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The Three Levels of Forgiveness

In a previous article “Don’t Ask Me to Forgive You”, I have talked about what forgiveness is and isn’t. There are also stages of forgiveness in which we weren’t taught growing up. According to Eileen Barker, there are three levels of forgiveness. Learning about these levels of forgiveness can bring awareness to your own suffering. You might even find one of them to surprise you. 

Level one: Forgiving Others 

The hardest level is to forgive another person. This challenges us to go against our usual defense mechanisms. There is forgiveness for impersonal acts. These acts are not attributed to one individual yet it can have a profound impact on our lives. Such examples include, mankind destroying the environment or forgiving God for causing some much suffering on planet Earth. Impersonal acts can make us feel powerless as much of it is out of our control. 


Level two: Self-Forgiveness

For closure to occur, there has to be forgiveness of the other person and ourselves. Even in situations where we perceive ourselves as victims, we have to come to terms that we contributed to our own sufferings. Author Ken Cloke states, “ Our conflicts therefore seem to take us to a place externally, yet everything we understand about the meaning of what happened, and all of our responses to the actions of others are initiated and coordinated internally by our brain.” Meaning that when an event occurs, it’s stored in our memories and it becomes altered as it continuously played in our minds giving more attachment to the memory each and every time. Once it does this, the “memory” becomes less prominent to rely on as we intertwine other feelings and emotions into the picture. 


Level three: There is Nothing to Forgive

This level primarily has to do with acceptance. We, as humans, have a hard time accepting our past and we do anything to either avoid the subject or figure out the meaning behind it. Surely, there is nothing to forgive. Reason why is because everything turned out exactly as it should have. This is essentially making peace with what happened before. It doesn’t sit well for people who have gone through strenuous traumas. Yet, if we can understand this, we can move with life rather than against it. 


Knowing which level you resonate with shows you where you stand in life. It brings you one step further from where you have previously been. There is misguidance to what we were taught growing up and what we know now. If you’re open to learning more about forgiveness, you’re open to taking the first step. It’s a risk worth taking.

At any level of forgiveness, Counseling On Demand is here to help you navigate through these hard times.

I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!