How to Write a Forgiveness Letter (with an Example)

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I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that many relationships in your life involve conflict, big and small.  There will be many times in your life that you’re hurt by someone’s words or actions.  And if you’re like me, conflict is something you could live without.  It’s usually not pleasant, and sometimes it can leave one or both parties holding a grudge.  In extreme cases it can lead to the end of a relationship or friendship.

Forgiveness is the key to moving on from the past.  It can help you move past painful memories, overcome a negative mindset that’s holding you back and overall make you a happier person.  And once you learn to forgive, you can take full control of your life again. 

However, for many people, forgiving is hard to do.  Whether we need to forgive someone else, or forgive ourselves for a mistake, for many of us, it’s difficult to let go and forgive.

In this article, I will talk about the importance of forgiveness, why you should write people who have wronged you a letter, and then how to create one of these letters.

Let’s get to it…

What Is Forgiveness?

What is forgiveness exactly and how do you go about forgiving someone?  Forgiveness has been defined as a “conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”  However, it’s important to remember that forgiveness does not mean forgiving or excusing past offenses.  You are simply choosing to let go of bitterness, resentment and anger.

Why Is It Hard To Forgive?

For many, it’s hard to forgive someone that’s harmed us.  We often have it in our heads that if we don’t forgive someone else, then they will suffer.  We view not forgiving as a form of punishment for what the other person said or did to us.  It’s a way to hurt them back and to be in control of the situation. And when the other person is unwilling to take responsibility for their actions or insist they didn’t do anything wrong, we often continue to withhold forgiveness.  Furthermore, when we forgive, we might think that this implies that we’re OK with what the other person did.

However, forgiving someone isn’t about the other person.  It’s about you.  It’s about finding peace with what’s happened.  It's a decision to let the past be what it was and to let go of it while living in the present moment. It’s about a desire to be free from the pain and the burden of having to deal with it all the time.

One powerful way to forgive someone (or yourself) is to write a forgiveness letter which will help you find inner peace.  Expressing your emotions on paper allows them to live outside of yourself.  You can breathe life into your emotions.

Think of someone in your life that you need to forgive for something they did or said that caused you anger or hurt.  Or perhaps there is something you did that you wish to forgive yourself for doing or saying.  (Writing a forgiveness letter to yourself can also be powerful).

Before Writing The Letter

The first step in writing a forgiveness letter is to think back to the actual event where you were treated badly by the other person.  Think about your relationship with this person before the situation. Was it a good relationship?  Did you love the other person?  Then recall how you felt during the event and after. 

Imagine how the other person felt during the situation and why they might have felt that way.  Try to remember that they are human and have flaws.  We all do.  What was going on in their life to act in such a hurtful way?  What needs were they trying to get met?  What insecurities and fears did they have?

What’s The Intent Of Your Letter

The next thing to consider is to figure out the intent of your letter.  If you’re trying to make the other person feel bad, admit guilt, or say I’m sorry, those are not good reasons to write the letter. 

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Figure out the intent of your letter before writing it. You should truly be ready to forgive before you write the letter.

If, however, you’re writing a forgiveness letter to find inner peace, so you can let go of any anger or resentment you still have, then you’re probably ready to write the letter.  You should truly be ready to forgive before you write the letter.

Writing The Letter

It’s important that the letter takes on a physical form, so that you go through the process of feeling the emotions.  So pick up a pen and get out a piece of paper.

It might be a good idea to write a rough draft of the forgiveness letter first.  Put all of your thoughts down on paper – whatever comes to mind – and don’t hold back.  Write words that describe your emotions and thoughts about the event, both when it actually happened, and in the time after the event. 

You might want to include what led up to the event, a description of what happened, how it made you feel both during the event and afterwards, your role in the situation, as well as what could have been done differently. 

You can take time to be introspective and think about whether the other person was truly trying to hurt you, or did they just have a different perspective about the situation.   Think about what was going on in their life at the time.  What were they struggling with.  What would it take to truly forgive them. 

You can also include a statement that you have forgiven the other person.  This might allow you to repair the relationship.  However, just remember the ultimate goal of the forgiveness letter which is to find inner peace.  Have a close friend look over the letter to make sure it doesn’t come across as hurtful or blaming the other person. 

An Example Letter Of Forgiveness

A forgiveness letter might say something like this:

“You really hurt me when you didn’t come to my birthday party.  You said you would, and it made me feel like you weren’t really my friend. It made me feel that you didn't care or respect me enough to be honest to me.  I know we never talk about the hurt and that’s ok. We don’t need to. There is no point in rehashing  what you did.  But you did hurt me.  And I held on to that anger for a long time.  I let you get the best of me.  But that stops today.

Today, I come from a place of love, kindness and forgiveness.  I don’t think about what you did very often, but when I do, I just let it go.  I don’t have time in my life to think about the hurt.

You did what you did because of where you were in your life at the moment. Maybe you were sad or angry or full of hate or resentment!  Maybe you were going through a difficult time in your life, or didn’t love yourself.  I don’t really know. And I don’t really care at this point.  The past is in the past and should be left there.  I am choosing to live in the present.

Over the past couple of years, I have found quite a few things: self-love, self-respect, forgiveness, kindness, gratitude and peace.

I can’t change the past and what you did, so I’m choosing to let it go, forgive you and move on.” 

You may want to consider your role in the conflict.  If you were guilty of any wrongdoing or said something that you regret, you can include an apology in your letter of forgiveness. 

Should You Send This Forgiveness Letter?

Whether or not you send your forgiveness letter is totally up to you.  Before you make the decision, sit down and remind yourself of the true purpose of writing the forgiveness letter in the first place. 

Writing the forgiveness letter was about helping you find inner peace.  It was for your mental health – not the other person’s.  Wait a few days, and look at your letter again. If you feel like sending it would benefit you, then you can reconsider.

Final Thoughts on Forgiveness Letters

Remember, a forgiveness letter does not absolve the other person of something they have done or make it OK.  But it frees you from the pain you’ve been holding onto and the burden of having to deal with it all the time.

And if you want to learn more about this topic, then check out our articles on how to forgive someone who hurt you and a step-by-step plan on how to forgive yourself.

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