• John M. Smith, LCSW

Forgiveness: A Starting Point



Starting Point

Forgiveness is such a powerful and transformative process, even the word itself can stimulate very strong reactions in many of us. I was reminded of this dynamic in a recent casual conversation I was having with a colleague about my forgiveness facilitation services. Having worked for many years in the therapeutic field of “victims services”, this seasoned professional expressed his agreement with the healing potential of forgiveness services. But he quickly countered his enthusiastic response with genuine concern that many providers working to assist “victims” might have a strong negative reaction to even the discussion of forgiveness with their clients, since many individuals in these programs of recovery are not in a place to even tolerate the thought of forgiving their perpetrator. Definitely a valid point.


In the “Conversations About Forgiveness”, a four session model developed by the Fetzer Institute (www.loveandcompassion.org), it is suggested that the first step in any individual’s forgiveness experience is to be aware of the thoughts and emotions that naturally come up in reaction to the concept of forgiveness,

“When you think of forgiveness, what is the first thing that arises? A thought? A feeling? A memory?”

And with this basic awareness, the healing process of forgiveness begins.


As my friend and I continued our give and take, I offered to meet with his staff simply to begin a discussion regarding the place of forgiveness in their lives and in the lives of their clients. He liked the possibility but he also cautioned me to expect strong resistant reactions. I let him know that I had no interest in convincing anyone to accept forgiveness. Forgiveness is never an expectation. Forgiveness is always a personal choice. I suggested that we would have a conversation. Without judgment, we would encourage an honest exchange of ideas and reactions. In a safe environment, we open to what is true for us in the moment, and in terms of forgiveness, it is always the perfect starting point.


Welcome to my website. I hope there are ideas and resources here that will support you on your healing journey. Let’s begin. When you think of forgiveness, what comes up for you?