56 Cultivating Forgiveness in 2023


Season 8 of the podcast Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta delves into the intricacies of the brain in various states. Each episode focuses on a specific state, such as the distracted brain, the frightened brain, and the nourished brain, to shed light on the inner workings of our minds and how they impact our overall well-being.

The Power of Forgiveness

Unless you possess the same saintly qualities as Mother Teresa, it’s likely that you have experienced anger towards someone, to the point where it felt impossible to move past the pain they caused. Whether it’s a cheating spouse, a childhood bully, a back-stabbing friend, or a manipulative colleague, the offender could be someone close to you or a complete stranger. The offense could be minor, like a belittling comment, or life-altering, such as causing someone’s death. Regardless of the details, most of us have been in this situation more than once.

If the incident continues to cause distress and negatively impacts your life, forgiveness may play a role in your healing process. According to psychologist Robert Enright, a pioneer in forgiveness science, forgiveness has numerous psychological benefits. It can reduce anger, anxiety, and depression, while also positively impacting your physical health. Studies have shown that forgiveness can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, reduce stress-induced inflammation, and strengthen the immune system.

The Pathway to Forgiveness

Enright, who has spent nearly four decades studying forgiveness and is the co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, emphasizes that forgiveness is not about forgetting the offense, but rather about remembering it without the same pain and rage. Similar to healing from a physical injury, the pain may still be remembered, but it no longer has the same emotional grip.

To help individuals actively cultivate forgiveness, Enright has developed a process model that outlines the steps to forgiveness. He emphasizes that forgiveness is a choice and that the more you practice it, the better you become at it. By integrating forgiveness into your everyday life, you become more familiar with the pathway and better equipped to navigate forgiveness in more challenging situations.

Five Tips for Cultivating Forgiveness

Here are Enright’s top five tips for cultivating forgiveness:

1. Evaluate whether it’s the right time to forgive

Determining when it’s the right time to forgive may seem counterintuitive. However, Enright suggests that if your anger is intense and long-lasting, and you have exhausted all other avenues for healing, forgiveness may be worth considering. Intense anger and negative emotions can persist for months or even years after being treated unjustly. Forgiveness should be freely chosen, and it can be a deeply healing process for those who are ready.

2. Understand what forgiveness is — and isn’t

Forgiveness is not about excusing the wrong, reconciling with the offender, or giving up on seeking fairness. It is about offering mercy to those who have acted unfairly. Enright outlines three steps to forgiveness: cultivating new thought patterns about the offender, developing fewer negative and more positive feelings towards them, and engaging in fewer negative and more positive behaviors towards them. This includes refraining from harm and even offering kind words about them to others.

3. Expect the process to take time

Forgiveness is not an overnight process for most people. It is a journey that requires daily effort and can take time. Enright’s process model breaks down forgiveness into four phases: examining the effects of the injustice, committing to forgiveness, expanding understanding of the offender, and finding new meaning in suffering. Each phase contributes to the overall healing process and leads to a deeper sense of forgiveness.

4. Build up your forgiveness muscle

Forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you may feel overwhelming. Enright suggests starting small with those who have caused minor harm and gradually working your way towards forgiving those who have hurt you more profoundly. As you practice forgiveness daily, you can expect to experience the physical benefits. Forgiveness reduces signals in the brain that trigger anxiety and depression, leading to a decrease in cortisol levels and an overall sense of well-being.

5. Expect the unexpected

As you deepen your forgiveness practice, you may experience unexpected results. By offering kindness and love to those who have treated you unfairly, you can experience increased self-esteem, hope for the future, and improved relationships. Forgiveness also enhances problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, empathy, and emotional recovery. It allows you to regain control over your own heart, freeing yourself from the hold of past actions.


Cultivating forgiveness is a transformative process that can have profound psychological and physical benefits. By following Robert Enright’s tips, you can begin your journey towards forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness is a choice, and with practice, it becomes easier to navigate even the most challenging situations. As you develop a forgiving mindset, you will experience increased well-being and a greater capacity for empathy and emotional recovery. Start small, be patient with yourself, and embrace the healing power of forgiveness in your life.

Listen to the full episode here to learn more about the steps to forgiveness, including how to forgive yourself, and discover if everyone has the capacity to forgive. Join us at the Chasing Life podcast for other episodes with Dr. Gupta, where we explore various aspects of well-being and personal growth.