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Kia Stephens

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July 13, 2015

6 Steps to Writing a Forgiveness Letter

July 13, 2015 | By | 16 Comments

“Have you written a forgiveness letter to your father?,” my counselor asked.   In 30 years it never occurred to me that I needed to forgive him. “He wasn’t around so there is nothing to forgive,” I thought to myself.   And even though her prompting seemed unnecessary, I decided to take the advice.

Initially it was awkward – like writing a letter to a stranger – but as I began to write, a reservoir of words and emotions poured out.  I was shocked.  Feelings surfaced I didn’t know were there.

And how could I have known I was carrying a buffet full of undealt with emotions if I never took the time to acknowledged their existence?  Out of sight out of mind, right?

Wrong.

 Our bodies are not designed to store hurt; eventually, it will reemerge.  And though it’s difficult to move beyond the pain, moving is a must.

 But how?  How do we do this when our wounded minds are like a perpetual DVR: recording and replaying negative memories?  I believe a forgiveness letter is one tool that can facilitate our healing.

A Word of Caution

  Proverbs 18: 21 (NIV) says, “The tongue has the power of life and death. . .”   For this reason, I never gave the letter to my father.  It was solely a tool for me to process my feelings, not a weapon to inflict pain.  I encourage you to do the same because a decision not to could be even more detrimental to the relationship.

If your father has harmed you,  it may be tempting to seek revenge.  You may want to hurt him the way he has hurt you.  Don’t do it! The Bible has given us specific instruction as to how we are to treat those who wrong us.  “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”  Romans 12: 19 (NIV)

6 Steps to Writing a Forgiveness Letter

Step # 1 

Dear Dad, It has been brought to my attention that there needs to be communication and healing in our relationship.  First of all I want to begin this letter by asking you to forgive me.  In seeking healing I realize I must examine myself first.  I specifically apologize for:   (You may feel that you have not done anything wrong.  To help you with this section ask God to bring to mind times when you have dishonored your father in word or deed.)  

Step # 2

Second, I want you to know that I forgive you.  I understand that to forgive you does not mean that I condone any actions of the past or present. To forgive you means that I no longer choose to be personally bound to the pain of your actions. I therefore choose, by an act of my will, to forgive you for:  (In this section be brutally honest with the actions of your father that wounded you.)  By forgiving you I am trusting God to be the great equalizer and avenger.

Step # 3

In choosing to be totally free I need to tell you how your actions above made me feel.  (In this section list all of your feelings from childhood to the present that resulted from the actions of your father. )

Step # 4

At this time I need to vent, release, and express my feelings towards you and your actions.  (In this section say everything you want to say that should not be said in person.)

Step # 5

In order to complete this healing, I am choosing to acknowledge actions on your part that I admire or cherish. ( Depending on your relationship with your father it may be difficult to come up with information for this section.  If you cannot complete this section leave it blank or don’t include it in the letter, but I challenge you to find at least one thing. )

Step # 6

At this time I want to thank you for:  ( If this section is a struggle, know that you can always thank your father for life.) Lastly, in completing this letter, I am now choosing to release the past.  I am looking towards the future in allowing God to teach me how to love you.

The Impact

I could not complete my letter in one sitting.  In fact there were times in the letter writing process that uprooted deep-seated hurts repressed for years. Those hurts had to be grieved before I could continue.  I want to encourage you not to rush the process but let the process guide you on your healing journey.

Once the letter was completed I read it aloud, alone, and to an empty chair.  This is another forgiveness technique that enables you to envision yourself speaking to your offender.   I cannot say that I was completely free after this but I was better.  I forgave my dad first with my will and then I asked God to help my mind and emotions to follow.  In time they did just that.

Ladies, this work is not easy.  You may feel like the pain is too deep and healing is an impossible dream, but you can do it.  Please know that I am praying for you. I believe you will overcome!  God has not put a period at this juncture in your life, but a comma.

6 Steps to Writing a Forgiveness Letter Meme 4 (1)

Dear Heavenly Father,

The process of forgiving is so tough.  Thank you for modeling true forgiveness for us everyday.  May we forever be reminded of the way we have been forgiven as we endeavor to completely and without reservation forgive our earthly fathers.  We know that you are faithful and will enable our hearts and minds to follow our will.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

GET encouragement In YOUR

Comments

  1. Thanks for this idea, Kia! What a testimony! So much wisdom shared here about the nature of pain.

    • Bethany, I am glad you joined the conversation. Be blessed! – Kia

  2. (((Kia))) So sorry for your hurt. Praise God for the healing process, and how it frees our spirits.
    It’s taken me many years to work through the emotions resulting from my absentee parents. This letter writing is something that I wished that I’d done early on…to help with processing and releasing. Sure would have saved me some time and pain. 🙂 Lovely post, thank you for sharing. Happy to be visiting you from the RaRa linkup today. 🙂
    Brenda recently posted…Worthy Sacrifices of Ordinary DaysMy Profile

    • Brenda, I wish I had this information a little earlier too. But I am not sure I would have known what to do with it. God’s timing is perfect. May God continue to help you process your absentee parents and may you be an encouragement to women who have experienced similar hurts. So glad you joined the conversation today. Be blessed! – Kia

  3. I have done that! It’s a relieve and freedom for the one who writes and forgives! Great post! Thanks for sharing! I’m visiting you from #TestimonyTuesday!

    Hugs,
    Tayrina
    Tayrina recently posted…How To Work With Unexpected Things in Our LifeMy Profile

    • So true Tayrina! Written words are so powerful and can bring so much healing. Glad you joined the conversation today. Be blessed! – Kia

  4. Sammie Barosy

    We will never know how God will use the unfair things done unto us until forgiveness occurs.

    Sammie Barosy

    • This is so true, mom. Forgiveness in our lives is one of the greatest ways we can demonstrate the love and power of God. Thanks for joining the conversation today. Be blessed! – Kia

  5. What a fabulous post, Kia! This is good stuff – practical, helpful and wise!.

    I tweeted a couple of your lines and I added a pin here: https://www.pinterest.com/melredd/blog-link-parties-and-blog-link-ups/

    Came over on Works for Me today, and I’m so glad to get to read your post.

    I hope you have a blessed day today~
    Melanie
    Melanie Redd recently posted…How Do I Get My Kids Back in Church ?? (Part 2)My Profile

    • Melanie, you must be an encourager! Thanks you cyber friend for sharing and joining the conversation today. Be blessed! – Kia

  6. Deciding to forgive someone who hurt you is the bravest and wisest thing to do. It’s the first step to healing and freedom. Good job, you. And thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Lux recently posted…8 Things To Remember When A Troll Attacks YouMy Profile

    • I agree Lux. Forgiveness is a must if we are going to experience healing in our lives. And it does take so much courage to go against the grain of what society and many times our own heart is telling us to do. Revenge, anger, bitterness, and the like all feel so much more natural but a relationship with Christ empowers us to respond in an unnatural way and forgive our offender. So glad you joined the conversation today. Be blessed! – Kia

  7. You are providing very specific steps and examples, this is great vision and writing. I appreciate you sharing it with us at Grace & Truth.
    Holly Brown recently posted…When Apathy Comes Knocking AND Grace & TruthMy Profile

    • Thanks Holly, so glad you joined the conversation today! – Be blessed – Kia

  8. These are great tips- and exactly what is needed. They also make another great case for journal writing.

    • I couldn’t agree more April. Journal writing unlocks what the soul cannot communicate. Thanks for joining the conversation today April and be blessed! – Kia

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