Steps to Forgiveness

 He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.  ~George Herbert


Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free. The miracle is, once you have forgiven, you discover that the real prisoner who has been freed is yourself, not the person who has hurt you.

It helps if you can identify the part/parts of you that continue to carry the wound. Is it the child part of you that holds on tight to the wounds that you never deserved or an adult part that feels betrayed? Think of all the faces you wear. Here are some examples of what I mean by the faces we wear (or parts) taken from my book Ragdoll Redeemed.

“No matter how many faces life has sewn upon the ragamuffin I am, they are all still only aspects of the self I have become. Just as I assigned personas and roles to rag-dolls in the hours of make-believe, so life has assigned me many roles: bastard child, daughter, granddaughter, half-sister, white trash, ward of the state, foster child, retard, good girl/bad girl, whore, wife, ex-wife, stewardess, mother, step-mother, grandmother, student, graduate, citizen, alcoholic, victim, perpetrator, professional woman, psychotherapist, adjunct professor, friend, colleague, cancer survivor, cancer survivor, wise women, and crone. When I have moments that I feel gnarled and broken, unraveled and undone, I can still sit before my own prayer table and imagine the soothing touch of my grandmother’s hands sewing me back together again. Now that I am old like the Mary, Mother of God statue, my essential Self far exceeds the masks that I have worn.” Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe by Dawn Novotny.

                                                             Steps to Forgiveness

1. I admitted I felt powerless over my resentments, hurts, anger and that my life has become ensnarled in the remembrances.

2. Came to believe that compassionately understanding my parts/archetypes (different aspects of the human mind) could achieve harmony and provide me with peace of mind.

No one is perfect. No one is without fault. It is much easier to forgive when I bear in mind my own weaknesses and failings.

We are all in need of forgiveness from time to time. We may not have committed something as serious as our offender but when we rate their transgression as worse than ours, we will have trouble forgiving them.

3. Came to believe that the God of my understanding (Spark of the Divine) could and would help me through a process of forgiveness as I humbly ask for guidance.

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.  ~Mark Twain

4). I sincerely make an effort to accept my part for the offenses I suffered, where applicable.

Write an honest inventory of yourself. For example, the times when your own wrong actions have hurt or disappointed others and the times you could have spoken up but chose to remain quiet (peace at any price) thereby becoming complicit in the situation.

If you can uncover and accept your part in the given situation, you will increase your ability to forgive?  Here are three examples:

Not willing to experience any family conflict and knowing that one step-son would cause problems, a friend didn’t get her estate in order prior to her husband death. As a result, the step-son sued her for a portion of the estate, costing her well over 50% of her retirement income. Her unwillingness to deal with the family discomfort was her part in creating this situation.

A client is married to a person who refuses to make a decision about almost anything from where to dine to their joint business decisions. She constantly accommodates his behavior until finally raging at him to just make a decision. She refers to him as an egg-beater who continually sucks her in to his spinning indecisiveness. Her years of giving in, disguised as, acceptance, support, encouragement, avoiding a disaster, etc. is her part in the dance in which they spiral down.

In Ragdoll Redeemed, I talk about lending my then boyfriend a large sum of money which he refused to pay back. After having been divorced twice and working in offices that involved contracts, I knew that I should have gotten something in writing but I wanted to convey trust. I knowingly diminished my self-knowledge and intuition for the sake of keeping a new relationship intact. That was my part in the breach of a verbal contract.

5. Write I forgive ____________ (the person’s name) for _______________ (the injuries) and how it made you feel about yourself and your life views.

6. Make an honest and heartfelt decision to forgive.

7. Try to understand the person you have forgiven. What was their point of view? How did they feel? Why did they do what they did? What was the life experiences that made them vulnerable to such a failing and/or wrongdoing? To stand in another’s shoes is powerful medicine.

8. Do not expect that your decision to forgive will result in major changes in the other person.


Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.  ~Paul Boese

9. Share your process with a impartial friend or a therapist. Remember that this course of action is for your healing not the justification or pardon of the offender.

10. Consider what you’ve learned through this experience. What could you do differently in the future?

11. Look for the positive results of forgiveness in you. For example, it sets you free from the past. It significantly reduces vulnerability to physical sickness by reducing the amount of toxins in your body. Forgiveness will allow you to feel and be healthier in mind and body and spirit.

Forgiving is rediscovering the shining path of peace that at first you thought others took away when they betrayed you.  ~Dodinsky

12). How might you help others going through the same or similar pain? It helps when we can redeem some meaning and purpose out of all the pain and chaos. It feels much better when we can understand that our paint wasn’t meaningless.

Blessings on this sacred journey.

Photo: Bigstock Photo

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  1. Dawn,
    What profound and wise words you bring to the end of 2012. When I say the Lord’s Prayer I remember that I am forgiven as I forgive.

    I need to get some more of your books. I like sharing them but am not tempted to give my personal copy. I love it because it is just like us reflecting human error but perfect when viewed through the lens of love.

    • Hi Gayle,

      Forgiveness sounds so easy but I think it requires in depth thoughtfulness.

      Once again Gayle, thank you for reading my blogs. I so appreciate your time and words. Best and Happy New Year. dawn

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Gratitude for a Forgiving Heart (part 2)
Foreword to my book (Ragdoll Redeemed) written by Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D