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  • The Play Therapist


Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Letting go: Forgiveness


is the intentional transformational process by which we let go of our negative emotions with an increased ability to extend kindness and compassion to ourselves and others.

Forgiveness seems an unusual topic for the beginning of the new year. Paradoxically, forgiveness may be needed as we let go of the past to be able to be in the here and now, and to move forward to the future. For myself, my clients and their families, forgiveness has been key in helping us gain self-acceptance and resolution to our difficulties.

Current medical research is showing that forgiveness has the following benefits:

  • Healthier relationships

  • Improved mental health

  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

  • A stronger immune system

  • Improved heart health

  • Improved self-esteem

Nelson Mandela and the Science of Forgiveness

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is not

  • a sentiment.

  • condoning the transgression or colluding with the transgressor.

  • forgetting about the wrong doing or removing it from our awareness.

  • reconciling or restoring the relationship.

In this video, Dr. Jack Kornfield explains what forgiveness is.

The process of Forgiveness: Stop, Notice, Respond

Forgiveness is an ongoing intentional process, which involves discernment of energy and time. The process involves pausing the internal dialogue or rumination to take notice of the ongoing emotion with compassion, to label the emotion and then to discern the appropriate response.

Dr. Jack Kornfield discusses the 12 principles in the process of forgiveness.

One of my most poignant lessons in the process of forgiveness was from a young client several years ago.

My client came to me in the middle of the school day, with drops of blood on his shirt. He was agitated although an onlooker would never have suspected as his affect was flat. For a minute or two, he took deep breaths – he had one hand on his heart, another on his belly. He then began to recount what had happened on the playground. He was playing on his own- digging with the plastic shovel. A ball that some boys were playing with had hit him. His immediate reaction was to lower the shovel on one of the boys running after the ball. The intensity of emotion caused his nose to bleed, hence, the drops of blood on his shirt. He went immediately into the bathroom to clean up. By the time he returned to the playground, recess was over and all the children had returned to their classrooms. He could not find the boy he had lowered his shovel on.

Me: You wanted to dig with the shovel.

Client: Yes.

Me: You did not want to hit the boy with the shovel.

Client: Yes.

Rose: You are worried that the boy might be hurt.

Client: Yes.

Me: You want to know if he is hurt but you do not know who he is.

Client: Yes.

Me: I see that you are sad. You wanted to dig with the shovel and not hit the boy with it.

He looked at me – I had understood him.

Client: Yes.

Me: You are sorry that you hit this boy. You are worried that you might have hurt him. You know he is in your grade level but you don’t know who he is.

Client: Yes.

Me: I will help you. We will look for him.

A smile came over his face.

Boy found.

He looked very closely at the boy. Then, he said,

"I am sorry."

The boy took my client's outstretched hand, with both his, and said,

"I am sorry, too."

How can we help our children with forgiveness?

Here are two articles that may help us:

Stories on Forgiveness

Bene Forgives

Bene Forgives

This is a story I wrote for my clients. You are welcome to download and share them with your children.

Desmond and the Very Mean Word (

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

by Desmond Tutu

Based on a true story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's childhood in South Africa, Desmond and the Very Mean Word reveals the power of words and the secret of forgiveness.

Forgive and Let Go(

Forgive and Let Go!

A Book About Forgiveness

by Cheri Meiners

This book helps children understand what forgiveness means and how to develop forgiveness skills. It also encourages children to let go of disappointment and to accept when things don't go the way they hope.

This Just to Say (

This is Just to Say:

Poems of Apology and Forgiveness

by Joyce Sidman

A book of poems of apologies and responses written by a sixth grade class and their responders.

"Packed with the intensity of everyday pain and sorrow... kids and adults exchange the words that convey grief, delight, love and acceptance of themselves and others."

-Kirkus Review

An experiment in Forgiveness

May we learn to let go.

May we be happy. May we be peaceful.

May we be free from suffering.

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