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Forgive for Good

When I think about the topic of forgiveness, I immediately think of Nelson Mandela. Imprisoned for almost 27 years for speaking out against apartheid, Mandela was able to forgive his captors and those who took away so many people's freedom. Mandela led his country in its efforts to end apartheid, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In 1994, he and his countrymen were able to vote for the first time, and he became President of a democratic South Africa.

Nelson Mandela has devoted his life to democracy and equality. He writes, “I am not totally free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”

Freedom, or lack of it, can take many forms. One way in which we oppress ourselves is when we are not able to forgive someone who we believe has wronged us. When we hold a grievance, we limit our own freedom and peace of mind.

When we forgive others and ourselves, we open up the space in our brains and bodies that were holding the grievance so that we can take on more positive ways of thinking. We have more room for appreciation and gratitude and more capacity to notice the beauty around us and in us, and are able to give thanks for our blessings.

During this thanksgiving season, we may consider whether it is time to forgive someone in our lives. In his book, Forgive for Good, Dr. Fred Luskin, Director and Cofounder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, outlines the research he has done on forgiveness and his process to help us learn to forgive. 

In Luskin's book, he outlines the benefits of forgiveness. Some of these are:

* People who are more forgiving report fewer health problems.

* Forgiveness leads to less stress.

* People who blame other people for their troubles have higher incidences of illnesses such as   cardiovascular disease and cancers.

"This choice of whether or not to forgive is an example of the power we have to heal the wounds in our life and move on." If you would like to make the choice to move on, Luskin outlines Nine Steps to Forgiveness on page 211. The first three steps are:

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened, and be able to articulate what about the situation is not okay. Then tell a couple of trusted people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else. No one else even has to know about your decision.

3. Understand your goal. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling with the person who upset you or condoning their action. What you are after is peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the peace and understanding that comes from blaming less that which has hurt you, taking the experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.

To learn the other steps to forgiveness, I recommend that you read the book, check out his website, and/or meet with a coach to work through the process of forgiving for good.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with gratitude and peace.

Book Recommendations

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

In this inspirational autobiography, much of it written in secret when he was imprisoned on Robbin Island, Mandela tells the story of his life, of South Africa's struggles for freedom as well as his own. On the final page of his book, Mandela writes:

"When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning."


Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good

Based on scientific research, the book provides insight into the healing powers and medical benefits of forgiveness. Luskin offers a nine-step forgiveness method to move beyond being a victim to a life of improved health and contentment.

"Forgiveness can be defined as the peace and understanding that comes from blaming less that which has hurt you, taking the experience less personally, and changing your grievance story."


© Sue Schleifer, November, 2008

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