The first definition of forgive in the 2004 version of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: to give up resentment of.
I am still learning and growing as I continue to pursue forgiveness. I realized that I still have much to learn when someone once again wounded my loved one. Therefore, I did more research and found a wonderful book, Forgive for Good by Dr. Frederic Luskin.
Introduction to Forgive for Good
I am still reading it; however, the first eleven chapters have had a profound effect on me. I hope by sharing what I am learning others will see the valve of using Dr. Luskin’s techniques too.
The introduction to Forgive for Good explains that forgiveness is about obtaining peace. It is not for the offender. Dr. Luskin notes, “forgiveness does not mean that we give up our right to be angry when we have been hurt or mistreated.” Several things Dr. Luskin states ring so true to me. One of my favorites is, “Forgiveness is the powerful assertion that bad things will not ruin your today even though they may have spoiled your past.”
Dr. Luskin divided his book into three sections with Part I focusing on how we all create grievances in response to not getting our needs met and in the process we “rent too much space in our thoughts to disappointment.” He is not saying anger is never appropriate, instead he explains that, “Anger can be a wonderful short-term solution to life’s difficulties, yet it is rarely a good long-term solution to painful events.”
I also love that he points out that holding others accountable for their actions is not the same as blaming them for how you feel. Therefore, you can hold someone legally accountable for an injury and still forgive so you can heal.
Part II explores our choice to forgive. He makes a point of explaining how we get stuck in being victims and that these stories, “unlike wine, do not improve with age.” He points out that forgiveness is about changing our story from victim to hero. We become heroes when we use our stories to heal, to help others or to avoid repeating mistakes. We then stop using our stories for revenge or to get sympathy.
He dedicates a chapter to the health benefits of letting go of the anger where he mentions four studies he conducted. The benefits include psychological and emotional well-being. Another study showed that people who are forgiving are less likely to have a wide range of illnesses.
He also shares stories of families affected by violence in Northern Ireland who took part in the Stanford Forgiveness Project and forgave those who murdered their loved ones. They should set an example for all of us. I imagine this is one of the hardest things anyone would ever forgive.
Part III gives techniques to help us with forgiveness which I will explore in a future post since I have five more chapters to read in this section.