How to Forgive Others

eric kim photography cindy project tokyo
Tokyo, 2016

I have a big ego— and it is hard for me to say sorry.

Here are some personal remedies which have helped me forgive others:

1. Think of the positive deeds of others

“Does some one offend for the first time? Let us reflect how long he has pleased us. At other times and often has he given offense? Let us bear longer what we have long borne. Is he a friend? He has done what he did not mean to do. Is he an enemy? He did what he had a right to do.” – Seneca

Has someone pissed you off? Reflect on how much they have pleased you in the past.

Did your friend piss you off? He didn’t mean to piss you off.

Did your enemy try to harm you? He did what he thought was right to him.

2. Have I done this myself?

Another thing that helps me forgive others, ask myself:

“Have I done this myself?”

For example, when I’m driving in LA — I get cut off. I want to get pissed off, but I remember all the times I have cut others off in traffic.

I hear others making fun of others behind their backs. I feel angry that they’re talking shit. But I ask myself, “Have I ever talked shit about anybody else behind their back?” And the answer is yes.

3. Do I have the right to criticize others?

I should never criticize others unless I am free of faults. And I will never be free of faults, so I have no right to criticize or judge others.

Rather, I need to seek self-perfection. To seek perfection in terms of not feeling envy. Perfection in terms of not getting angry at others, and building patience. Perfection in terms of not holding onto grudges, but forgiving others.

4. Delay

When someone pisses me off, what helps me is to let myself cool down. There was a rule that the Stoics gave: “Before you beat your slave, wait at least one day.” So in today’s world, “Before you yell at someone, wait at least one day.”

Another thing that helps me is this: imagine like it were their last day on earth. If you were angry at your loved one, and you knew that they would die tonight, how would you treat them differently? Wouldn’t you be quicker to forgive them?

Or if you knew if tonight were your last day on earth, wouldn’t you be quicker to forgive others? Wouldn’t you want to pass your last day on earth without any ill will towards others?

I heard that holding anger and resentment towards others is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies.

5. Build compassion

We can’t control how others act, but we can control how we act. We can work on being more patient, instead of hoping that others acted differently. We can work on being more compassionate, without hoping that others are less ‘stupid’. We shouldn’t expect others to disappoint us less — we should rather learn how to build a heart that has unlimited endurance towards others.

6. What if today were your last day on earth?

Let us always cultivate patience, love, and compassion towards others. And let us treat others like it were their last day on earth, and treat ourselves like it were our last day on earth. Let us hold less resentment, for our own sake, and the sake of others.


Learn more: Stoicism >