I read this book around December 2014. Dr. Fred Luskin founded the Stanford Forgiveness Project. His definition of forgiveness is the ability to live life without taking offense, without giving blame when hurt, and by telling stories that reflect peace and understanding; it means you become part of the solution. If you expect things to go wrong sometimes and you are ready with forgiveness, then you become a more powerful person. Just because someone hurt you does not mean you have to suffer indefinitely. We cannot end the cruelty that exists. What we can do is forgive the unkindness that comes our way and put energy into manifesting our positive intention i.e. the big goal that the grievance thwarted.
The most important thing I learned from this book is that whatever bad thing that has happened, I am not the first and will not be the last to suffer from this bad thing. Dr. Fred Luskin reminds us that painful experience is common and to understand that most offenses are committed without the intention of hurting anyone personally. While we did not cause bad things to happen, we are responsible for how we think, behave, and feel since those experiences occurred. It is our life, and our reactions and emotions to manage. Change our grievance story to a forgiveness story, where we become the hero instead of the victim.
Everybody makes mistakes. We all make bad decisions and act from poor information. Being human means you and I will fail at some things and cause other people harm. Needing to be perfect is an unenforceable rule. Wanting never to hurt anyone else is an unenforceable rule. Needing to be successful is always an unenforceable rule.
At a minimum, everyone can begin by offering a sincere apology for bad behaviour.
Forgiveness begins when we realise that we are not alone in whatever we did wrong. Remember, every mistake you make has been done thousands of times by other people. You created no new evil or managed no new failure.
Nine steps to forgiveness:
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 come from blaming less that which has hurt you, taking the experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.
4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognise that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes--or ten years--ago.
5. At the moment you feel upset, practice the positive emotion refocusing technique to soothe your body's fight or flight response. Bring your attention fully to your stomach as you slowly draw in and out two deep breaths. As you inhale, allow the air to gently push your belly out. As you exhale, consciously relax your belly so that it feels soft. On the third full and deep inhalation, bring to your mind's eye an image of someone you love or of a beautiful scene in nature that fills you with awe and wonder. Ask the relaxed and peaceful part of you what you can do to resolve your difficulty.
6. Give up expecting things from other people, or life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognise the unenforceable rules you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, friendship, and prosperity and work hard to get them. However, you will suffer if you demand that these things occur when you do not have the power to make them happen.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. In other words, find your positive intention. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new ways to get what you want.
8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who hurt you power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.
9. Amend your grievance story to remind yourself of the heroic choice to forgive.