How to Forgive Someone Without Using Religion

Two Methods:Embracing Your FeelingsMoving on from Betrayal

If you are not a religious person, it may be difficult for you to understand why you should forgive someone who has hurt you. You may assume that forgiving someone is letting this person off the hook. In truth, forgiveness is about letting yourself off the hook and choosing to move on without bitterness in your heart. Learn how to forgive someone without using religious principles - someday, you will be glad you did.

Method 1
Embracing Your Feelings

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    Recognize how you are feeling, and let yourself feel it. When someone we care about lets us down, we often try to bottle up the resulting emotions. We feel shame or embarrassed that we made ourselves vulnerable. Perhaps, we feel angry at the other for betraying us.Name the emotion you are feeling and know that it's okay to feel it.
    • Research shows that experiencing negative emotions is just as healthy as positive emotions when it comes to understanding the complexities of life.[1]
    • To accept your emotions, breathe slowly and deeply - in through your nose and out through your mouth - as you think about how you feel. What would you call this emotion? How does it feel in your body? If you had to color it what would the landscape look like?
    • Another way to embrace negative emotions is to imagine them floating over your head like clouds. Just like the weather, this reminds us that negative emotional states also come and go. This bad feeling won't last forever.
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    Take responsibility for your part. This may be hard to do, but in order to move on you must be willing to accept some role in what you're feeling. Of course, you didn't ask the person to hurt you or betray you. You certainly didn't deserve it. However, you are responsible for how you react to your circumstances. And, when you accept that responsibility you can also accept the knowledge that you can learn and move on from this.[2]
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    Strive for empathy. All humans make mistakes because we are flawed beings. Developing empathy means walking in the other person's shoes and recognizing his emotional experience of the situation. Ask yourself these questions to strive for empathy:[3][4]
    • Have you ever made a mistake that hurt someone?
    • Why do you think this person hurt you? Was it intentional or accidental?
    • How might this person feel as a result of hurting you?
    • Would you want someone to extend forgiveness to you in a similar situation?
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    Know what forgiveness means. People are often hesitant to offer forgiveness because they misunderstand who it benefits. While the other person may be pleased that you extended forgiveness, doing so is really for you. It involves a shift in thinking from bitterness to one of goodwill towards the other. Here are other common myths about forgiveness.[5]
    • Forgiveness means I must mend the relationship. While you may certainly choose to mend the relationship, forgiveness does not require that. It is simply removing the urge for revenge or ill-will from your heart against another.
    • Forgiveness means I must forget. No, forgiveness requires acknowledging what happened, pondering the consequences, and deciding how you want to move forward. We know we have forgiven when we can think about what happened and not feel resentment.
    • Forgiveness means I am excusing wrongdoing. When you forgive someone you are not showing that it's okay to hurt others. You are also not demonstrating that it does not hurt to be betrayed. Forgiveness does not equal minimizing or justifying.
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    Avoid rumination. If you are truly going to move on, you must not continue to obsessively replay the betrayal over and over in your head. Thinking about what happened and what you could have done may only serve to intensify your negative emotions. Ruminating can even lead to depression.[6] To overcome rumination, do the following:[7]
    • Taking action could decrease your need to ruminate. Grab a pen and paper and engage in problem-solving about the situation. How can you minimize your potential to be betrayed in this way in the future? What mistakes did you make? How can you correct those mistakes? Make a plan to execute these changes.
    • Reappraise your assessment of the event. Sometimes, we get hurt because we had overly high expectations of others, or we exaggerate their shortcomings. Was the situation really as bad as you have been viewing it?
    • Boost your self-esteem. When we are betrayed our confidence takes a dip. Reach out to a friend or loved one who knows you well and ask these people to help you identify your strengths and talents. Being betrayed doesn't steal away your worth as a human. Focus on the things you are good at.

Method 2
Moving on from Betrayal

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    Confront the person and express forgiveness. If you decide to reconcile with the person who hurt you, you will need to meet with him face-to-face at some point.
    • Reach out to the other person and decide on a convenient time to meet.
    • Share your feelings and how the other person hurt you. Use "I" statements, which are phrases that minimize blame and allow you to take ownership for your feelings. For example, you might say, "I feel betrayed after you lied to me, but I am choosing to forgive you."
    • Include suggested amends, if you like. Add this to the above statement: "I would appreciate it if we both are open and honest with one another moving forward".
    • Allow the other person a chance to talk and perhaps apologize.
    • Research shows that when amends and forgiveness follow a betrayal, and the perpetrator and the victim constructively problem-solve together, they both have a higher chance of seeing improvements in relationship quality.[8]
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    Write a letter. If the betrayal was so upsetting that you cannot imagine ever facing this person again, or if the person died or is no longer around for you to meet face-to-face, writing a letter can be a great way to express forgiveness and get closure.
    • Write down your deepest and truest thoughts and feelings regarding the betrayal. Avoid demonizing the other person; instead strive for empathy and think about their flawed actions in terms of being human. Explore what forgiving this person means to both of you in the letter.[9]
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    Consider how this painful situation helped you to grow.[10] Even if we don't want to admit it, we grow through experience - both good and bad ones. Spend some time reflecting on what you have learned from this experience and how you can apply that knowledge to similar life situations.


  • Remember: Forgiveness is an internal act. The choice to forgive is a personal choice to let go of anger held at other people for things that they have done to wrong you.
  • Confide to another friend or family member. They may help you overcome the situation and deal with difficult feelings.
  • Realize that we all have the ability to choose who we associate with. If you have issues with someone, spend some time away from him or her. You may realize that the person is not worth spending time with. Find new friends and people who value you in their lives.
  • Try to understand and realize the true motivations of the offender.


  • No one can force you to forgive, but you may often be pressured to do so. You must forgive at your own pace. Rushing this process will cause lingering resentment.
  • Realize that confronting the person may not change anything. If someone hurts you intentionally, it is unlikely they will accept responsibility or make amends, particularly abusers. Be aware that they may take this opportunity to try to put the fault of the situation on you. This is particularly common among unfaithful spouses (e.g. "Its your fault I cheated, if you didn't spend so much time at work...").

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Categories: Maintaining Relationships