Forgiveness Defined and Explained: First in How to Forgive Series 18

Definition and Why I Still Need Help

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.”

Part I

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

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.


  1. Pingback: Small Rant Then More on Forgiveness Project | dswalkerauthor

  2. Forgiveness changes us. The forgiveness may not come right away, but there is a peace that comes with forgiving. I once heard a sermon about, “staying on bitter mountain” it can really cold on that mountain and very lonely. The longer you stay on that mountain the more isolated you become. The question has to become, “What do I need to do to forgive that person.” The forgive has to come from us…from within. I agree that anger is never the long term solution. When you forgive there is “a peace of God that surpasses alll understanding.” I believe this. I have experienced this peace….this Grace. I have forgiven and others have forgiven me….and I am a a more whole person because of this forgiveness.

    • Cheairs,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences. I do believe in forgiveness. I find it is harder for me when people wound my children, but even then I know it is the right thing in the long run. It is when the wound is new that it is hardest and I have found this is true once again. However, God has a way of sending people to us to remind us that we also have to teach our children to let go of the anger.

      I would like to see those involved in wounding her actually learning from their mistakes for in this case I do not believe there was true malicious. Unfortunately, I am not sure they are capable of admitting that they failed my daughter. I have forgiven those involved in the past wounds, but I would also like to see them gain understanding. Life should not be so difficult for our children and the adults who are supposed to help in these situations really need more training in how to help.

  3. Hi Sue – this is such a wonderful post. It contains so much truth and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing it.

    I think learning how to forgive is one of the most beautiful things we can do in life, because it gives us freedom. I always feel better knowing that I am not holding a grudge against a person and it often comes as a surprise to the person who has offended me.

    Chloe xx

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  5. Oh, I might can handle this theory of forgiveness because, as you well know, forgiveness is something I am struggling with right now. I think it might be good for me to investigate more about this book. It might become one of those that I should purchase and cherish rather than just check out from the library.
    I really appreciate this post, Sue. It is giving me a new direction at which to look on my journey for forgiveness….

    • Lisa,
      This is one I actually purchased on my Kindle because I can highlight and bookmark and go back to it which I am finding very helpful. I know it is available in hard-copy format for you though as I know you hate the e-books.

  6. So much wisdom packed into this post and the video! I will explore Fred Luskin’s videos on YouTube.

    “to give up resentment of,” what a great definition. I actually hadn’t thought it out that way but it makes so much sense. Resentment, stewing away inside, would really digest my insides. And I think we can expect and demand responsible behaviour without harbouring resentment. So might as well chuck it.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I look forward to hearing more.

  7. My husband has a lot of trouble with forgiveness and he is on constant defense mode. It is a hard thing to grasp.
    This was a great post.

    • Grace,
      For the most part I have learned to take a breath and to remain quiet until I can speak from a place of calmness. It is not always easy as I have been known to be defensive in the past too. Recent issues have made it harder to forgive which is why I really needed Dr. Luskin’s book. I hope to one day be more like Immaculee Ilibagiza. She has found the grace Dr. Luskin talks about in his video. It is obvious to anyone who has ever met her.

  8. What an amazing post
    Thank you for sharing these important truths
    Sounds like a lovely book – must read it
    This really resonated with me “Forgiveness is the powerful assertion that bad things will not ruin your today even though they may have spoiled your past”

    • Kajoli,
      It resonated with me too! I still have to keep working on his techniques and he has more that I have to read about as I finish the book. It is not easy, but I do believe that for me it is necessary.

  9. A very, very difficult topic, especially if you have a child with severe and complex disabilities. Forgiveness of past incidents and grievances is easy, you really don’t have time or energy to dwell on the past.
    I am not sure that forgiveness of the indifference which is shown toward your son by immediate family and relatives (or the global indifference shown my many toward the disabled) is forgivable or should it be. There are instances in life where rage toward indifference is the only option. Indifference reduces the Other to nothingness…this indifference we see should not be forgiven without acknowledgement of the wrong, apology and a change of behavior.
    Many grievances are and should be forgiven…indifference to the suffering of others is a sin against the spirit and in unforgivable without sincere reparation and resolution. Historically, long term rage against indifference has change many things. In these types of situations, I believe, Luskin misses the mark. The first two thirds of his book are ok.

    • Phil,
      I agree it is difficult and I do get what you are saying about not being indifferent. I think you can be passionate about making a change without being angry though and in fairness Dr. Luskin does see the benefit of the initial anger. I will never stop advocating for changes in the way too many people mistreat others so I agree with you on this. However, I do know when I am furious with someone I do not think as clearly. Fighting for change and justice is and should be okay. I believe you can be peaceful without being passive.

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