People who struggle with the concept of forgiveness– both for themselves and for others– often find comfort in a deeply healing age-old practice that comes from Hawai’i. The beautiful Hawaiian Prayer for Forgiveness is called “Ho’oponopono” (pronounced HO-oh-Po-no-Po-no), and it’s lovely. This ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness functions as both a communication concept for reconciliation and a tool for restoring self-love and balance. In practice, it works sort of like a mantra for self-love. And, even more surprisingly, it’s super simple.
The word ho’oponopono roughly translates to “cause things to move back in balance” or to “make things right.” It’s a very zen concept. (In native Hawaiian language, “pono” means balance, in the sense of “life.” When things are in balance, nothing is off, so-to-speak.) Accordingly, chanting this prayer over and over is a powerful way to cleanse the body of guilt, shame, haunting memories, ill will, or bad feelings that keep the mind fixated on negative thoughts. As a forgiveness practice, it is also deeply resonant, as it tends to penetrate our inner monologue over time.
To try it out for yourself, follow along with the practice, below.
“I’m Sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I Love You”
To “cleanse” yourself of bad feelings, chant the following mantra repeatedly while sitting with your eyes closed, as a kind of meditation.
The ho’oponopono prayer goes like this:
“I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
That’s it. And isn’t that something we all need to hear? “I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.” It’s very touching, especially given how simple and universal these words are. With regular practice, reciting these four simple phrases helps develop self-love and self-esteem at the times when we need it most. In this way, it’s both a lullaby to the self and a guaranteed insightful way to approach forgiving other people.
Part of the reason why this traditional Hawaiian forgiveness prayer is so powerful is that it first requires you to acknowledge that wrong was done by saying you’re sorry. Having other people acknowledge our feelings is a universal need; in ho’oponopono, you must first acknowledge that wrongdoing exists, which is a way of acknowledging these feelings. Only then will it be possible to find it in your heart to forgive someone else, or yourself. In the final step, you acknowledge love– both for yourself, and others.
Most people, when attempting to forgive either others or themselves, make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness = total absolution, or an erasing of the wrongdoing. This is ultimately futile because it ignores hurt feelings, which inevitably bubble back up later if they are not addressed.
Understanding True Forgiveness
On the contrary, true forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Instead, by first acknowledging the wrongdoing, ho’oponopono allows all parties to sit with and hold space for these feelings. First, we acknowledge that the problem exists. Then, when we are ready, we make the conscious choice to move on. True forgiveness, moreover, requires both attention and intention. When done correctly, it is one of the most freeing sensations there is– like an invisible weight has been lifted.
Historically, the ho’oponopono prayer was a kind of shared reconciliation mantra for divided families, or Ohana. In the modern era, it remains a highly effective mediation practice for forgiveness, both in helping people navigate hurt feelings and feelings of resentment towards others. It’s also felicitous in healing the self. For people who carry a lot of guilt, it’s also an easy way to practice self-comfort when you’re feeling down.
Ho’oponopono for Self Forgiveness
To practice ho’oponopono meditation, take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed. Then, slowly repeat this mantra to yourself about 7 or 8 times. (“I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you… I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you“— and so on.) End with a few moments of silence to let the message resonate. Open your eyes. How do you feel?
There are also passive ways to experience the prayer. Some people play the ho’oponopono mantra over and over in the background while working or trying to fall asleep. This way, you get some good vibes by osmosis, which can be particularly helpful in cultivating more self-love and compassion. If you are someone who is very hard on themselves, it might be more moving than you anticipate.
Below, watch a YouTube video of Kumu Sabra Kauka, a Hawai’ian elder, historian, educator, and activist speaking about the Hawai’ian tradition of Ho’oponopono, and how it is applied.
“It is much bigger to forgive than to carry the burden of blame, and to move on,” Kauka notes. “Because only by forgiving and moving on can you reach a higher point.” Watch her short explanation, below.
Here’s some audio of the ho’oponopono prayer for deep healing and forgiveness:
Related: These are the 9 of the Best Free Meditation Videos on YouTube Right Now. We’ve also curated links to the 6 Great Free Meditation Apps + Podcasts.
Struggling to reconcile your own feelings about forgiveness? Use this 5-Step Method for Identifying Misplaced Emotions.