How To Forgive: Ancient Ideals For Modern Utility

Learning how to forgive

Do you want to be happier, live longer, become stronger, and take control of your mind?

Introducing… The revolutionary re-discovery of the century! It’s not some fancy technology, fad diet, insane workout, or miracle drug… In fact, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu, and every other religion have preached and taught it:

How to forgive!

So maybe you’re thinking, I already know how to forgive someone, but how can forgiveness affect my health?”

Well, our understanding and practice of forgiveness is just the tip of the iceberg. Especially when compared to Buddhist monks, who spend their entire lives cultivating forgiveness through mindfulness.

And science is just beginning to find evidence for what the teachers of every major religion were able to understand through intuition — that forgiveness is far more powerful than we think.

Curious to learn more about the power of forgiveness? Check out our guide to forgiveness.

Here we examine the Buddhist path to forgiveness and break it down into 3 simple components that help develop a deeper sense of forgiveness.

The Buddhist Path To Learning How To Forgive


Forgiving others

Forgiveness is like a muscle — it must be trained and practiced for it to grow. And just like working out, there are a few challenges, but the benefits can be incredible.

One of the biggest obstacles in learning how to forgive is in our instincts.

Humans are actually genetically hard-wired to seek revenge. This behavior increased the chances of survival in our cave-dwelling ancestors. However, it is incredibly maladaptive to our modern needs, like happiness and a sense of community.

Despite our primitive instincts, we are capable of unfathomable depths of compassion in forgiving others (like Chris Carrier’s jaw-dropping story of forgiveness).

Developing forgiveness requires an effort of mindfulness, but the benefits include better physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It can even increase your chances of fighting cancer.

The 3 Elements Of Learning Forgiveness

If a cute and cuddly puppy bit you, could you forgive it? Could you let go of that pain, understand that the puppy didn’t know better, and continue to treat it with compassion and love?

Quite easily, right?

If we applied that sense of forgiveness to every area of our lives, we’d be masters forgiveness.

So, to develop a deep sense of forgiveness, we first must recognize the opportunities we have to practice it. This leads us to the first ingredient of learning forgiveness.

1. Adversity

When we see life’s obstacles as opportunity, we open the door to personal growth.

Whether it’s the stranger on the road who cut you off in traffic yesterday, the friend who talked behind your back last month, or the family member who betrayed your trust decades ago.

In facing adversity we find chances to shape the world as we desire, and to shape ourselves as we wish to be shaped. However, it is easy to get caught up within our desires and wishes (for the past and future, internal and external).

Hence, the second ingredient.

2. Unconditional acceptance

Unconditional acceptance allows us to live in the present, rather than worrying about how things could have been or how they could be.

Within ourselves, this is complete acceptance of our thoughts and emotions — without judgment.

Outside of ourselves, this is the continued perception that everything is as it should be; that everything happens for a good reason.

But overcoming adversity and becoming unconditional in acceptance aren’t quite enough to truly learn forgiveness — whether it’s forgiving others who have hurt you or understanding how to let go of someone.

3. Unconditional empathy

Empathy is the basis of understanding. A deep sense of forgiveness is only attainable with genuine empathy.

To deeply forgive others, you need to understand why they could have acted the way they did. People who have hurt you are just passing along the pain they haven’t dealt with — hurt people, hurt people.

Put yourself in the situation of the people you want to forgive.

Perhaps that driver who cut you off was in a rush to see a family member in the hospital. Perhaps your high school bully was abused by their parents and didn’t know how to deal with it.

Or, perhaps your gossiping co-worker who talks down about the looks of others is struggling with deep personal insecurities caused by childhood trauma.

You can harness the zen-like potential of forgiveness and deepen your ability to forgive using these 3 elements — whether practicing how to forgive someone who hurt you, how to let go of someone who left you, or how to forgive yourself.

Ready to take this power of forgiveness further? 


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When was the last time you truly forgave someone? How did you feel afterward? Share your story with us in a comment below!

Natasha Wanderly

Natasha is a happy no-mad with a love for living lucidly, dancing with fire, and talking to strangers. From living with Shamans in the Amazon to studying hieroglyphs in Egypt, she is always on some type of adventure. Every day, she wakes up with two goals: 1.) Be here 2.) Be love.

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