Dr. Ned Hallowell

"To understand forgiveness, you must first understand what forgiveness is not," psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell says in his book Dare to Forgive. He explains it isn't about turning your cheek to someone or running away from the problem. It's not about condoning what the person has done or that you won't defend yourself.

Next: How to take the first step
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Pain and Hurt
Dr. Hallowell says the first step to forgiveness is acknowledging what happened.

  • Talk to someone you trust and open up about how hurt, sad or angry you may feel. Let your emotions out, and don't apologize for them.
  • Don't withdraw or isolate yourself. Stay connected and feel the pain, even though it hurts. With someone there to listen, the pain is more bearable.

Next: What to do once you've cooled down a little
Thinking woman

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Reliving and Reflecting
Once you've had the chance to vent, you are ready to appeal to your rational side, Dr. Hallowell says.

  • Ask yourself: What do you want this pain to turn into?
  • Look for the hook. The hook is what is holding you back—it's the portion of the misdeed that is causing you to hold on to your anger and resentment.
  • Empathize with the person who hurt you.
  • Remember that forgiveness is not the service of condoning. It's a service to yourself—free yourself from the poison of hatred.

Next: The difficult step of working it out
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Working It Out
Dr. Hallowell says this step is difficult, but you need to analyze your anger and put your life back into perspective.
  • Flatten the hook (what's holding you back) and rid yourself of the anger that is keeping you from forgiveness. Praying and mediating can help.
  • Take inventory and give thanks for all the things you do have.
  • You can imagine vengeance—just don't act on it.
  • Think of your future. Know that you and your loved ones will be better off once you have rid yourself of any vengeful thinking.

Next: What do you do with the anger?
Forgiving women

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Renounce Your Anger and Resentment
Dr. Hallowell uses the word "renounce" because your resentful feelings may never permanently go away.
  • Acknowledge that your anger can come back.
  • If your anger does comes back, go through the process again and flatten the hook to keep moving forward.
  • Try to teach others the skill of forgiveness in an empathetic way.

The Power of an Apology
Why forgiveness can set you free
How far will an apology go?
What to do if the person you need to forgive most is you