A Therapy Blog Miniseries:
How are we to just forgive and forget when someone has done us wrong? How am I to trust or let them back into my life after they have caused so much harm? We often find ourselves asking these questions and unsure how to answer them. Forgiveness can be a difficult subject to discuss and we have many different thoughts and feelings about it.
Dr. Fred Luskin, an expert on forgiveness, defines forgiveness as the experience of being in peace right now no matter what story drama has occurred 5 min or 5 years ago and no matter what has happened in any of our lives; at this moment we can be at peace.
Often when we hold a grudge, it creates a lack of peace in our life. Dr. Luskin states that the reason for this lack of peace, is that instead of letting go of an experience, we hold on to it because it went against our expectation of how the situation should have turned out. Yes, life happened, but rather than letting go we are left with emotional turmoil due to an inability to let go of our expectations. One crucial part of forgiveness is letting go and resetting these expectations of those that we feel have wronged us.
Often times I am asked, “Why is it that we must remember?” and “How am I ever supposed to let them in my life again?” Often we remember the situation that occurred so that we do not repeat the same mistakes again. Dr. Luskin explains this concept well, he explains that forgiveness is “actually remembering differently. While the lack of forgiveness is remembering something with an edge or a grudge or a sense of injustice, forgiveness means remembering it more benignly, with compassion. It involves some purpose of moving ahead, rather than just being stuck in the past”. When we forgive someone that does not mean that we automatically trust them or let them back in fully. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves not for the other person.
Luskin notes that in order to move forward and forgive we must first:
- Take a hurt less personally
- Take responsibility for how you feel
- Then become a hero instead of a victim in the story we tell
Luskin notes that we must change from a victim story to a hero in our story. True forgiveness does not put the other person “in charge” but rather it places you in control of the situation. Luskin states, that “while you did not cause these things to happen, you are responsible for how you think, behave, and feel since those experiences occurred. It is your life, and they are your reactions and emotions to manage.”
Every day we have the choice on how we react to situations that we can take offense to. We can choose to react and fall into that default setting of harboring anger or we can take a step back, look at our emotions, and let go.
We have the choice day in and day out to forgive and move forward in our lives. Holding onto these grudges prevent us from our happiness. Letting go and forgiving provides us with the following:
- Reduced anger
- Greater feelings of hope
- More peace in your life
- Healthier relationships
- Improved physical and mental health
- More positive attitude and outlook
If you are having a difficult time forgiving and letting go please reach out and schedule an appointment with Nate at the Cottonwood Heights office 801-944-4555.
Luskin, F. (2003). Forgive for good: A proven prescription for health and happiness. San Francisco: HarperOne.