By Darine Ammache, Clinical Psychologist


Forgiveness is a powerful tool that can greatly benefit our emotional and physical health. It can help us let go of unpleasant emotions like resentment and anger while fostering positive emotions such as empathy and compassion. Studies have found that forgiveness is linked to lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thereby decreasing the risk of health issues like heart disease.


However, forgiveness is not always easy, especially when dealing with serious trauma or hurt. It can be a challenging process that requires patience, time, and effort.


Forgiving someone does not mean forgetting or excusing the actions that caused the pain. Instead, forgiveness involves understanding the situation, letting go of negative emotions, and coming to terms with the matter. One strategy that can help individuals process their emotions and find a way to forgive is the REACH model. This model includes the following steps:


Recognize and accept the pain: The first step in forgiving someone is to acknowledge and accept the hurt or harm that has been done to you. This step can be difficult as it may trigger unpleasant emotions. It’s important to allow yourself to feel these emotions and acknowledge their impact on you.

Exercise empathy: Try to understand the offender and why they may have acted the way they did. This can help you develop empathy for them, which is an important step in the process of forgiveness.

Make the decision to forgive: Forgiveness is a choice, and it’s crucial to decide to let go of the offense and offer forgiveness to the offender. Take the time you need to process your feelings and thoughts before making this decision.

Let go of negative feelings: Forgiving someone involves letting go of hostile feelings like anger, bitterness, and revenge. It’s important to acknowledge these emotions and find ways to release them. This can be achieved by keeping a journal, talking to a trusted friend, or practicing relaxation exercises like deep breathing or meditation.

Express your forgiveness: Once you decide to forgive, it can be helpful to express your forgiveness to the person who hurt you. This can be done verbally, in writing, or during a therapy session. This communication can help you move on and find closure.

Work on re-establishing trust: Depending on the circumstances, forgiveness may also involve rebuilding trust with the offender. This process can take time, so it’s important to set clear expectations and boundaries for the future.


Why is it that some people struggle to forgive, despite their best efforts? Here are a few reasons why forgiveness can be challenging:


  1. The brain’s fear response can make forgiveness difficult, especially when the injury was serious.
  2. A desire for vengeance and a sense of unfairness can make it hard to let go of anger and resentment.
  3. If the offender lacks empathy or guilt, it can be more difficult to understand and empathize with them.
  4. Harboring resentment can make forgiving difficult and acts as a powerful barrier to forgiveness.
  5. Some may worry that forgiving will make them vulnerable to future suffering, making it hard to forgive.


Forgiveness can be a valuable strategy for improving both mental and physical health. While it may be challenging at times, working on forgiveness can lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. The process can be lengthy and demanding, so if forgiveness is a struggle, seek the guidance of a therapist or counselor who can support you through the process.

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