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 the trap of revenge and allows you to find joy. Forgiveness is a gift you give to 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.

Write the Letter

Writing a forgiveness letter helps you heal from emotional pain. It helps you connect with your feelings and offers an outlet for expressing those feelings. You can write the letter on your own or with the help of a counselor or trusted friend.

Remember, the letter may be addressed to someone else, but it’s really for you. Write it so it expresses your feelings. Just remember to include these elements in your letter.

  • Address the person who harmed you
  • Share your story and how you were affected by this event
  • Share what you've learned and how you’ve from the experience
  • Describe how it has made you stronger

Here are some tips to help you get started.
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, 2020; Transactional Writing: Letters That Heal, leaving site icon Psychology Today, 2014.

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