I serve as the Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects and have led the largest research project to study the effects of forgiveness on hurt individuals. I am also the author of the best-selling book Forgive for Good. I have taught forgiveness for the past 17 years and have conducted numerous research projects that attest to the mental and physical health benefits of learning to forgive. We have studied forgiveness in populations around the world who have struggled with simple wounds like a break up or getting fired or severe traumas such as the murder of partner or child or the rape of a spouse.
What you see below are our research proven 9 steps to forgiveness. These 9 steps are the result of extensive observation of how people learn to forgive. These steps have been clinically tested and have been shown to be of value. When people forgive by following these steps they generally lower their blood pressure, anger and stress levels and become more hopeful and happy. These nine steps are educational in nature…they are not therapy. Almost anyone can learn to forgive. You too can learn to let go of a grudge or grievance and move on to happier and less stressful life by using these simple research proven tools.
- Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
- Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
- 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 what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
- At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
- Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize 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, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
- Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
- Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
- Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
Fred Luskin, Ph.D., is the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, a senior consultant in health promotion at Stanford University, and a professor at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, as well as an affiliate faculty member of the Greater Good Science Center.
Excerpts from (2003)Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness by Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. Printed with permission by the author.