In a new series of videos on Greater Good, forgiveness expert Dr. Fred Luskin shares what he has learned from two decades of studying and teaching forgiveness. Dr. Luskin explains what forgiveness is and isn’t, outlines the benefits of forgiveness, and discusses how people can prepare themselves to forgive offenses large and small.

His talk draws on the insights he’s gained through leading the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, the largest interpersonal forgiveness training research projects ever conducted. From this research, Dr. Luskin developed and tested his ‘Nine Steps to Forgiveness,’ a deceptively simple guide to practicing forgiveness, which has helped countless people give up their grudges.

As a companion to his video presentation, here’s an abridged version of his nine steps. You can learn more by watching the videos, reading Dr. Luskin’s Greater Good article on the subject, or checking out his best-selling book, Forgive for Good.

The Nine Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a couple of trusted people about your experience.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and no one else.
  3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling with the person who upset you or condoning the action. In forgiveness you seek the peace and understanding that come from blaming people less after they offend you and taking those offenses less personally.
  4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not from what offended you or hurt you two minutes—or 10 years—ago.
  5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response.
  6. Give up expecting things from your life or from other people that they do not choose to give you. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, friendship, and prosperity, and work hard to get them. However, these are “unenforceable rules:” You will suffer when you demand that these things occur, since 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.
  8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
  9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

Thanks to Jason Marsh who wrote this piece August, 2010

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