Forgiveness

You have learned that forgiveness is not the same as approving of unkindness. Forgiveness does not mean you have to reconcile with someone who mistreated you. You do not have to forget what happened. Forgiveness does not mean you lie down and become a doormat when you are hurt.

Forgiveness means we find peace even though we were in pain and mistreated. Forgiveness means we move on in our life after an abandonment or affair. It means we become responsible for how we feel. Forgiveness means we learn to take painful events less personally. Forgiveness means we reconnect with our positive intention. Forgiveness means we change our grievance story. Forgiveness means that we do not stop smelling the roses simply because we are hurt. Forgiveness means we make better decisions for guiding our lives and forgiveness means we feel better.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p 208

Photo: Zweibr├╝cken Rose Garden, June 2003

The Forgiveness Choice

Other people can hurt us, but only we choose how to react. Each of us has the choice to forgive or not to forgive, and no one can force us to do either. If I want to forgive someone, no one can stop me, no matter how poorly the offender may have acted. 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.

Because we can choose to forgive, we have a choice also about whether or not to take offense in the first place. My understanding of forgiveness suggests the radical notion that life would improve if we rarely or never used the power of choice to take offense. Since we have choice, wouldn’t it make sense to limit the amount of times we are hurt or offended?

When you have practiced forgiveness on a couple of hurtful situations, you soon find that you have become a more forgiving person. You may notice you are less inclined to get angry or that you feel more patient with people. Forgiveness — the ability to live life without taking offense, without giving blame when hurt, and by telling stories that reflect peace and understanding — is a choice that can be practiced in a host of situations. Forgiveness, while not the only choice, is a skillful way to deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 178-179

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 7, 2020

No Satisfaction Needed

At the cost of repeating myself, I want to note that in all these psalms there is no need for anyone to die. When a person turns to God from a wrongful path, divine forgiveness of sin is a gift generously given, pressed down and overflowing, because of the goodness of the God who loves them: “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). No satisfaction is needed.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Don’t Get Stuck on the Grievance Channel

Our hurt feelings are important, but we help ourselves to remember they will pass. I work with many people who struggle to trust their good feelings. They are more comfortable when their painful feelings come to visit, like annoying relatives who do not know when to leave. These people’s remote controls are stuck, and they do not know how to bring them in to the shop to be fixed. Being stuck in a cycle of pain makes it easy to forget that negative feelings are no more real than positive ones.

Love, feelings of appreciation and gratitude, and the ability to notice beauty are all real. They are important. They are deep expressions of the human experience. Unfortunately, many disappointed and hurt people develop the bad habit of focusing more on their hurts than their blessings. This keeps them stuck in a cycle of pain and the sense that lasting peace and love are out of their grasp. Even good feelings will change and pass on. Some days we see the cup as half full and some days as half empty. To have a deep and full life, we need to be able to experience all of our emotions appropriately. The problem is we cannot find the full range of human experience when our remote is stuck on the grievance channel.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 170

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Loving Like Christ

With this experience with Christ, we discover we too can love lavishly, and that love covers a multitude of sins in the world. We discover that the more we forgive others, the more love fills our hearts and crowds out old hurts and resentments. More and more sin’s power over us is repealed and the power of love is displayed. While it is sometimes unwise to drop all boundaries with someone who may hurt us again, lavish love allows us to forgive a person from a distance so that we no longer feel anger or contempt or repetitively re-experience our wound on the movie screen in our mind. Jesus’ call to forgive overcomes the injury and helps us heal. Love lavishly and we are not tempted to use words of contempt or spread unkind stories about another person. This call to constant love is not a dreamer’s verse. It is a description of what it means to follow Christ and live out the lavish love he told his disciples would be the basis and norm of their new life.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Hope Amid the Horror

More than five hundred years before Jesus’ death on the cross, Second Isaiah proclaimed that the God who created heaven and earth was redeeming and saving Israel and forgiving their sin out of the infinite depths of divine compassion. This God is forever faithful and does not need anyone to die in order to be merciful. It is strange to contemplate how Christian preaching in the tradition of the satisfaction theory seems to assume that some seismic shift suddenly changed the divine character, so that Jesus’ death was necessary to win favor for sinners. One hears that he came to die, and without the cross we would not be saved, as if at some point the flow of divine mercy were shut down, needing Jesus’ death to start it up again. As we will discover, however, rather than making a necessary gift to placate divine honor, Jesus’ brutal death enacts the solidarity of the gracious and merciful God with all who die and especially with victims of injustice, opening hope for resurrection amid the horror.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 50

Photo: March 6, 2015, South Riding, Virginia

Stop Trying to Change People

The upset we feel when others do not change in the way we want them to is what forgiveness resolves. Forgiveness helps us stop wasting our time trying to change people who do not want to change. Forgiveness allows us to regain control of our lives as we try less to control the lives of others. Forgiveness allows us to manage the effect of other people’s hurtful actions in our lives….

We can never forgive something as vague as a person’s traits, temperament, or personality. At best, we can forgive specific behavior that we hypothesize reveals the person’s character. This is an important distinction, and one that can save us a lot of pain. We can see behavior, but we can only guess at character. Criticizing someone’s character is not the best way to spend our limited resources of energy and time. To forgive, we need to focus on the behaviors, such as harsh speech and unkind action, that were at variance with what we wanted.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 160-161

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, February 6, 2010

Healing Grievances with Positive Intention

You will discover as you tell your positive intention story that you feel better. One reason is that you are closer to telling a balanced story. This is because each of us has many experiences. Negative ones are not more important than positive ones. A grievance freezes a hurtful experience into an unchangeable solid. Then it rents too much space in our mind and leads to feelings of helplessness. The truth is that wounds hurt, but they do not have to be crippling.

Each of us can forgive those who have hurt us. When we put our grievances into the perspective of challenges to our goals, we are giving an accurate account. Everything that hurts us is a challenge to our happiness. It is a challenge to be happy in this world. Wounds can cripple the happiness only of those who do not know how to cope and forgive. Finding our positive intention helps us connect with the big picture. Telling a positive intention story reminds everyone who hears us that we are a hero and not a victim. We deserve the best, and forgiveness helps us find it.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 153

Photo: Twin Peaks, California, January 1, 2020

Your Positive Intention Story

There is no one perfect way to construct a positive intention. I have provided guidelines I know will work. What is critical is how you change your story to center on a larger goal and not on the grievance. You do this by reminding yourself that your small goals are not the same as your big goals. You take the hurt off center stage in your life and put your healing there instead. When you start to tell yourself and other people your positive intention story, you facilitate healing that you may not have thought possible.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 152

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 2, 2019