We open the discussion on why forgiveness is such a challenge and navigate where you may be on the forgiveness ladder, if you are struggling with un-forgiveness.

What are the Stages of Forgiveness? 

Forgiveness is a word that is used by many but it is difficult to do at times. At the end of reading this article, I hope that you will be able to identify where you are on the forgiveness scale, and where you need to be to live on the path of forgiveness. This includes not just forgiving others, but also yourself.


If you google the word forgive you will get the following definitions;
· To pardon
· To stop feeling angry or resentful
· To no longer wish punishment on someone who has wronged or angered you.

So Forgiveness is the act of forgiving someone who has done something wrong. It is a process that can take time and effort.

It’s important to say this:-

Forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing the wrongdoing, but about releasing feelings of anger and resentment, so that you are no longer consumed by bitterness and anger.

So it goes without saying, un-forgiveness is the opposite of these. You don’t want to pardon a person, you still feel resentful and angry, and you want to punish one who has hurt you.

The website bibleversespro.com describes un-forgiveness as “the root of bitterness which most frequently happens when someone emotionally steals something from us and doesn’t allow us to reclaim it.”

But have you ever known that lacking forgiveness has a negative effect on your body, mind, and spirit?

Johns Hopkins Medicine cites un-forgiveness as causing illness brought about by emotional stress. These include “Chronic anger which puts you into a fight-or-flight mode and results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions.”

Un-forgiveness causes mental health issues
A study by Worthington and Scherer (2004), concluded that “un-forgiveness is a type of stress response, which has a direct impact on the mental health and psychology of a person. The study also suggests that un-forgiveness can be viewed as a state in which a person is confined in a stressful state of mind”

Spiritually, Christians say that un-forgiveness causes a block wall between a person and God.

For healing to happen in your life, you must look to find forgiveness. But where do you begin?

Let’s set the scene — you just got angry. Maybe your friend betrayed you. Or your partner lied to you. The searing emotions are bubbling underneath and you can feel your heart rate go up. You are at the bottom of the forgiveness ladder.

Stage 1 — Anger & Un-forgiveness

At this level, rational thought is out of the window — everything is raw. The anger and the deep feelings of disappointment are controlling your emotions, your reactions, and your opinions about this person and everything else.

Unfortunately, most people stay at the bottom of the ladder and it takes a lot of healing to put one foot on the ladder and start the journey to forgiveness.

To put your foot on the ladder, you must acknowledge that you are angry, emotionally affected, and hurt. This stage is the beginning of the forgiveness journey.

The second stage is acceptance and admittance of hurt. Believe it or not many people don’t like admitting they are angry and hurt. They feel it’s synonymous with accepting that a person has power over them and their emotions. You cannot forgive if you are in denial.​

Stage 3 — Examination, Evaluation & Questioning

Once you are in acceptance, the next stage is threefold; examination, evaluation, and questioning.
 .What has happened to put you in this emotional state?
 .Was what happened intentional?
 .Was it your fault?
 .Was it fair?
 .Was it something you can change or correct?
 .Was your reaction too big or too much in comparison to what occurred?

Stage 4 is — Conversation

This is also hard because you may need to have a conversation with the person you are angry with or with yourself. Many times the person that has hurt us doesn’t know they hurt you or may not care that they hurt you and this stage may open you up to further hurt.

Sometimes, the person doesn’t even want to talk about it. Or they might be believing that you hurt them! Worse still, they may no longer be living.

Most conflicts lie in miscommunication or lack of it. You cannot solve anything without opening the lines of communication. This includes internal monologues. In a case where the other person involved is unavailable or not interested in talking it out, you must look inward. Ask yourself:-

 .Was it an overreaction on my part?
 .Did I handle that situation well?
 .Did I listen or hear out the person?
 .If you need to forgive yourself, the questions could be like this:-
 .Why did I do what I did?
 .Did I have a choice?
 .How can I make things right?

Remember, this does not erase what has happened or create room for excuses. It should be a sincere search for answers.

What happens if you don’t get the response you were hoping for from a person?

Stage 5 — Moving On and Looking past the pain

Forgiveness is not just a one-off act. It is a process of healing that takes time and effort. The person who has been wronged needs to take the first step to let go of the anger and resentment towards the person who wronged them, which is easier said than done.

Forgiveness can also be hard for the person who has wronged someone because they need to acknowledge their wrongdoing and take responsibility for it before they can ask for forgiveness from the other party.

But if they don’t, you have to move on. Moving on consists of choosing to move past the issue or moving on from both the issue and the person.

Forgiveness can happen even in both scenarios. Why? Because Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what the person did is right or acceptable. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what happened or forget it ever happened. Forgiveness simply means you are moving on with your life without being chained to the past.

Forgiveness is for the forgiver not for the forgiven.

While there are many things still to work on, like your emotions, this is where your forgiveness journey truly begins.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

To repair is to “put back together” to restore something to a good condition, and to “mend” This definition applies in the forgiveness journey too.

Now you are firmly on the journey and you have to start mending your emotions, your attitude towards the person or persons involved, your reactions, and your feelings.

If you have decided to keep the person in your life, your repair will include how you speak to them, not bringing up the now past issue, how you treat them, and even how they make you feel. Do you feel anxious? Take a break. Do you still feel some anger? Step away.

One sure way to keep the person in your life is to remember all the good they have brought to your life. We tend to forget everything that has happened between us and the person we are forgiving and hold on to the bad. Take the time to jot down all the things you know are good about them. Focus on those and your attitude will begin to slowly mend.

If you have decided to step back from the relationship and move on without them, the same outlook has to be used. Just because they will no longer be in your daily circle doesn’t mean you should not mend your emotions towards them.

You will know you are healing when you can speak to a person or speak of a person without that anxiety or emotional breakdown.

Final Stage — The Journey of forgiveness.
Now that you are on the forgiveness floor and off the ladder, it’s important to list the benefits of healing from un-forgiveness.

Reduced stress levels and overall improved mental health:-
 .Less anxiety
 .Better social exchanges and interactions
 .Repaired relationships
 .Activation of the “feel good” hormone production

Spiritually, it is obvious that forgiveness is a pillar in most if not all religions.

Matthew 6:15; “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

While religion has been used to pressure people to make decisional forgiveness, the bible is a rich resource of lessons on forgiveness and un-forgiveness.

The Bible reminds us that we also have wronged and we need to be forgiven.

We should learn to extend a willingness to forgive and start the journey, so we can keep our spiritual path to forgiveness open.

If you are willing to do the tough work, you will see that forgiveness is possible. It is a catalyst for changing emotive situations into positivity. 

Even though the outcome may be different from what you expect, there is no denying that an emotional shift brought about by forgiveness will bring you closer to a better mindset and wellness.
This article has also appeared on our Medium Page and part of it on our social media pages.
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