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The 10 Things That Show You Have Really Forgiven Someone

“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you good at forgiving people? I mean really, really forgiving them so that you are totally free to move on. I realize that some of the time a lot of the time I used to be a “quasi-forgiver”.

I would tell myself that I had forgiven someone. I was convinced that I had “let go” of whatever it was they had done. But, deep down, there was still a little residual lack of forgiveness I needed to work through if I was really going to move on totally free.

Let’s be real, when people do things that you feel are totally wrong and reprehensible, it can be somewhat challenging to immediately forgive them and take the high road.

I soooo used to fall into the trap of letting the things they had done stick around in my mind too long. In fact, from time to time, whatever had happened would pop into my mind and there were even instances where I could feel myself getting a little angry all over again, even though the situation happened a while ago and I had “forgiven” them.

Looking back now, I realize that I hadn’t really forgiven them completely. There was still some residual junk left from whatever it was they had done. And, whether I realized it or not, in one way or another it was holding me back from being able to move forward completely free. It was like they had left me with an ankle weight and even if it only weighed one pound, it was preventing me from being able to run as quickly as I could have been. Who on earth would want that?

It’s Time to Enlarge the Future

So, now I am all about removing any of the ankle weights or any negativity that may be clogging my system. One of my most favorite quotes –

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Boese

It really is so true that when we can find our way to forgiving someone, I mean really forgiving them, we are enlarging our future and opening ourselves to all the good things that are there waiting for us. It is so important to not allow any negativity to linger in your mind, and sometimes that can be hard -especially if you don’t realize it’s there because you think you have forgiven someone.

So, what I started doing was testing if I had really forgiven people who had done something I thought was wrong. Here’s a little checklist to go through and test if you truly have forgiven someone. In terms of forgiveness, the questions go from easy to hardest.

If you can honestly answer “yes” to each one, then most likely you have forgiven them. If not, no worries, it just means there is a little more “forgiveness” work to be done. Let’s just say, for certain people, it took me awhile and some more work to really be able to answer “yes” to all 10 questions. The key is to not pretend like the ankle weight and residual anger aren’t there. Read This and This and really start working today to completely forgive them. The time has come to get rid of all those ankle weights – Join me?

The Forgiveness Checklist

Stage 1: The Easier Questions

1. If you saw them stranded on the side of the road, would you stop and help them?

2. Are you more interested in prioritizing your peace of mind than you are in staying mad at them?

3. Can you think about them and whatever happened without getting upset at all?

Stage 2: The More Challenging Questions

4. Can you go a month or more without thinking about what happened?

5. Are there good things about them that you can see?

6. Can you see a valuable lesson the experience taught you?

Stage 3: The Even More Challenging Questions

7. Do you genuinely want them to be happy in the future?

8. Do you want them to be successful?

9. Can you complete this sentence with a positive statement? “If that hadn’t happened then ________”.

10. Do you believe that there was a reason for whatever happened and in one way or another you will benefit in some way from the experience?

Real forgiveness is when you can answer “Yes” to all 10 questions. 

 Live Today Better than Yesterday

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  1. 1

    Hi Sibyl,

    It’s certainly not easy to fully forgive someone especially if the wrong done to us has been great.

    But as you rightly point out, if we do not fully let go and forgive, our lack of forgiveness will only hold us back.

    Your forgiveness checklist is truly vital in helping us to see if we have fully forgiven someone. If we find that we haven’t, there is no shame. We just have to be aware of it and take the time we need to fully forgive and let go.

    Thank you for showing us how to live today better than yesterday!

    Irving the Vizier

    • 2

      Thanks Irving so much for the comment and for dropping by. I always love to hear your thoughts:) I am glad you thought the checklist was on point. You are right it is all about being aware and taking the time to fully forgive. Thanks again for the comment.

  2. 3

    Great post Sibyl! And I am in total agreement. Just the other day I was holding on to some minor resentment regarding a colleague and I couldn’t shake it. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it which is very uncharacteristic of me these day. However, I couldn’t shake it. So one morning during my devotion and meditation time I listened to a teaching on forgiveness (side story..I had put off listening to this teaching the entire week because I said to myself “I am a forgiving person I don’t need to listen to a teaching on this” and come to find out that resentment is a form of unforgiveness) and during that teaching I realized that unforgiveness toward this colleague was exactly what I was experiencing. I applied the teachings I learned, which are very similar to yours, and immediately I felt the weight of that unforgiveness lifted off my shoulders…it felt amazing…

    • 4

      Nice story Erica. Thanks for sharing it here. Isn’t it great when you can literally feel the weight of unforgiveness being lifted. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your story here. It always helps us all to hear how it plays out in other people’s lives.

  3. 5

    Hi Sybil and everyone!
    I just got 4 out of 10 so obviously far from having forgiven but LOL I’m on my way. I was shocked to realise how I have so forgiven other people who also hurt me badly last year. I guess it just means my ex-friend meant/means a lot to me. Which is hard to overcome when I see it’s just impossible to erase what happened and our friendship has vanished. Not LOL now =(
    Anyway, wish I had found you a long time ago, guess I would have made further progress =)

    • 6

      Hey Anabel:) Thanks so much for the comment. 4 out of 10 is definitely a step in the right direction. Just 6 more questions of work more to do:) Thanks so much for the being a part of the community and dropping by. I am so glad to have you here.

  4. 7

    i’m pretty excited that i could honestly answer yes to all 10 questions. i might have this forgiveness thing down…or maybe it has something to do with the box of chocolates over here haha. thanks for yet another great post, Sibyl

  5. 9

    i answered the questions and out of ten only three of my answers were yes . i know i have to forgive to move on and i have tried but i am really hurt by this situation and even though i say i forgive the person i am still so angry at them for what they have done because in my eyes i do not deserve what they have done and i also know that this situation took place so that god can open me up to receiving something better but still i feel so angry.

    • 10

      Michelle: Thanks for the comment. I know it’s tough. I think the fact that you know it is something you need to work on is an important first step. For me, what has always worked best is to commit to working on it and just it one day at a time. If you can work even just a little bit everyday on forgiving the person, eventually that will add up and you will be able to forgive them. If at all possible, try to step back from the situation and decide that you are going to forgive the person for yourself. I promise it will life an enormous weight off you once you can find your way to forgiveness. Thanks so much for the message and just keep working at it.

  6. 11
    jenni shinn says:

    Sibyl, you are a better woman than I! I realize that I haven’t truly forgiven a certain person after going through the list.But I guess realization is the 1st step towards accomplishing the goal. Will work on it! Thank you for helping me along the way!

    • 12

      Hey Jenni: I think you are just as good of a woman as I am:) I totally understand that forgiveness is one of those challenging things to do, but as you mentioned, it is all about taking those steps in the right direction toward your goal. I am glad you are going to work on it:) I think you will find it so liberating and I am definitely happy to help you along the way:) Thanks for the comment and taking the time to drop by. I really appreciate it.

  7. 13

    I have read and re-read this site over and over as a confirmation that I have alot of work on within myself. The betrayal and resentment I feel has indeed held me back from truly experiencing happiness and connecting to others without putting my guard up. Sometimes a dose of the truth is hard to swallow but I appreciate the lesson. Thank You for such a lovely message.

    • 14

      So glad Samantha that you are finding things that are helpful on the site. I think one of the most important things to do is recognize where you want to be and commit to getting there. I can tell that is something you have done so congratulations on that. Thanks so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

  8. 15

    Hi Sibyl, It hasn’t been easy at all, but i now know that i have truelly forgiven my neighbour for what she did to me and I am claming my happiness and life back. I kept wanting her to come and ask for forgiveness which she has never done and will never do because she does not see any wrong in what she did, and will still do it agian if she had a chance. I dont say this because i am being judgemental but because she has told me both in words and actions that she will do it again if she gets a chance I have realised that forgiveness is about me and not her, she intationaly does not want peace but I also know that this is not because she truelly wants it that way, it all has to do with how she was raised and not loving her self enough to know she deserves more in life. This got so bad in such a way that we exchanged harsh words and what ever was there of our neighbory relationship was destroyed. Now because she is not a God fearing women I dont like starting a conversation with her because the expience I had with her, really thought me that she is not a person I want to keep in my life , or my families life at all, unless she has been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ and changed her ways. She is a good person and means well but the spirit of discruption that is within her is more powerful and endup over riding her good interntions. I will now make it my duty as a christian to pray for her deliverance. What i also found to have helped me to fully forgive was the fact that i have sined so many times against God but he has forgiven me everytime and still forgives me even today. I also needed to do the same for my well being and my spiritual growth. I have also learned that forvigeness does not mean you must be stupid and forget what the expirience thought me. But i would honestly love to thank her and you for teaching me what forgiveness really means.

    • 16

      Lu: Thank you for the comment and for sharing your story here. I really do believe it helps when people can see how forgiveness plays out in other people’s lives. I think what you pointed out about getting to a place of empathy is so important. I have noticed that when I am truly able to do that, forgiveness is always close behind. Thanks again for the comment and for dropping by.

  9. 17

    Hi Sibyl,
    Many thanks for your article. It has helped me a lot at this time. I do know that we need to learn to forgive , in order to be free to live our lives.
    I would like it if you could revisit the following stages.
    stage 1: 3.
    I believe one can think about the person who hurt you without getting upset, but i don’t how you could think of what happened to you without getting upset. (eg rape.)

    Stage 2:6-. Can you see a valuable lesson the experience taught you?
    It is not all experiences that teaches us valuable lessons. (eg victim of child sexual abuse)

    Stage 3: 10-Do you believe that there was a reason for whatever happened and in one way or another you will benefit in some way from the experience?
    Life could be a mystery sometimes and bad things do happened to innocent people. There isn’t always a reason or a benefit to gain.
    The fact that you cannot find a reason does not mean you cannot forgive.

    Forgiveness is hard enough, but these stages mentioned above , i believe , make it more difficult to go through the process.

    • 18

      Moses: Thank you so much for the comment and stopping by. I know that there are often things people do that are absolutely reprehensible and I would agree with you that you can’t really look on the event and approve of the details of what happened in certain instances. I think the point I was trying to make was exactly what you mentioned – can you try to forgive the person so that you can look on them and not feel rage, anger, etc. I would say that same logic applies to your second question as well. It’s not the specific event and details that teach you a lesson as much as it is how you are able to move on and not let whatever hurt you continue to weigh you down. I think if you are able to really move on, that’s the valuable lesson – being able to free yourself from the poor and sometimes terrible behavior of people who have wronged you and move on.

      I would have to say also that you’re right about not having to be able to identify a specific reason in order to forgive:) I think as long as you can trust the mystery of life and know that everything does happen for a reason, that is all you ever need.

      Hope those answers and clarification helped:) I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts here.

  10. 19

    Hi Sibyl, Thank you for writing this post. I can empathize with your experience of thinking I’ve forgiven someone but somehow allowing the negativity resurface. There are triggers that reopen old wounds which I thought healed, but I think acceptance of what is helps move us forward.

    I have been thinking lately though, about what constitutes true forgiveness. Someone who used to be my best friend in the world wronged me greatly and I told her that we could not speak again. She breached a trust that I honestly will never be able to have in her again, no matter how well I am able to put the past behind me. The problem is that I feel her presence in my life would be toxic, but she wants to maintain a friendship. Is it wrong of me, and evidence that I have not really forgiven her, if I cut her out of my life completely?

    I think her involvement in my life will only bring me suffering, and while I can let bygones be bygones, I don’t want to subject myself to anymore pain. I’ve heard varying answers but would value your opinion.

    Thank you again for the post. It is a good reminder that the past is an old story, and the future has yet to be written. :)

    • 20

      Hi Marge: Thanks for the comment and sharing your story and question. I think it always helps us all to hear real world scenarios and dilemmas. In terms of your question, the first thing I always say is follow your heart and intuition. You know best who you want to have in your life. I do think there are times when it may make sense for you to move on and no longer spend time with someone if it just doesn’t feel right. As you pointed out, it’s really important that you have forgiven them and that you’re moving on without resentment, anger or any other negative emotion. But, if there’s something in you that is leading you to believe you are better off without someone in your life, then I think its more than okay to follow your intuition. Thanks again for the comment and sharing your story here:)

  11. 21
    Jim Becker says:

    How does one get to a point where you have forgiven the person but have also decided that the person is not healthy for you to spend time and have activities with.
    Is that failing to forgive in a sense?

    • 22

      Hi Jim – Thanks for dropping by. I am a big believer in being very thoughtful about who you spend your time with. While I do believer you always want to forgive anyone and everyone, I also think you want to make sure you are surrounding yourself with the people you feel in your heart is right. Sometimes that means that you can forgive someone, but choose that they are no longer a part of your life. I say as long as you have truly forgiven and released whatever negativity may be around the situation and your heart is saying move on, then moving on may be the way to go.

      • 23
        Jim Becker says:

        thanks for the thoughtful and quick reply. you must know this has been on my mind the past few days and has been quite troubling. the inner conflict on this issue is significant since it pertains to my brother. we are both past middle age and i have recently been wronged(again!) by him. Much like our parents, he was and is not aware whatsoever. When I have tried to communicate how I feel, he becomes defensive and sarcastic(much like our father would when he was alive). The last time my older sister came to visit, I became physically ill with the thought of us all meeting at my mother’s home(where we all grew up) and decided to finally pay attention to the reaction.
        I shared that with my sister. She was silent without a response.

        My thought is to communicate what I was feeling and why in a letter to both and if that does not generate some sort of discussion, take that step back.

        Needless to say, my early years were difficult. I have worked through the blaming and, most recently, was hurt and upset with him for a few days before just letting it go. I see no realistic hope of improving that relationship but, really don’t blame him. I forgave both parents. I still see my mother one a week or so to help her( she’s in her 90s). I feel much better with all of this after your feedback. I’ll keep you informed how it goes.
        Thank you, Sybil.

        • 24

          Jim – Thank you so much for the comment and sharing your story here. I really think it is great that you are doing all you can to forgive your family members. I think the best thing to do is continue to take it one day at a time but just make sure you are using all the opportunities that come your way to get closer and closer to forgiveness. One day at a time … Thanks again for the comment and the message.

  12. 25
    nicole rodriguez says:

    I reeeeaallly enjoyed this site today. I googled a question I had for Bible study n this site popped up w the best answer!!

    • 26

      :) Yeah. So glad Nicole. Thanks for dropping by and letting me know you like what you found:)

  13. 27

    Stumbled upon this on Christmas 2013. …. Was BADLY burned in a romantic relationship 13 years ago. The damage appears to be permanent, but forgiveness has been achieved. …. Short of beating me he could not have treated me worse. But I am able to wish him the best without needing/wanting him back. Thank you for the perspective.

    • 28

      I am so glad the article helped and that you have found your way to forgiveness. It can be one of the hardest things to do, but it really does allow us to free ourselves and move on to the things we really want for our life. Thanks so much for the comment and for dropping by.

  14. 29

    I’ve been deeply hurt for the past 19 years. (In-laws) the last thing said was outrageous. I’ve been finding my faith and truly believe this happened for a reason. Just not sure of reason. Oddly reassured that it wasn’t just me. This was so nasty husband is disgusted. I’ve been trying to forgive since it happened. I got 2 out of 10. Then I find out tonight what has been done was emotional abuse, and I was told it sounds possible PTSD. Wow! Just blew me back. I’m stuck at the moment. I know I need to forgive but it seems impossible. I try and get knocked back by them. The only good from this is my husband now knows the truth. I love the list and plan to revisit the list to see if I’ve made any steps. Counselor I spoke with tonight was a tad helpful and very blown back by what we talked about. Hearing from her I have every right to still struggle with forgiving, she had faith I can. She also told me I’m quite smart and a few other things. Wasn’t even my appointment but was a treasured 10 minute conversation we had. I learn new things everyday and have road block constantly and I get through. Hoping to get through this for me and the healing I need. Thank you for sharing your post. I appreciate it!

    • 30

      You are very welcome Jenn. I hope the post helps. I know forgiveness can be one of the things that pushes us the most. But, I agree with you that you absolutely can do it. Just take it one day at a time and try to forgive a little more each day. You don’t have to do it all in one day. xoxo

  15. 31
    xnavygal says:

    To Forgive also and most important to me is : Forgive Me. To truly forgive frees me up of any resentment I may have which we all know having a resentment is like hugging a porcupine. Thanks for the great read and great questions.

  16. 32

    Hi… I failed at question #1. Sadly I don’t even know if I want to forgive them. It feels like my anger is the only thing holding me together. I’m almost embarrassed to say what I imagined doing as I read question 1 :-( I know that’s wrong and I know its hampering my moving forward…. Hmph! this will be a long road!

    • 33

      BTW…. I stumbled across your site seeking ways to help with forgiveness. It was an excellent read. I just subscribed. Keep writing…. makes me feel like there is hope for me. :-)

  17. 34

    thank you for the article it really helps me how to talk to my mother about forgiveness. my mother until now have these hatred when we talk about my father’s siblings she always this bad things and stories about them and worst after my father died and his one of brother needed help she refused to help them and saying those things that hurt my sister who secretly helped them. anyone can give me advice to help my mother.

  18. 35

    i made a major screw-up about 15 years ago with a woman that I am currently (back-in) madly in-love with. the birds sing, the grass grows, dogs and cats getting along together. i occasionally still hear about it. i admitted it was MY fault and totally owned up to it. apologized many times, went to confession and feel remorseful more than i should, ladies, does this ever go away? or is it a badge i earned and will die with. any comment will help.