How to Forgive
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
In a previous blog, I wrote about how resentment and anger damage our lives. Forgiveness is the key to escape a negative path that tears us down. Forgiveness is not always easy, however. Especially in cases of betrayal and loss, it can feel almost impossible to forgive.
Fred Luskin has dedicated his career and has written a book on how to forgive titled Forgive for Good. Here are several principles of his work:
Accept what I cannot change:
Too often we hold onto past experiences or present situations that are out of our control. We become angry and replay narratives in our minds, trying to change things that are not in our power. Luskin refers to this as “handing out unenforceable tickets.” While it may be hard or even feel overwhelming to accept a situation, if we do not have the power to change it, then we need to seek ways to accept it.
Find the good:
Luskin talks about giving a “Breath of Thanks” and “Positive Emotional Refocusing.” It is hard to truly be thankful when feeling angry or resentful. These feelings make us skeptical of positive feelings because they are juxtaposed. We cannot easily feel angry and thankful at the same time. If we give space for thankfulness and gratefulness, anger more easily melts away.
Heal is an acronym Luskin created to guide folks through forgiveness. Hope reminds us to stay focused on our desired outcome, such as finding peace when losing a loved one. Education teaches us to focus on realistic outcomes and options. Affirm reminds us that our intentions are positive and that we want good outcomes from our work. Finally, Long-term commits us to practices that sustain our emotional recovery such as leading a grief group after losing a loved one.
Forgiveness is an ongoing process that requires time and dedication. The benefits are rewarding and life-giving. If you want a more complete guide to forgiveness, pick up a copy of Dr. Luskin’s book here. If you need help working through a life situation that has you feeling stuck and you want to find a way to forgive, talk with your counselor to help you through. With guidance you can find peace.