When Forgiveness Doesn’t Work

by Mark Ivar Myhre on November 9, 2010

I recently received an email from someone who’d ordered the Forgiveness Manual which said –

“I went through the entire book twice and did the meditation and it did not help.  Am I doing something wrong?”

And ironically, I received this other email the day before –

“Thanks so much!  I have started on my forgiveness process using your book and there already has been a transformation in my energy and internal dialogue.

“You have magnificently laid out the process of forgiveness in meticulous details that it is really hard to imagine it not working.

“I am grateful I came across your website.  It really has helped change my life for the better!!!”

So what gives?

Why would it work sometimes and not other times?

Before I delve into this tough question, let me say I’ve just posted a list of resistances a person might have to forgiving themselves.  You can read it by going here –


In that post, you can read about the three fears, the three misperceptions, and the desire to avoid pain.

If you truly want to forgive yourself, then you’ll need to be aware of those resistances.  You’ll need to find which ones (or one) are yours.  You need to OWN your resistance if you want to step beyond it.

And on a more basic level, it’s also important to understand your own secret payoffs, which you can read about here –


But for now, let’s look at the mechanics of why forgiveness might not seem to work.

The process of forgiving yourself compares somewhat to mining gold.

First you have to go to where the gold is located.  Then you have to dig down to find it.  Then you have to put the gold in some sort of container.  Then you have to bring it back up to the surface.

A lack of proper execution of any one of these four steps results in failure.  You won’t get the gold.

Fortunately, forgiving yourself is much easier than mining for gold!  And rather than gold, you’re searching for and gathering the SUBSTANCE of what needs to be forgiven.

Your forgiveness efforts depend upon how well you can gather the substance of what you want to forgive.  And once gathered, you need to ‘bring it to the surface’ so it can be released.

So ultimately, forgiveness depends upon gathering and releasing the substance of what you wish to forgive.  That’s potentially the weakest link in the chain.

As that second email states above, I have indeed laid out the process of forgiveness in meticulous detail.  The mechanism itself works.  But that doesn’t mean it will always work for YOU.

It’s just too easy to sabotage your efforts without even realizing it.  The ‘reason why’ you might sabotage your efforts come from the resistances listed in that post on How To Forgive – Why I Resist.

But I also wanted to write out the mechanics of what happens when forgiveness doesn’t give the results you want.  Let’s use the analogy of digging for gold.

1. You don’t dig down to where the gold is located.

In this step, I’m referring to feeling the emotional depth of what needs to be forgiven.

“I just can’t seem to feel the feelings associated with the event I want to forgive.”

Now it’s true: some people really can’t feel their feelings adequately, due to the shame that was dumped on them in the past – usually from childhood or infancy.  The neurons were severed and now they can’t get in touch with the depth of their feelings.

Or, conversely, they get stuck in one or more feelings – usually hurt or grief or loneliness.  Or maybe anger or fear or despair.

When brain chemistry and mechanics are askew, that can keep the forgiveness from happening – no matter how hard you try.  I’m sure I’ll write more about this in the future, but the bottom line is you must ask for help from above to heal this.  And it must be done in a responsible manner.  Without pity, in other words!

You can heal the severed or frayed neurons.  I did.  And others have as well.

Or rather than a problem with brain chemistry and mechanics, it’s more likely you’ll have a hard time feeling your feelings ‘cleanly’.

Meaning, I can’t separate the feelings from the story surrounding those feelings.

“I’m angry because of what happened.”

“You made me angry.”

When I link the anger with the event, all I can do is manipulate my anger.
I can’t feel it and release it.  Instead, all I feel is righteous anger – an anger that never ends.  Then I have to learn elaborate anger management techniques that only prolong the underlying problem.

(Oh well, at least everyone else is doing the same thing with their anger…)

Or, thirdly, I could lack emotional depth because the event in question was so horrendous.

And I’m just not ready to deal with the horror.  Not yet.

2. You don’t gather the gold into some sort of container.

In this step, I’m referring to not owning my impact and my contribution to what happened.  I want to blame someone else rather than telling myself the truth:

No matter what happened ‘to’ me – I am responsible on some level.

If I can’t find my own contribution – if I can’t find how I created this – then there’s NO WAY I’m going to be able to gather it up.  And there’s no way the forgiveness will work.  I have to find something to own here.

I have to find something to OWN.  How did I participate? What can I take ownership of in this situation?

Generally, this step relates to a fear of responsibility and a desire to blame.  (You may have noticed – those two energies associate together.)

Or, again, perhaps the situation has too much horror and intensity for me to deal with just yet.  It’s too painful for me to look at my contribution at this time.

3. You don’t bring the gold to the surface.

In this step, I’m referring to bringing the substance (the energy) up to the surface so it can be released.

I just… can’t… let… go… of what happened.  I feel compelled to keep it alive in my life.

I’m not ready to forgive.  I don’t want to let go of what happened.  I really was wronged.  Or, what I did was just too wrong and I can’t let myself off the hook.  I’m not ready to release.

Usually judgments come into play here. Either I’m too bad and wrong, or someone else is too bad and wrong, or else what happened – the situation itself – is too bad and wrong.

Judgments are designed to stop the flow. Either the flow of feelings or the flow of communication.  Judgments freeze the situation in place.  It’s kind of like throwing the dirty dishes into the freezer rather than cleaning them.  The plates are just too dirty to be cleaned.  I just don’t deserve to be forgiven – even by myself.

I can’t unclench my fist.  It’s frozen in judgment.

Judgments block the flow of emotion, and they also block you from feeling your own pain.  At least for a while…

Eventually the pain seeps through.

The obvious solution here involves letting go of the judgments.  It’s the only way to release the pain.  Keeping the judgments in place blocks the flow of forgiveness.  And that’s another way you could keep the experience of forgiveness from happening.

I know I’ve covered a lot of territory in this article, especially when you factor in those other two pages on payoffs and resistances.  I don’t mean to make this more complicated than it is!  Forgiveness doesn’t have to be hard.

It can actually flow quite elegantly.  Remember that second email I quoted above?  Basically, it’s a matter of systematically following the steps.  And once you’ve done it a few times, you can move through the steps quickly.

Sometimes I’ll do the whole forgiveness process while I’m driving down the road.  (And yes, I STILL find things to forgive myself for.  I’m human; I make mistakes.)

Hopefully, I haven’t scared you off from trying forgiveness yourself!

Forgiveness works. It heals.  It ends the pain.  It ends the obsession with the past.  It’s a way to stop beating yourself up.  And that’s only the beginning.  To find out more, go to –


Or if you want some extra help from the guy who wrote the book, go to –



Lucia from Greece November 9, 2010 at 7:47 am

Great article that came at the right time…These days I have been seeking inside me some answers related to forgiveness and it is so good to be reminded of the Manual of Forgiveness.

Mark Ivar Myhre November 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Hey Lucia –

I was just talking to a guy from Greece today.

Maybe you know him?

(I’m joking!)

Anyway, good to hear from you.

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