How To Forgive Someone

By Leo Gura - May 22, 2014 | 35 Comments

The key trick to forgive someone permanently and salvage your relationship.

Video Transcript

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Hey, this is Leo for, and in this video I’m going to talk about how to forgive someone.

Let’s talk about how to forgive someone. How do you go about forgiving people? In this video, what I really want to do is make an important distinction that most people don’t understand about forgiveness.

This distinction is the distinction between true forgiveness on one hand, and half-hearted forgiveness on the other. Most people don’t do true forgiveness, they do half-hearted forgiveness. The difference is very stark. If you do true forgiveness, then you give the relationship a new clean slate to work on up from.

If you don’t do that, if you do a half-hearted forgiveness, what you’re actually doing is toxifying the relationship even further. We’re going to go into the details of that distinction. We’re also going to talk about how you actually go about forgiving someone and letting it stick, making it stick within you. We’re going to talk about some different situation in which you might want to forgive people.

Things To Forgive

Let’s crack into that. The first thing we should probably talk about is the different situations in which you might want to forgive someone. These are things like cheating and lying, abuse — whether emotional, physical or verbal — hurtful remarks people tell you, fits of anger and fighting you have with people. Just wrong behavior in general, of any sort.

People wrong you in some way and you feel like you’re slighted, you’re offended, harm was done to you, and therefore forgiveness is now required. At least if you want to maintain that relationship. In all these situations, you might want to develop a good forgiveness ability.

If you do not know how to forgive people, then that means your relationships are fragile. In a relationship, if you really want to maintain a relationship with somebody for a long period of time, maybe for the rest of your life, then invariably things will happen. People will make mistakes. You’ll make mistakes. They’ll make mistakes. That’s going to happen.

If you want to have some sort of skill that will allow you to weather those mistakes, weather those storms in an important relationship of yours, then forgiveness is the tool you can use to patch that up, so that you can keep the relationships going. Otherwise your relationships will end, and that’s probably not what you want.

These are the situations. What’s this distinction between half-hearted and true forgiveness? True forgiveness is the following: here’s the definition of it. Forgiveness is letting go and forgetting. Two components: let go and forget.

The problem is that most people just think it’s the one component, let go. They let go, but they don’t forget. They keep pondering and ruminating about the wrong that was done to them. They keep keeping that thing alive. It’s kind of like a scab. If you have a scab on your arm, a wound that’s healing over, now you’ve got a scab and you keep picking at it all the time.

If you keep picking at it, it’s going to fester. It’s going to become worse. That’s exactly what’s happening if you’re doing this half-hearted forgiveness thing. If you’re doing true forgiveness, then you’re letting the situation go and you’re deciding to move on from it. You’re creating a clean slate. You’re not looking back into the past.

You’re not living and reliving those moments. The past doesn’t stay with you. The past only stays with you to the extent you’re reliving it, again and again. It feels like the past is really stuck. It feels like you need to forgive someone but you just can’t, or maybe you’ve forgiven somebody a long time ago but you keep rehashing that thing in your mind.

Self-Righteous Forgiveness

You haven’t really forgiven them, and you keep rehashing it but that’s an activity you’re doing. If you stop doing that, then you would’ve had true forgiveness. The problem is that when you do a half-hearted forgiveness, it also becomes a self-righteous forgiveness. Self-righteous forgiveness, what does that mean?

That means you’re proud of yourself for being this noble person, for forgiving the other person. It’s like you’re keeping score. It’s like you’ve got this little scorecard, and you’re saying “Yep, plus one for me. I’m the noble one in this relationship. I’m the good one. They’re the bad one.”

When you do this, you elevate yourself. You put yourself on a pedestal. Now you’re on this pedestal. You’ve got this air of superiority. You’re holding this scorecard over that person’s head. Any time that person does something that might disturb you or bother you, you can always just give them the look and point at your scorecard and say “Remember this time right here? When I forgave you for all that stuff you’ve done?”

If you do that, what do you think that’s doing in your relationship? The point of forgiveness is that you can set this clean slate and then move forward. If you’re doing the self-righteous thing, where you’re proud of yourself for doing this forgiveness, then you’re building up this ego about it and it’s creating more toxicity.

Inside, it’s creating a sort of a layer that runs under your whole relationship of resentment. This can look like this passive aggressive thing you’re doing, where you’ve forgiven that person, but you’ve only forgiven them in name, in name. Inside, you haven’t really forgiven them, because you’re always thinking about it.

It’s always coming back up for you. In some sort of either major way or some sort of subtle ways, you’re holding it against them, and it’s creating more and more dysfunction. There is no clean slate being created. That’s not what you want. That’s not the point of forgiveness.

You have to forget the wrong that person did to you. That is something that is a decision you have to make. It’s a decision. It doesn’t mean that you forgive everybody for everything. That’s not what I’m saying here. I’m not saying you become a doormat.

I’m not saying that if someone cheats on you in a nice, long, committed relationship and then you’re upset about it, and now you feel like you have to forgive them and you have to tolerate that. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that if somebody cheats on you, and you have a boundary they really crossed, and your values have really been damaged and you don’t feel like this is reparable, then don’t forgive that person. You can enforce your boundary and break the relationship off, or do whatever you’ve got to do.

If you feel like you can repair it, if you feel like there is still something valuable here that can be salvaged, if you feel like that person is honestly regretful about their actions, and if you feel like that person can change and won’t make the same mistake in the future, you feel like this relationship can still go on and there’s a lot of good that can come from it, then you can make a choice.

This is a conscious choice that you make to forgive that person. If you make that choice, what’s important here is that it’s not really a pact between you and them. It’s a pact between you and you. You’re telling yourself that “OK, this relationship, I see there’s good in it. Yes, that person did wrong.

I’m really unsatisfied about it, but there’s still something good. I think this can be repaired. I’m willing to work through it. I’ve gotten there. Now what I want to do is forgive that person. I really want to forgive them. That means I’m making a promise to myself to let this go right now and to never think about it again.”

A Promise To Yourself

This is a promise you make between you and you. The other person has nothing to do with it. To forgive someone takes a lot of strength and inner courage. What’s going to happen is this letting go part, that’s something you do right now, but then you also need to forget.

The forgetting part can be difficult, because your mind will just keep getting hit, and you’ll keep thinking, you’ll keep visualising about these wrongs that were done to you. You’re going to be living in the past. This will happen, and you’ll have to summon courage and fortitude to stay on track with your original promise.

You made a promise to yourself that you’re not going to go there anymore. Anytime this stuff comes in to your mind, just randomly, you have to tell yourself “You know what? I said no.” You have to say no. That takes strength to do. If you’re not willing to do that, and you just give in to every instance of this thing flashing in your brain, then toxicity is going to develop.

You’re going to create this revengeful type of forgiveness, where you forgive someone, but you’re still having angst about it. You’re still ruminating about it. You’re seething underneath. Right now, that might work. That might hold things for a little while. Eventually, it’s going to build. It’s going to be like pressure in a pressure cooker.

Eventually, that thing is going to burst. Your relationship will go very sour. In the meantime, before your relationship completely explodes, it’s going to get tainted slowly. On the inside, you’re going to get tainted. You’re going to be feeling passive aggressive. You’re going to be feeling resentful.

That negativity is going to creep into all sorts of different areas within your relationship. That’s something — if you really want to avoid that, then you really want to do a true forgiveness. That means letting go. You have the option to let it go right now. The only question is do you want to?

You have to decide whether your boundary was really crossed in a way that’s not reparable. Maybe someone really crossed your boundary in such a way that you don’t want to forgive them. In that case, don’t. I’m not saying you have to.

A Definition Of True Forgiveness

A lot of these ideas I’m bringing to you from Maxwell Maltz’ brilliant book, Psychocybernetics. It’s not really a book about forgiveness, but he has this one little short segment in there, just a couple of pages that talk about forgiveness and very poignant ideas.

This is a quote I’m taking from him. Here’s what he says is true forgiveness: “True forgiveness is when you realise you have no reason to hate or judge the other person in the first place.” You might think you do have reason. To live this idea, to live this quote, you have to summon something within yourself. You have to be noble.

You have to be strong. You have to be courageous. This is a higher value you’re living by. You can live by it if you want to. This is an option for you. If you’ve been struggling with forgiveness, this is something that you might want to think about.

Think about how you want your relationships in the future to go, how you might want to be using forgiveness as a tool to help you patch over problem areas in your relationships, whether you really want this or not.

The next point I’m going to make, probably the last, about forgiveness is that the problem with forgiveness and having difficulty with it is all about being stuck in the past. I actually have another great video, Letting Go Of The Past, you might want to check that out, where I take you through a whole exercise to drop the past. It’s pretty cool. Most people really like it. I’m going to link that below. You can check that out.

For me, I rarely have problems with forgiveness, because it’s almost like I don’t care. If someone does a wrong to me, it’s hard for me to hold a grudge against them. I tend to let it go because — it’s not because I’ve got these special techniques or mindsets I’m running on myself — I’m just very future oriented.

Look Towards The Future

I’ve got so many big plans for my life. I’ve got my life purpose that I’m living. I’ve got big dreams and ambitions for my business. I’ve got big ideas for the kinds of relationships I could be in, the kind of friends I could have, new people I could interact with and everything I want to be doing in my life that to look back into the past, I don’t have time for it.

I don’t have the energy for it. I don’t have the desire for it. Why? If you’re sitting there and you’re always ruminating about the past so much, and all these wrong things this person has done to you, and how they keep screwing up, and all this stuff — the only reason you’re doing that is because you don’t have a forward direction in your life.

You need to have forward momentum. When you have forward momentum, a lot of this little, petty stuff just melts away. When you’re just sitting, and you’ve got no purpose to your life, you’ve got no motivation, you’ve got no goals of your own that you’re accomplishing, then your life is not really about anything.

When your life isn’t about anything, then you’re sitting still. When you’re sitting still, you’re sinking. It’s literally like than. You’re sinking when you’re sitting still. Your mind will still keep turning, no matter what. The question is, is your mind going to turn on important problems you’re solving in your business, or your career, or something else you’re doing in your life, positive things?

Is your mind working to create? Or is your mind just sitting idly? Then what starts to happen is your mind just starts to ruminate. It starts to look inside. It starts to have these negative thoughts, all these idle, gossipy thoughts, thoughts that are petty, thoughts that are not creating anything positive in the world.

If you’re having all those thoughts all the time, it’s going to be very hard for you to honestly forgive somebody. It’s going to be very hard for you to let go of the past. The core solution to this, I would say, is to start to develop a sense of own purpose, your own purpose in life, a sense of life purpose, a sense of mission.

When you’re out and about doing that stuff, then the pettiness will melt away. People will do negative things to you, people will still wrong you, but you won’t really care so much. That’s a beautiful place to be. Then it’s very easy to forgive. Honestly, if someone wrongs me, I forget about that the next day. I’ve got too many things to worry about.

That’s what I want for you. That’s where you’ve got to be. With A very big transgression, that might be a little harder. That’s where you employ the technique I gave you earlier. In general, it’s still going to be easier for you to get over that transgression, even if it’s very major, if you’ve got something else you’re creating in your life.

Wrap Up

This is Leo, I’m signing off. This is how to forgive someone. Go ahead and make a decision right now. Be decisive. Decide right now if you want to forgive them. Do it, commit to it, and never look back. That’s the solution. I’m signing off.

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Hersch says:

Excellent video again.What videos do you recommend for getting the fullest from life?

Leo Gura says:

All of them!

digvijay says:

hey the video transcript’s not der ……pls put it….thanks

Leo Gura says:

Coming soon!

Marian Palmer says:

This clip got me thinking. Take the example of someone who was physically abused as a child and cannot forgive the person responsible. Some psychiatrists advocate delving into childhood memories as a method of eradicating the results of such abuse. Are your methods and those of the psychiatrist mutually exclusive?

Leo Gura says:

No they are not. Delving into the past in order to release a negative event is very powerful. You should do it. But this is very different from the every-day worrying that you do. Your worrying and constant living in the past is not a therapeutic technique, it’s just a neurotic behavior. The point of the therapy is to release the past so that you stop re-living it in your mind again. So after you release, you forgive, and you forget.

You can always forgive anyone you want, immediately, right now. Nothing is stopping you but yourself.

ginta says:

Hello. Thank you for your really well prepared video How To Forgive Someone. The ideas are reasonably linked together so we see ”the whole picture” on this topic.

Leo Gura says:

Thanks Ginta

Bob says:

Really great– I keep holding on to a breakup, very angry and hurt. But I do realize a large part of it is not having a clear direction. I keep busy, but my ego keeps bringing back the hurt. I really need to let it go and move forward. Thanks, Leo!

Leo Gura says:

Yeah, I know that feeling. You need to find a new person to replace her.

Ariana says:

Hi Leo.

I just want to say that I’ve started to watch your videos lately and I AM SO IMPRESSED!

I’ve read many books about personal development, watched many videos, read many articles and I never met someone as good as you are!

I am your fan now. I will be visiting this blog for sure.

Leo Gura says:


Tim says:

When I broke up with my first girlfriend I looked on the internet regarding forgiveness, most basically said write what you feel. So basically I wrote that I hated hated her and that I was going to get revenge at the end of the letter I wrote I forgive you. She popped into my head sometimes so I burned every photo and anything else that reminded me of her. It took years before I entered another relationship and she started to look like the ex and I became violent which was out of character for me I also started abusing anyone who crossed my path at the time then went into a state of fear that was paralysing. I was having obes and felt like I was being attacked I felt cords attached to me a lot of energetic stuff I also basically destroyed everything and anyone in my path and now hate myself I can’t say I loved myself but I did at least have a positive outlook on life. I struggling to believe anyone about anything including myself I do have an issue with forgive and forget more so about forgetting because then it would give them the opportunity to do it again. I could tell you lot more but frankly I couldn’t be bothered and it’s properly a waste of your time anyways

Linda says:

Hi Leo,

Very very good videos. You always can speak right into my heart. May I make a request on how to forgive oneself? appreciate it.

Kim says:

Always positively thought provoking. Thank you.

Anna says:

Leo, thanks again. You make such a difference in helping me to enjoy my life. There is time when wi cannot forgive and forget . I took care of my dad’s wife when she was between life and death, suffering from two different cancers. I was with her all that time for two years. I did that unconditionally. Yet, I did not expect her to hurt me. How do you forgive this? I want to, but I can’t. However, I do forget, and it is when I am busy at my work. I love my job dearly. I teach math and science. I am very passionate about teaching. So, most of the time I do not have time to think. thank you again. Best, Anna

Marjorie says:

I just saw the video. Thanks for showing me the way. I was almost in tears while listening to the reality of forgive & forget. It was so beautiful to receive this enlightening experience; (the words of wisdom) worth a goldmine.

Thank you.

Dana says:

Interesting! But Leo, sometimes I forget and forgive a pain someone caused in me in the past. However, once similar type of pain is caused again by the person, all previous history comes up again. (Even about small things) Any solution for that?

Leo Gura says:

The solution is to look much deeper to find what the thing is in YOU that’s creating the hurt. The other person isn’t really hurting you. You are generating the hurt yourself with the way you view the world. The solution lies there.

Kirsten says:

It’s obvious the pain of the past must be forgiven and shouldn’t be brought back up…

It also seems logical small pains should be let go, or released as much as possible unless they cause a problem

But what about a big pain which u forgave, but keeps on coming up , are u suggesting to continue status queue and forgive ? Or in these cases is this a potential person whom you may be better living life without?

Colin says:

I appreciate this video thank you so much.

Spent years battling with myself to find acceptance and forgiveness. You make a great deal of sense. I’m engaged, consumed in a negative battle with myself.

David says:

Your so fucking smart on this topic, Leo. Good work!

Naomi says:

Great video! Thank you!

choayb says:

hi leo I really needed this right now. I must remind myself to continuously practice this principles for better life for me and for my partners

actually for a while i wanted to ask you to cast a talk about climbing the ladder of buisiness (work) Levels

Kirsten says:

I know I can forgive someone , let it go, even if they are out of my life.

If someone is still in my life and I desire true forgiveness which I feel capable of ,,, where does the person apologizing or admitting wrong fit in?

In some cases its obviously a random mistake , in other cases its natural to want to protect yourself from being hurt again.

I would say in either of the two above cases forgiveness helps my soul and benefits me the most regardless.

But what if someone said something hurtful… I don’t want to say ” I require an apology “, ” I require you understand how you hurt me and promise not to” because I want to forgive regardless.

How do I draw line between ensuring I’m not being hurt , misunderstood, etc in order to grow the relationship and avoid problems – and blind forgiveness where the other person doesn’t want to talk about it.

Ex person says “let’s just have a clean slate”

Name says:

Hi Leo I need your help.

I really want to forgive someone, not because of him/her because of me I don want to think about him/her, but it’s impossible(looks like) I don’t want him/her if I had chance i would kill him/her without thinking all I want is to forget.

Nicole says:

Thank you for all of your amazing videos. I feel like whenever I feel like i’m in a sour mood, I just have to look through your list of videos and i’ll be able to find one that will pertain to my situation, and it always does help. I rewatch your videos ALL the time! (the ones that I like the best and they’ve helped me to integrate certain things within me…I owe my personal growth within the last few months to you and your wisdom and knowledge, so thank you very much. You’ve impacted me so much and i’m thankful that I found your channel. Keep doing you

Leo Gura says:

Sweet! Glad they’re helpful

Daedeye says:

Do you have advice on traumas?

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