In Letting Go, Harriet Brown writes about the meaning of forgiveness. Most people know that forgiving is good for you, but most people don’t know how to do it. Fred Luskin, who wrote Forgive for Good and has been studying forgiveness for 20 years, says there are only two steps in the process: grieving and letting go. Grieving is necessary if you have been wrongfully hurt by another. Luskin says that the process of forgiveness is to let go of anger and hurt by being mindful and focusing on gratitude and kindness. He says
Forgiveness concepts are simple. It’s the execution that’s hard.
Luskin provides 9 Steps to Forgiveness as a starting point.
Kathleen Lawler-Row, a psychology professor at East Carolina University, thinks that the benefits of forgiveness go beyond lowering blood pressure and improving sleep. She says that
once you forgive someone for something very painful, you never experience life the same way again. You’re more flexible, less black-and-white in your expectations of how life or other people will be. If there’s one thing that characterizes people who have experienced forgiveness, it’s that kind of larger perspective: I can’t predict what life will hand me, but I’m going to respond to it in this way.
The experts quoted in the article believe that forgiveness is a choice any of us can make at any time, no matter the content we’re wrestling with. Harriet is dealing with anger towards her mother, which is an ongoing situation rather than something that happened in the past and is over and done with. She asks Luskin “What if the person who hurt you in the past keeps hurting you over and over, in the present?” He interrupts her before she gets the last words out, saying that it’s not happening now, this second, and tells her to try again. So then she asks
How can you keep yourself safe with a difficult person?
He tells her that is the right question, because it gets rid of the blame and the enemy. He asks if she can follow through on her own suggestion with an open heart.
Forgiveness requires a conscious decision and you have to invite it in with an open heart.