Understanding The Ancient Hawaiian Practice Of Forgiveness

The concept of forgiveness has evaded people for years. How do you actual do it? Is it enough to merely say you forgive someone or something? Or is there something deeper, more profound going on in the concept and feeling of forgiveness? I offer something to you that has helped me and countless others when it comes to forgiveness/healing.


It’s a timeless technique that, on the surface at least, seems too simple to actually work, but when practiced sincerely, has very potent, almost miraculous effects. It’s called the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono technique.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t really understand the concept of forgiveness until I realized that when dealing with forgiveness, it really isn’t about forgiving the other for anything; rather, it’s about forgiving yourself for the thoughts and feelings you hold toward that particular situation.

Everything ‘happens’ in our minds, which means we have the choice or ability to shift anything that disturbs our internal waters. Oftentimes we get ‘stuck’ in a vicious cycle or loop, doing so much self-work or healing around a situation or a person that has hurt us, only to have the same issue creep back and affect our well-being, despite our best efforts to ‘let it go.’

Who are we really trying to forgive? Ourselves of course! We are all responsible for our mental and emotional state. No thing or person can make you feel or do anything unless you let them. Yes, we can always go to the extreme cases of being held at gunpoint or another extreme situation, but I am referring to the internal implications of healing ourselves after a grievance. Actually, I’ve used this technique amidst a negative situation. The fact of the matter is, anything you give your attention to, you are responsible for. If you watch the news, you are responsible for everything you hear and see. In other words, you’re responsible for how it leaves you feeling and thinking.

The Ho’oponopono technique can be used in any way, shape, or form that works for you. I found it most valuable when dealing with forgiveness, but I also notice myself using it throughout different parts of the day.

Healing Power

The technique was made famous by therapist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, who was called in to review files of criminally insane patients in Hawaii. These patients were deemed extremely violent and aggressive, and the administration was out of options, as they were considering shutting down the whole operation.

Len reviewed each of the patients’ files sperately and intently. He applied the Ho’oponopono process and essentially healed the patients by healing himself. For two weeks he sat in a hotel room and reviewed each patient’s file, doing the technique over and over again. He came to see the patients as human beings with stories and pasts, not just criminals. When he finally did meet them, the hospital administrators were shocked by how the patients received him. They weren’t violent or aggressive. The energy had totally shifted. Len had basically cleared any preconceived judgements or notions he had of the patients. He took the time to read their stories and made the effort to heal his own self from the judgements he had about them and the crimes they allegedly had done.

There are four simple steps to this method — love, forgiveness, gratitude, and repentance — and the order in which you do them is not that important. These are the only forces at work, but these forces have incredible power. The best part of this is that you don’t need someone or anything to help you do it. It can be done in your head at anytime. It just requires the awesome power of your intentional will to make it happen.

Choose something that has been a significant challenge in your life. A loss? An addiction? A behaviour? Breathe. Repeat these these four phrases to yourself, out loud or silently, as many times as you need.

1. “I Love You.”

Love is the most powerful force out there, and it’s also, arguably, the most underrated. Say “I love you” to yourself. Say it to the Universe. Say it to the challenge or person in question. Say it to your body, mind, and soul. Connect deeply to your energetic heart, get your breath involved if it’s hard for you to connect, and move down to your chest. The goal here is to really say “I LOVE YOU” from a deep place within.

         2. “I’m Sorry.”

This one could be hard at first, as we struggle to come to terms with having to take responsibility for all our internal struggles. It it so difficult for some of us to even say “I’m sorry,” and doing so feels humbling in itself. Don’t think about the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of the situation. Know you have your part and are accepting the responsibility that something in your consciousness has created the idea that is causing harm. Saying “I’m sorry” with what you are specifically sorry for is powerful as well.

        3. “Please Forgive Me.”

Remember, it’s much easier to blame than to take responsibility, but if we’ve come this far, we do have the strength to ask for forgiveness, too. At first I didn’t understand whom I was asking for forgiveness from, but I soon realized I was getting in my own way because I was still looking for something or someone ‘out there’ to redeem me, when I should have been asking myself. Just say it. Say it to yourself and really mean it. So often we treat and think about ourselves unkindly, so simply asking ourselves for forgiveness can be quite moving and powerful.

        4. “Thank You.”

Next to love, gratitude is an extremely powerful force. Don’t worry too much about who or what you’re thanking; just say it. Thank everything and everyone for bringing you this moment. As with this entire practice, let it come from a deeper place. Thank yourself for taking the time to heal yourself and being the best you possible.

This technique is probably one of the best self-love techniques I’ve ever learned. By loving and healing ourselves first, we are truly helping change the world. Just try it for a week and see if you feel and notice any differences in your life. I did it for three weeks consistently and, incredibly, things I thought I could never get over just dissolved, and I noticed that it was much easier for me to be accepting of others because I had started to accept and love myself more. This is miraculous to me, because it’s so simple and anyone can do it. I’d love to hear your comments, questions, concerns, and experience with the technique!