Forgiveness – Letter, Structure, Guide, Ritual, Practice


I’ve tried writing letters to people in the past in order to help me process and organise my thoughts.

Some I’ve sent, others I haven’t. But each time I’ve found it useful.

At the end of last year I was introduced to the exercise of writing a Forgiveness Letter by Peter Barr, a Master Certified Coach of over 20 years and recipient of a 2022 Gold Award – Executive Coach at Global Coach Awards.


(As you’ll see in the structure and instructions below, these are not letters to be published or sent.)


I wrote one the following day.


The process was intense, challenging, sad and loving. Afterwards I was left with sense of peace and calm.


Along similar lines to what I wrote in The Mirror Is The Hardest Place To Look, my experience has been that forgiving myself can be hard too.

So today I chose to write one to myself to kick off the working year.


This experience was the same, with the resulting sense of peace and calm.


I wanted to document and share the structure and process here.

Forgiveness Letter

Structure

It’s incredibly simple:

Dear XYZ,


I am angry at you for…


I am sad that you…


I forgive you for…


I love you for…


Toby


That’s it.

Guide

  1. Find a private space and set aside some time. [I allowed an hour in my office each time. It probably took me 45 mins but other people spend hours on these. It’s entirely up to you.]

  2. Grab a box of tissues in case of tears. [I didn’t have them on hand for my first letter and ended up having to grab a roll of toilet paper instead.]

  3. Write as much as you feel like. There’s no need to force more, just let it flow. When you’re done, you’re done. There’s no minimum/maximum length. It’s solely for you, no one else. [Rather than handwriting, I also found it easiest to type into a document with those three prompts and bounce back and forth as thoughts occurred.]

Ritual

I called Pete afterwards about this part: What should I do once I’ve written the letter?

After a quick chat, I decided I’d print out the document, permanently delete the digital file and then burn the print out.

I really enjoy rituals so I did the above and burned the letter in a metal cooking bowl outside my house.

For my second letter, I added some music: Ludovico Einaudi’s Nuvole Bianche (like in my cold bath ritual).

Practice

I’ve thought about if or how this might become a practice.

For now, I’ve decided I’ll use it more as a tactical tool when I feel it’s appropriate rather than a regular practice.

Thanks again Pete for introducing me to it.


If you’re willing to give it a go, I hope you find it useful too.

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