Session 7: twelve steps of forgiveness

Twelve steps of forgiveness


NOTE: the readings referred to throughout this study are from John Steward’s book “From Genocide to Generosity.” It’s available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon



Prepare for this session by reading:-

Nyamutera: page 65 (top half of page)

Nsabiyera: page 84 (fifth point)

Makoriko: page 71 (top half)

Sabamungu: page 73-75 (middle)

Karigirwa: page 40, last paragraph (‘The fourth impact, which helped…’)


Step 1

To have a good group discussion we read our agreements to feel safe and free.

What is the most helpful agreement for me?


Step 2 

Group sharing:  How am I today? What touched me from the readings for this session?

What questions do I bring?


Step 3

Pairs work: The Courage to Confess. Read page 129. Karinda walked 7 km in silence with Saverina. After they returned in silence. It took some days for Karinda to accept Saverina’s invitation to visit her. Because of deep emotions he needed that time to find the courage to confess.


What could be difficult for Karinda in confessing?

What benefits do I think Karinda would receive from confessing?

Identify several aspects on the rising curve that come as a result.


Step 4 

Whole group: stay in the group for the remainder of this session. Firstly give your feedback about insights from step 3. Then discuss: what has stayed with me from last session about forgiveness and its role in I’m OK, Ur OK?


Step 5

Read again the paragraph by Karigirwa on page 40, commencing: ‘The fourth impact…’

Also read the top half of page 28 (Fourth… and Fifth…).  Listen without comment.


Below is a summary of the Twelve Steps of Forgiveness. Read Steps 1-6 twice, then discuss what this means to me as one who has suffered because of what others have said and done to me.

What is the most challenging point for me? (Only share what you wish to share).


12-step process of forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a unique [single/ simple] act, but an inner pilgrimage [to forgive is to find peace in yourself].

1. Not to take revenge and to cease offensive actions. The walk towards forgiveness begins with two decisions: to decide not to revenge, and to stop the offensive situation. There is no point wanting to forgive if the offensive situation is continuing.

2. Recognise our inner Wounds. If we deny and hide the wound, we also cover over the possibility of healing. This person has hurt me/offended me, and I suffer because of this. Denying, minimising or avoiding are defence mechanisms that prevent us from reaching real forgiveness; they hold the energy inside us [often causing headaches, stomach pains, sleeplessness].

3. Share our inner wound with someone. Rather than bear the wound all by our self, tell the story to someone who will listen and not judge, moralise or give advice. This allows us to see the situation in a larger perspective. Every telling shares a little more of our pain, while the story also loses a little of its power over us.

4. Identify the loss and grieve it. List all the losses caused by the offence and grieve for what you have lost. Weep, wail, mourn, and reminisce.

5. Accept the anger and the desire for revenge. It is natural, but it does not have to push us to destructive actions. Anger is there to express the need for justice; we need to fully imagine vengeance in images. Slowly the images will go.

6. Forgive myself. We feel guilt, shame, and blame, and a desire for revenge – these affect our inner harmony and need forgiveness, as do our mistakes. To forgive ourselves is the first condition allowing us to forgive others.

7. Understand our offender. Put aside blame and place my self in the other’s place –imagine their suffering, realising what they did is irreversible. Recognize their value as a human being; accept their mystery.

8. Find some meaning for the offence in our life. With time we might see some positive value or meaning to what happened. But this cannot be felt straight after the event.

9. Know that we are worthy of forgiveness and already forgiven. Each of us has been forgiven many times; forgiveness gives us dignity and a sense of value. For those who accept the idea of a God who forgives, there is the possibility to feel accepted unconditionally.

10. Stop pursuing forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a moral obligation. We cannot demand it from others. Not all people are ready to forgive – they do not respond to pressure. The process needs time and everyone has their own process. Pressure to forgive only adds guilt and builds walls of resistance and resentment.

11. Open ourselves to the grace to forgive. It is not natural, it is beyond comprehension – we don’t understand in advance how we will forgive. We often need to call on divine help.

12. Decide to end the relationship/friendship or renew it. If forgiveness leads to reconciliation, it is impossible to meet each other in the way it was before the offence. The relationship will begin on a new basis. Forgiveness may be given and the relationship ends, for different reasons. It is still beneficial for the offended and the offender.

Adapted from: Rose Poletti, with Barbara Dobbs in Monbourquette, Comment on Forgiveness , Novalis, 1992. Used as a handout in the Personal Development Workshops in Rwanda since 1996.



Step 6

Read steps 7-12 twice, and discuss:-

– what new ideas lie in these thoughts?

– what is most helpful for me in these 12 steps?

– what is the most difficult thing for me to understand?


Step 7

A case study: read page 126 and talk about some of the ideas in the Twelve Steps that worked for Alice in forgiving Emmanuel. (In the book I use their Rwandan names, Mukarurinda and Ndayisaba).


Step 8

Reflection: make your own notes for the questions below. Just mention one thing in the group sharing.

Then between now and the next session, reflect further on what you have written and receive what comes as invitation.

– what am I feeling now?

– what new insight do I have about myself?

– what I want to change in my attitude and behavior is…

– what do I need to do about this, and how will I find the courage for it?

– what will I tell my mentor/support person this week?


Step 9

Preparation for the next session: read the thoughts of Annie and Munyeli on pages 130-133.

What is shifting in my thinking is…


Step 10 

Watch the following videos:-