Emotional Health: The Forgiveness Letter

Emotional Health: The Forgiveness Letter

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
Nelson Mandela

Forgiveness transforms anger. It's liberating. It frees you from revenge traps and allows you to find joy. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself because it lets you move forward. It doesn't always dissolve anger, but it helps you know you are so much more than anger.

Start With a Letter

Writing a forgiveness letter can help you heal from emotional pain. It encourages you to connect with your feelings, and offers a way to express those feelings. You can write the letter on your own or with the help of a counselor or trusted friend.

Remember, the letter can be addressed to someone else, but it’s really for you. Use it to express your feelings. In your letter, remember to:

  • Address the person who harmed you
  • Share your story and how the event touched you
  • Share what you've learned and how you’ve grown from the experience
  • Describe the way it has made you stronger

Here are some tips to help you begin.
Think about:

  • Who you want to forgive
  • Why you want to forgive them
  • The personal strengths that inspire your forgiveness
  • How you’ve been affected by holding on to anger
  • The benefits you’ll receive by forgiving the other person

After you’ve written your letter, think about the steps you’ll take to move forward on a happier, more positive path free from anger.

Sources: Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022; Transactional Writing: Letters That Heal, leaving site icon Psychology Today, 2014

Originally published 2/23/2016; Revised 2017, 2021, 2023