very cool.

  2. This is the part I like best: “…Forgive” is giving up the need to change the past. It’s giving up the need to have the other party regret or even understand what they did.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Oh thanks for letting me know. It is such an interesting piece of the puzzle.

  3. I’m going to try this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I felt better today.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      I love hearing that. Thanks for the note.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I love this title. It summarizes why none of us want to “forgive.” Your definition is really good and realistic. Funny last line. As always, your solutions are creative and useful. Thanks for the advice. I’m writing it down on my notepad to remember it and apply it to my life. I find this information so accessible, true, useful, and wise. I can’t believe it is free!!!

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thanks so much for your comments. Can’t wait to share the book with you!

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