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What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness does not mean condoning or approving of mistreatment. Nor does it mean forgetting, or pretending like the wrongdoing never happened. Instead, forgiveness means letting go of resentment, anger, and hostility toward someone who treated you unfairly, even when you are justified in having those feelings. Forgiveness isn’t for the wrongdoer—it’s for you.

The What is Forgiveness? worksheet dispels common misconceptions about forgiveness by comparing what it is, and what it is not. Some clients may be reluctant to consider forgiveness, believing it means condoning an injustice that’s still hurting them. In reality, forgiveness is about learning how to let go of the hurt.

This handout was designed as an introduction to the topic of forgiveness for teens and adults. For a more thorough look at forgiveness therapy, check out the longer packet:

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1. Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. American Psychological Association.

2. Satne, P. (2016). Forgiveness and moral development. Philosophia, 44(4), 1029-1055.

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