This depends on your goal. Is your goal to reconcile? If so, and if the other refuses to accept your gift out of denial of any wrongdoing, then you need to have a heart-to-heart conversation of the wrong done and the person’s denial of this. Such a conversation may lead, or at least eventually lead, to a genuine reconciliation based on mutual trust. If, on the other hand, your goal for now is to reduce the resentment inside of you, then your giving a gift that is not directly given (such as the kind word about the person to others or donating to charity in the person’s name) is sufficient for a good forgiveness response. Under this circumstance, you need not “try something other than forgiveness.”
This gift-giving is part of the amazing paradox of forgiving: As you give to the other, it is you who experiences healing. Our science supports this view. As people go through our Process Model of Forgiveness, they tend to reduce in anger, anxiety, and depression and to increase in self-esteem and hope. You can read a description of some of these studies in Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015), Forgiveness Therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.
When I think about giving a gift to the one who hurt me, I see a complication. He thinks he has done nothing wrong. Whatever I give in the name of forgiveness will only serve to make him angry. So, what do I do now?
You need not proclaim that you are giving him a gift. You could, for example, donate a little money to an important charity and do so in his name. You might say a kind word about him to one of your friends or family members. Even these can be healing for you as you forgive in this way.
Giving a gift to the other in forgiveness occurs in our Process Model later in the process. You need first to try to think of the one who hurt you in broader ways than just defining that person by the unjust actions. From there you can practice bearing the pain or standing in the pain so that you do not displace that pain onto the one who hurt you or onto others. Once you begin to feel stronger as you bear the pain, then you can consider giving a gift to the other. This might be a smile or a returned email or even a kind word about the person to others. I recommend giving a gift because this is what the moral virtue of forgiveness is on a deep level: being good to the one who was not good to you.
I would urge you to ask yourself these questions:
Have I been treated unjustly by someone or perhaps by more than one person?
Am I resentful of this treatment against me? Try to give this a number from 1 (very little resentment) to 10 (extreme resentment that could be described as hatred).
If the number of your resentment is in the 5 t o 10 range, you may need some help in reducing that. Thus, you should ask yourself this: What have I been doing to reduce the resentment (if that number is in the 5 to 10 range)?
If what you have tried is not lowering that resentment number, then are you interested in trying forgiving as a way of reducing that resentment?
Your answers can help you determine whether or not to pursue forgiving. It always remains your choice.