10 Steps to Forgiving That Will Make You Happy

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Relationships are complicated and forgiving each other is one of the hardest parts. So, I've listed 10 steps to forgive, move on, and be happy.

It’s easy to love someone who loves you. It’s possible to love someone who is indifferent. But to love someone who hurts you…

To forgive and love them takes divine assistance.

Last week, I asked you to tell me what relationship issues you’d like to talk about this year. A huge thank-you to those of you who responded. You’re awesome!

An overwhelming number of you said forgiving someone is one of your greatest relationship struggles.

Forgiveness is hard, isn’t it?

You’ve been lied to, betrayed, slandered, rejected, and bullied. Berated, manipulated, used, and abused. It’s amazing how many ways we sinful human beings have created to cause each other pain.

So you’ve asked…

How do I forgive the unforgivable?
How do I forgive the person who hasn’t asked for forgiveness?
How do I forgive the person who continues to cause me pain?

Tough topics but ones everyone has to deal with at one time or another. In the weeks ahead we’ll look at specific relationship issues that have to do with forgiving, but for today I just want to talk about forgiveness in general.

Here are the steps I follow when it’s hard to forgive someone.

10 Steps to Forgiving That Will Make You Happy

Relationships are complicated and forgiving each other is one of the hardest parts. So, I've listed 10 steps to forgive, move on, and be happy.

1. Identify the problem.

Figure out exactly what you’re upset about. It may be a big deal where pain and anger are completely understandable. But it may also be one more little thing added to a pile of other little things that finally pushed you over the edge.

And in all honesty, sometimes a pile of little things is just as hard or harder to forgive than one great big thing.

So, identify the problem . . . you may find that once you think it through forgiveness is easier.

2. Admit your feelings.

Are you angry? Hurt? Frustrated? Embarrassed? Afraid? Every offense comes packed with emotion and it’s important to recognize and face them.


And this is huge!

Admitting your feelings does not mean acting on them. As much as you feel justified, lashing out will only add to the problem. Take a deep breath and use calm words if you need to say something.

I find saying something like, “I’m feeling angry, frustrated, or ouch, that really hurt my feelings.” Using specific words to express how I’m feeling keeps me from acting out in a way that I’ll regret later.

3. Talk with God about the problem.

Refuse to talk to anyone other than God about it. 

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Recently, I found my prayer journal from a very difficult time where forgiveness was painfully hard. I read through page after page of heart cries poured out to the Lord. I know that it was on those pages that healing began as God covered me with His love and slowly filled me with His peace.

4. Remember God has forgiven you.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13

“You must forgive others.”

No exceptions.


Because you’ve been forgiven. Forgiving others is an important way we can show our gratitude to God for canceling our debt through Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection.

5. Forgive – Let it go.

When I need to forgive someone, I say to myself,     Person’s name    doesn’t owe me. I release him/her from making amends, fixing the problem, repenting, or anything else. I am canceling their debt, freeing them and me from this now and going forward.”


“You have the power to take away someone’s happiness by refusing to forgive. That someone is you.” ~Alan Cohen

6. Refuse to revisit the offense.

In order to hold on to bitterness, you have to remember and replay the offense repeatedly. Holding on to unforgiveness is an exhausting burden. Forgiving frees you to move on and be happy.

Here’s a list of things I do when I find myself thinking about and reliving an old offense.

♥ Turn up your music.
♥ Grab a book.
♥ Take a walk.
♥ Call a friend.
♥ Pray.

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability that counts.” ~Corrie ten Boom

7. Pray for the person who hurt you.

This is different from praying about the problem. This is specifically praying for the person who hurt you.

Pray for them to have a closer relationship with God. Pray about your relationship with them. Pray that they will have a change of heart. Just pray for them . . . it will change you even if it doesn’t change them.

I once heard a pastor say, “I pray for the person who hurt me until I can hear some good news about them and realize I’m happy for them. It’s at that point I know I have truly forgiven them.”

8. Forgive – Let it go.

Ask yourself…

How long do I want to let this toxic person live rent free in my mind and rob my joy?

Now go back and read #5 again.

Relationships are complicated and forgiving each other is one of the hardest parts. So, I've listed 10 steps to forgive, move on, and be happy.

9. Be Happy.

Spend time with people who fill your joy tank. Write in your journal. Play with your kids. Take a bubble bath. Practice self-care and be happy!

Remember – smiles make better wrinkles than frowns.

“Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed.” ~Unknown

10. Forgive – Let it go.

And one more time…

Go back and repeat #5 because I know this is hard!

Finally, I love this quote from Pastor Andy Stanley…

“In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feel like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another.”

These are just the basic 10 steps to forgiving anyone for anything. Repeat them as often as necessary and stay tuned for posts about dealing with the toxic person who lives with you, the person who continually justifies their hurtful behavior, and the person who blames you for their bad behavior.

Whew, looks like we have a lot to talk about. Relationships are complicated, aren’t they?

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  1. #5 and that quote from Andy Stanley really hit home for me, Deb. Forgiveness is as much a gift to ourselves as it is for the offending person. May we always be quick to offer forgiveness to others.

  2. I love that quote from Andy Stanley! Not only is forgiving the right thing to do not forgiving destroys my joy! Praying to remember this when I’m tempted to let unforgiveness live in my thoughts. Blessings to you, my friend!

  3. What a wise and helpful list, Deb!
    This is some good stuff!
    I’m blessed by you~

    1. Thanks Melanie! Your encouragement means so much1

  4. Very helpful list. I love the Andy Stanley quote as well as the Alan Cohen quote. I plan to share your link on my author FB page this week!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Yes, I want to remember that thought about not letting toxic people live rent free in my head. Whew, that’s motivation to let it go!! Thanks so much for your kind encouragement!

  5. Thank you Deb! I don’t necessarily struggle with forgiveness itself, its more of the post-forgiveness that I struggle with. THe relationship afterwards. This is such a good read! I look forward to following along with you about this this year!

  6. Remember, God has forgiven you…..

    My favorite! Thanks for this insightful list, Deb.

  7. Deb,
    Forgiveness is so tough … For me, I can get past the anger and even wish the person well and pray for them. But I find that I hold onto the pain of the event longer than I should. That ruminating thing! Ugh! Love your suggestions ♥

  8. Ami Mulyadi says:

    do not make one forgive contempt, instead making the sublime

  9. Very practical ten steps! Praying about it to God and reclaiming happiness are so crucial! Thank you for sharing your wisdom today!
    Visiting from the Dance with Jesus Link up.

  10. Great post on a challenging subject. I love the practical steps. Still challenging, but doable when they’re broken down like you did so well! I’ll be pinning and sharing.

  11. Forgiveness…a topic that is difficult to talk about and even harder to understand. There are so many myths surrounding forgiveness. I appreciate #10 – sometimes we need to make the choice to forgive more than once, depending upon the offense and the offender. But forgiveness allows us to move on with our lives and live fully for Christ. Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth, Deb! Always appreciate your wisdom!