Tiny Wisdom: The Most Powerful Words for Healing

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” -Marianne Williamson

Did you ever feel like there was a conversation you really wanted to have with someone, and yet a part of you felt it was unwise?

This is a feeling I know all too well.

When I was younger, I spent years fighting for an apology. It wasn't until my whole world crashed down on me that I realized I’d become a tornado of anger and bitterness, destroying everything in my wake.

I eventually realized I needed to let go of the victim story I'd been carrying around, whether I got the closure I sought or not. For a long time, I thought I had let go.

But recently I realized I've been carrying around subconscious resentment, because a part of me still wants to hear those words I chased long ago—that I've always deserved respect and love, and I've never deserved to feel pain and shame.

So I put this all in a letter that I don't intend to send. Despite having spent many years in therapy, and even more collecting self-help books, I've never done this before.

The other day was the first day I got it all down. I titled this Word Doc “What I Need to Say,” and I ended it with the following words:

“I wrote this letter because I want to heal more fully. A part of me feels that would be so much easier for me if you could look me in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry.’

Then I remember I chose to stop pursuing an apology. So instead of pushing for it, I will say this: for all the anger, resentment, bitterness, and cruelty I directed toward you many years ago, I’m sorry. That’s not the person I want to be. The person I want to be isn’t a victim. She’s loving, compassionate, and kind.

The person I want to be has forgiven you, and loves herself for making that choice.’”

Somehow just expressing these thoughts makes me feel empowered—and all the more confident that I deserve my own respect. I am not forgetting that I was hurt. I am choosing to heal. I am choosing to be the type of love I’d like to receive.

Little in this world is more powerful than that.

Photo by Frames-of-Mind

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Hey Lori, been a while. How are you? As charming as always!
    Yes, forgiveness is the most important thing one can do. Sometimes people bring their ego in between forgiveness and their troubles. They form a spiral. They don’t forgive, attract more dumbness…don’t forgive,…attract more dumbness. It is important to move on from the spiral.

    Thanks for reminding me that all our hearts carve for forgiveness, for others and ourselves. 

  • Dear Lori,

    I too carried a bitter resentment for years and years. I’m going to retell a story I’ve stated on the web maybe three times. I never got the impression anyone followed my path. That’s fine. Still, you and others may find value in it here.

    In my early twenties, when I was single, I got a call from my mother one morning and she asked me if I had ever felt neglected as a child. She and Dad were talking about the past.

    I thought about that question for a moment, and answered no.

    Sure my parents worked away from the house (and me) as long as I can remember. And yes they put me into daycare at two and a half for eight-hour shifts. And when I was six and my sister was born, she was so hyper that all of Mom’s attention when to her. Still, that seemed “normal” and I grew up to be self-sufficient.

    Two mornings after my mother’s questioning call, I woke up out of a dream burning with rage – a searing emotion so intense I had soaked my pillow with tears and wanted my parents to be dead. At that moment, I felt utterly betrayed and hated the people who called themselves Mom and Dad.

    My mother had unlocked Pandora’s box, a coffin I never knew I owned. All my years up to the age of twenty-three, I had suppressed vast seas of pain and vengeance, and I never knew it. From that moment on this bitterness consumed me.

    What to do? I needed to work really hard on dropping the anger and blame. Like you Lori, I read many psychology and metaphysical books. I went to spiritual seminars, learned to meditate, smoked a lot of grass, tried long walks and single malt scotch and vented a lot of it to my wife. None of that really worked. The only thing that helped a little, was TIME.

    Then, twelve years ago, before my Dad slipped away into senility, I confronted him about our lack of connection. 

    How did he react? Dad told me I was delusional and that I needed psychiatric help. No apology was necessary because he had done no wrong.

    No. He wasn’t a mean father, and he provided for me and put me though college. But when it came to his time, he just didn’t like hanging out with his young lad. He didn’t read to me, or play catch with me, or go to school plays, or help me to earn Cub Scout merit badges.

    And Mom…well mom was overwelmed with just about everything. Since I didn’t demand attention, I didn’t get it. I was one of those “Good Boys.” And I grew up that way being the loyal, devoted son, and subconsciously hating my parents 24/7.

    That day twelve years ago, when Dad wouldn’t allow me express the pain inside, when he refused to tell me he loved me, I gave up trying to resolve any of that. And over time, I callused over my hurting feelings once more.

    Then, three years ago, a friend of mine was taking courses in shamanic healing. She was still in school and needed to practice moving spiritual energy. She asked me if I would participate in an exercise. (You know where this is going.)

    I don’t know what she did, but I broke down into deep, dark sobs, feeling grounded and weightless at the same time. With two sessions of shamanic light work, I no longer felt any resentments what so ever. I also felt more optimistic. About everything. My career got a boost too.

    Finally…last year, in another earth-shattering phone conversation with my Mom (she’s in her nineties), out-of-the-blue she told me she had failed me as a mother and had felt guilty about it from the day I was born. She then asked for my forgiveness and apologized.

    I just listened and let her talk, on and on. And then I listened to my heart. What was I feeling? I was feeling relieved and grateful, because now I could honestly tell her, “Mom, there is nothing to forgive. I understand.”

    And I did. And I do. Mom did her best. She tried. And today we are the best of friends.

    My Dad? Well, without a memory he lives in the eternal Now. Dad has become my child. And a parent always loves his child.


  • Annie R.

    The first part of your post is the story of my life. Just a few days ago in fact, I told my therapist I would like to see “him” one last time. I want him to look me in the eye and tell me he’s sorry for destroying my life, and then I want him to make amends, to take responsibility and make it right. Yes, I feel like a victim and I’m fighting and pushing for apology and penance. I hope soon I can get to the point when I can also choose to stop and accept that I don’t need this person to find closure, that I can find it on my own or with the help of other people. And that’s the other thing, I realized that quite apart from stopping seeing myself as a victim, I should learn to accept that he is simply not the person I believe/want him to be. A part of me believes that he is not the kind of person who will simply walk away from the destruction he made. A part of me wants to believe that he is, to put it bluntly, not just a selfish, manipulative, deceptive jerk (pardon the name-calling). I need to let this go. I need to open my eyes, take him down from the pedestal I made for him, and learn to finally be responsible for my own life.

  • I did this exact same thing last week. I wrote everything I wanted to say to a certain person on a blank document and apologized for the role I played in the messy fallout we had. I came to terms with the fact that we BOTH said and did things we shouldn’t have. 

    I knew at that moment that I had forgiven that person and I learned something about myself in the process. 

    And I realized that holding a grudge for as long as I did was only hurting ME. It felt good to let it go. 🙂 

  • Boekt

    This is beautiful….truly hits home with me at a time when I needed to read this and do this….Thank you….

  • Rebecca

    I can relate to this quite well. I spent much of my life this way, too, thinking that I was being treated badly by someone else, when all along I was the one sabotaging my own happiness, not them.

    I did the Dance of Anger for three years running, and though I had decided enough was enough, like you, resentment was still hanging on underground, ready to come to the surface when some new oppression triggered that latent wound.

    Then 6 years ago I started doing a meditation practice, a kriya actually, that was offered by Isha Foundation and all that baggage just started shedding away, so that today I can truly say that I am unaffected by the former nonsense that ruled my experience of life.

    What a liberation and who would have thought that a simple, 21-minute-a-day practice could be so powerful as to change your body chemistry in such a way that you are no longer reacting and that your emotions are within your control – they don’t control you.

    I guess that’s just more of Buddha’s wisdom – we are the ones that make our lives complex – in reality life is very simple.

  • I’m doing well Jaky! How about you?

    That’s such a great point about the spiral. I’ve noticed the more I’m holding on to negativity, the more negativity I attract.

  • Wow Irv, that’s an amazing story–the part about the shamanic light work, what you said to your Mom, and also your new perspective on your Dad. There’s something really powerful about seeing our parents as vulnerable, I think. It reminds us that they too are only human, and sometimes they need understanding and compassion the most when they *seem* to deserve it the least. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • I can relate to everything you wrote Annie, and I had many similar conversations in therapy when I was younger. I think what Irv wrote makes a lot of sense…sometimes, in addition to all the meditation and self-help, it just takes time!

  • You’re most welcome. =)

  • That’s wonderful Rebecca! I really do believe meditation is the most powerful tool we have for healing.

    I started practicing yoga about 7 years ago, and added meditation about 4 years back, and I’ve seen a tremendous difference in my experience of the world. I can’t say I’ve dropped all my baggage, or that I don’t feel overpowered by my emotions at times, but I know I’m a lot stronger and more centered than I would be without it.

    Thank you for sharing your story here. =)

  • Sherry

    Wow.. You are tremendous.. Thank you so very much for your insight. I always look a little deeper inside myself after reading your thoughtful posts. In much appreciation and gratitude for your willingness to share your truth with me and so many others seeking growth of spirit. Sending a huge cyber hug filled with love.

  • James33

    It’s difficult accepting that someone isn’t who you thought they were and that, in effect, you are not compatible. 

  • Sally Branch

    The loving, compassionate and kind person doesn’t sound like the person you ‘want to be’, Lori.  She sounds like the person you already are 🙂


    Thanks for the great post! The idea of thinking in terms of accepting my power to respond to a situation, rather than giving away my power (and seeing myself as a victim), has been on my mind a lot lately. This was perfect timing, and great encouragement!

  • nikki579

    Thank you so much for this .. for the past 2 years I feel like i have been under some sort of curse, no matter what i do or what I tried i keep failing in every area of my life. Of course my ego kept getting in the way and i play the victim all so well as it has always been a part of my life. I have been questioning my faith and asking why when I always do good and follow the right path is everything falling apart for me.  After reading this it is me who is sabotaging myself. Regardless of all the wrongs others have shown me I am the one holding on the the anger, resentment, and bitterness. Thank you.

  • Nmace

    Im gong through this right now. I’ve forgiven (both myself and my ex) but am having a hard time moving forward….

  • Taylor

    Awesome post…thanks for sharing

  • Annie R.

     Many thanks, James33. Many thanks, Lori. I feel I’ve found kindred spirits on this website.

  • Solartatcutie

    Great story and very true for many of us. I believe it is human nature for us to feel validated in situations so that it is now equal. So that the moving on process can be completed. When we must move on and something does not have closure it is similar to not seeing the end of a movie or finishing a book. I too have carried around a myriad of resentment for many in my life as I have given all of myself and been torn apart by them. Always believing they would change or maybe I deserved it for lack of my own goodness. 
    I do still struggle a bit with one in particular because I was moved from one bad place in my life to be in a new place that only ended in a lot of mental abuse and mistreatment. I am a firm believer that God and the Universe place people where they need to be or with certain people and I have to ask why? Why would I need to be so hurt not once but twice and then be asked to let it go? Perhaps naive but I have to think that perhaps I was the pentacle in the last situation and when the other person would not change or grow that I was removed from the situation because I was not going to be able to teach or lead them to the right way. 

  • eleanorgoold

    I love this.  So simple yet so difficult to put into practice at times.  Thank you for sharing. 

  • hammondart

    Lori you are wise beyond your years.  Blessings to you!

  • This reminded me of something my mom taught me after she attended a grief class shortly after my grandmother passed away. She had a really difficult time throughout the process, and for many years after when it came to dealing with some of our family members. There were some true unkindnesses directed her way after my grandmother’s death.  The idea that you can “forgive but not condone” the hurt that people do to you, was really huge for her, and i’ve had to use it many times myself.  Thank you again for all this site does, helping people to think, and possibly begin their own healing without shame or additional grief. 🙂 

  • Carol

    Thank you.  This is the one piece that has been missing for me.  I had intellectually realized I was sorry for him, but somehow reading your words today helped me connect to the pain I had inadvertently inflicted by expecting him to be something he wasn’t and couldn’t be. 

  • Connie

    Get out of my head 😀

    I’ve since learned forgiveness is for ME and not for the other person. It allows me to free myself and no longer be tied to he person, but frees me so I can live the life I deserve. Forgiveness does not mean you are allowing or exclusion the bad treatment, behaviour, but are in fact releasing the person out of your life. You don’t have to have the person back in your life either.

    I’ve lived with much bitterness also, waiting for the individual’s responsible for the hurt and pain in my life to come to their senses and apologise to me…but it never happened and the more I waited, the anger and bitter I became until I became comfortable living as an unhappy person, not knowing any different. Life opened up to me when I finally got it and took the necessary steps to move on with my life. I wrote a letter and sent one, wrote others and didn’t mail them. I forgave and my world has opened up and the sun has been shining bright ever since. I had to be the one to do this for myself and I cannot put into words the peace, love and blessings that have come into my life.

  • geL

    my quastion is:  Must we forgive someone who will never feel sorry for his/her mistakes and do not change ?

  • Felissaspaulding

    I love this because I too have resentment&anger towards someone of my past. I have forgiven him but it still hurts. But I’ve chosen not to give him that power anymore& move on with my life without him.

  • Sasalool

    Dear Lori,
    thanx for writing down what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t express,
    I like the part ‘ the person I want to be has forgiven you’, I think forgiveness is the key to letting go
    Sometimes I get disappointed with myself because I don’t have the power to forgive,
    I hope I can get to that point

  • Wonderful post Lori.  Years ago I found a Marianne Williamson quote which basically said “I bless you, forgive you and I release you.  I bless me forgive me and I release me.”  And I used it, over and over when dealing with an incident from my past.  It was so liberating, because the challenge with not forgiving is that you can’t be free.  And I wanted to be free.

    We are bound by our judgement and condemnation of anyone for everyone is in us.  If we can only identify them with the ideal we want to realize for ourselves, we set ourselves free.

    Thanks for your courage and frankness Lori…you light the way for us all.


  • Caroline

    It is good to be saying you are sorry – but important to say it to YOURSELF. I was married to an alcoholic man – and wished for so many things from him. Wished he would say sorry – wished he would fulfill the marriage that I always hoped to have, wished he would be that person for me! He never was, never could be, never wanted to be. After he left – I wanted so much for him to REALIZE that he had destroyed the best thing he ever had. And you know what – he never did that either 🙂 So I am sorry to myself (not to him) for not honoring my needs, for not walking away sooner – for banging my head against the wall so many times in that relationship! I can’t change the past – but I can commit to honoring my needs from here on out.

  • Caroline

     Yes. You must. However, you can choose to keep boundaries between yourself and that person. A pastor once told me that “forgiveness takes one – reconciliation takes two.” To forgive is to recognize the lesson you have learned from that relationship, to bless that relationship, and to move forward as a stronger, integrated person. Perhaps the only way the universe was able to teach you that lesson was through someone who would hurt you.

  • Diane

    especially when it comes to family. Once they  die it’s important to forgive and move on or it will haunt you for the rest of your life!

  • Very powerful stuff.  Thanks for being so honest.

  • Guate559

    This story i too much like me

  • StepLT2

    Forgiveness is merely removing the emotional charge from a stressful or traumatic memory. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will want to or need to continue the relationship with the person you are forgiving. In some instances the other person may not be still alive.

    You are forgiving the other person not for how it will make them feel, you are doing it for how it will make you feel.

    And for people who are haunted or troubled by their belief that their parents never told them they loved them, there is another way of looking at it. They probably loved you but just didn’t know how to tell you or to express it. Their parents probably didn’t know how to tell them either.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Lori,

    Love your site and blogs and re-post to mine frequently. Forgiveness is the crux of my work with Intent Heals. The little hand-made journals literally came into existence because of an experience I had eight years ago where I was dircted to write down the names of everyone I had ever known – it was like a NDE without the pain/trauma. Not only did the people arise that I needed to forgive, but also tremendous gratitude for the people who had touched my life in such significant ways.

    Keep rockin’ — you are an inspiration!


  • Aamna

    Wow! I so needed to read this. As of late, all that resentment, hate, anger that I thought I had taken care of long ago by not acknowledging that it existed all came back and keeps coming back harder and stronger. I go through these cycles of ultimate happiness to ultimate hate and loath for myself. I never forgave or learnt to do so. I am still seeking that apology- not just the words but in actions, in their sufferings, in their guilt- I know I will never get. I feel I have been through enough pain and suffering that I deserve to have a fairytale ending. I don’t know do you ever feel that way?

  • That’s such a powerful distinction Caroline. And this is such a powerful realization: “I can’t change the past – but I can commit to honoring my needs from here on out.” I’m glad you’re no longer in that unhealthy relationship. Thank you for sharing your story here!

  • I know what you mean Aamna. Sometimes I feel like a simply apology would make everything better. In my case, I’ve gone back and forth between wondering if I deserved pain I felt in the past, and thinking I deserve great happiness for having endured it. I try to focus on creating what I deserve for myself in the present, because I realize in those moments, when I’m getting swept up in that thinking, I know I am the cause of my unhappiness. It’s definitely something I work at!

  • So true Connie. It’s like that quote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.”

  • Thanks so much Sherry. I needed that cyber hug filled with love. =)

  • I know what you mean. I’ve felt disappointed with myself at times too. But we’re doing the best we can, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. What I’ve come to realize is that forgiveness isn’t a one-time decision. Sometimes we need to do it over and over again (at least that has been true for me). So maybe you’re not at that point today, but you will be tomorrow, and maybe not the next day, but perhaps the following one. It’s all two steps forward and one step back, I think, and yet in that, there’s progress.

  • I thought I responded to this yesterday, but sometimes comments disappear…so I apologize if you get this response twice! I think that’s one of the most beautiful gifts of forgiveness…that we get to learn a lot about ourselves through the process. Every time I forgive, I learn about forgiving and loving myself as well.

  • Thank you Sally. That made me smile. =)

  • You’re most welcome. I’m glad this helped!

  • I know it isn’t easy. I’m sending good thoughts your way!

  • You’re most welcome. Thank you for reading. =)

  • I think that’s one of the most common misconceptions about forgiveness…thinking that it means you condone what happened. Thank you for sharing your story here and for being part of the Tiny Buddha community. =)

  • Thank you so much. Blessings to you as well! =)

  • You’re most welcome Nikki. I know that victim role very well! And I also know all about self-sabotage. I’m so glad my post was helpful to you!

  • That’s a good point. It always helps me to consider that I don’t fully know what someone else was going through when they hurt me. It doesn’t condone thoughtful, disrespectful, or abusive choices, but it makes it a little easier to feel compassion instead of bitterness.

  • You’re welcome. Thank you for reading!

  • Thanks so much Elle. That’s a powerful quote from Marianne Williamson. I want to be free too!

  • That’s wonderful Felissa (the moving on part, not the hurting part). I know it’s not always easy to move on, but it’s so much easier when we decide we want to do it.

  • You’re most welcome Carol. =)

  • You’re welcome Eleanor. I know what you’s always much simpler to know something than it is to put it into practice!

  • You bring up a good point about wanting to feel things are equal. I think of being deliberately hurt as a power imbalance, and closure as restoring balance. And yet I’ve realized sometimes I need to empower myself without the other person acknowledging it. It’s certainly a challenge, but I think it makes us stronger when we’re able to do it.

  • This is such an inspiration for me. I am currently in the process of finally realizing that I am bitter and carry resentment towards my mother. I appreciate this because I am having to learn that sometimes, the apology you want or need will never come and that I have to forgive her anyway. Thank you for this. You are awesome!

  • Nancy

    I was recently led to your blog and have been enjoying your posts very much.  This one is awesome and one I can relate to wholeheartedly.  There’s a saying that holding on to a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  That is exactly what I did for many years of my life.  I was killing myself from the inside out by holding on to some things that happened to me as a child and subsequent decisions I made as a young adult because of my lack of self-esteem created by the childhood trauma.  Long story short, I was basically abandoned by my parents…they gave me to another couple to raise though they stayed in my life and would visit usually weekly (they really didn’t do the obligatory visits for me but that’s another story).  I grew up wondering how unworthy must I be if even my own parents didn’t want me (I had two older brothers they did not give away).  Those feelings and the consequent lack of self-worth led me to make some poor choices, one of which was the man I chose to marry.  He was selfish, deceitful, abusive, and a terrible person who treated me terribly (the word psychopath comes to mind), but I remained bound and determined to keep my family together (I had three boys) because of what I had suffered as a child.  Living this continued nightmare in which I felt completely trapped led me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I had unfortunately chosen to numb myself in order to deal with my circumstances.  It was there that I discovered how wrong my parents and husband had been about me…that I was completely worthy, and I quickly knew I would no longer allow myself to be a victim.  I set clear boundaries which ultimately included leaving my husband, and I started on the process of recovery to include, in large part, forgiveness…for me.  It took time and a lot of work, but I am a new person today and at soon to be 55 years old, for the first time in my life, I have a peace that I never knew existed.  I am happy, confident, and content.  I stopped playing the victim and I stopped banging my head against the wall.  My parents are both deceased now and my ex-husband, well having three adult boys creates the need to have him in my life from time to time, but the word indifference is the best way I can describe our relationship for me today.  It is one of the gifts of forgiveness.  I don’t love him and I don’t hate him, he is just there, and he no longer has an ounce of power over me.  I know today that his treatment of me had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him, and the same holds true for my parents.  It’s a wonderful feeling for which I am extremely grateful.  Every once in a while, I feel a twinge of sadness for the fact that it has taken me so long to get to the place I am today, but then I remember that some people never get there and continue to suffer until the day they no longer walk the earth, and I am grateful once again.  Forgiveness changed my life, and your post inspired me to share a bit of my story.  Thank you, and I wish many blessings to you and yours.          

  • Urgurltiff13

    This is a beautiful article… I for so long felt like closure from my last relationship was all I needed to move on. But now I know that forgiving myself and my ex is the way to open my heart and soul to happiness. I still wish I could apologize to him and I can receive and apology from him as well but forgiving myself and him alone is all I need to grow as a person. Thank you Lori

  • Thanks Jennifer! I love the name of your site, and what a fascinating project–listing everyone you’ve ever known. How long did that take you? I bet it was really liberating, both to recognize everyone you needed to forgive, and to see just how many people have touched your life in a positive way. I may do that myself one of these days. =)

  • You’re most welcome. Closure can be suck a tricky thing, since we can’t always get other people to tie things up neatly. I’m glad my post was helpful to you!

  • You’re most welcome Kristine! It’s a tough one to learn–I know that all too well! I appreciate knowing that I am not alone in this. Somehow recognizing we all deal with the same things makes it easier to find strength and let go.

  • When I first started reading your comment, my eyes actually welled up a little. I was thinking, “I can only imagine how tough that must have been, having to wonder why your parents gave you away.” Then as I read on and read about your transformation and healing, my eyes watered up for a different reason. You’re a true inspiration Nancy. Thank you for sharing your story here!


  • amy

    Thank you for sharing such a sensitive and personal post.   I felt so sad when you described your childhood and the emotional suffering you endured for years.  However you helped me so very much when you expressed how you are today.   I am so amazed at how much damage occurs in our childhoods that insidiously festers to such pain in adulthood.  Did I ever think that at 50 years old I would be still struggling with my self esteem and continuously trying to shoo away those thoughts of not being good enough.   UGG sometimes I just want to stay  STOP IT  I want to love me and walk around in life just free and peaceful and joyful.  

  • JC

    Great post.  I’ve been in a rage over something and reading it really helped me calm down.

    But what really has me stuck is, even if I forgive the past and present wrongs, I don’t know how to handle the future ones.  I mean, the people creating the problems for me aren’t likely to change.  They are going to just continue to upset me.  I don’t know how to effectively stop it.  How do you walk away from close relatives when they are not only your children’s grandmother and aunt, but also LIVE in close proximity?  I have not been able to figure this one out.

  • Hi JC,

    I think that’s a tough situation, especially since you’d be cutting off contact for both you and your children. If these relatives have healthy relationships with your kids, I’d imagine you wouldn’t want to do that.

    A therapist once told me that we can’t change people; we can only change how we respond to them. Is there anything you can do to change how you engage with them to minimize the potential for future hurt? Can set different boundaries for yourself? Can you limit your contact and the topics of discussion? In this way, you don’t need to maintain the same relationships in which you were previously hurt; you’d be creating a new one that is less damaging to you emotionally.

    Just some food for thought. I hope this helps!