What Does It Mean To Forgive?

In honor of the Jewish New Year, here is another thoughtful post from one of my favorite writers (and mother) Dr. Linda Edelstein.

In preparation for leading a Yom Kippur discussion at the synagogue, I spent several months reading about the topic – How to Forgive.

I started with the Buddhists, read some biblical material I received from an Orthodox Rabbi, and wound up with the folks who are most comfortable for me, the psychologists.

I found a researcher at Stanford, Professor Fred Luskin, who has been studying forgiveness for a couple of decades, and his conclusions resonated with me. Here is my understanding of how we create grudges and how we can forgive.

To begin, it is important to recognize that forgiveness is NOT condoning, NOT forgetting, NOT excusing, NOT denying feelings or bad behavior. Forgiveness is NOT reconciling with the offender.

Forgiveness is Not for the other person – Forgiveness is for you. Forgiveness provides peace; it is about taking back your power; it is about taking responsibility for how you feel; it is about becoming heroes rather than victims; it is one important choice to make about how you live.

We develop a grudge because we:

1. take exaggerated offence
2. blame the offender for how we feel
3. create a grievance story that we tell and retell

In this way, the person who offended you grows in power and importance; you become smaller.

You get into a more peaceful place by undoing the 3 components listed above:

Instead of exaggerating personal offence, > Find the impersonal

Instead of revisiting the past, > Know that the past can’t be changed

Instead of dwelling on the bad > Concentrate on the good

When you are stuck in disappointment > Limit dwelling on those thoughts

Instead of blaming the offender for feelings > Make a plan to improve your life

Instead of repeating the old story > Learn a new story with you as the hero,
not as the victim

Instead of negative emotions > Refocus emotion on being grateful

Instead of hanging on to legitimate hurts > Mourn your disappointments and move forward

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does not mean that whatever happened was your fault. Forgiveness means that you seek peace for yourself; you will gain freedom by letting go of past grievances; you will be in charge of how you feel and behave today; you will not repeat old ways that didn’t work; and you will create your own life, not allow yourself to be dictated to by past people or events.

Shana Tova!

To read more posts by Dr. Edelstein click here

Comments 1

  1. Although this was posted several months ago, I just coincidentally came upon it while scanning my groups. I say coincidentally because as I was logging onto Gather, I was contemplating posting to Life Balance how deeply forgiveness has changed my life and how one cannot truly find balance, peace or even true joy without first letting go of all past hurts, real or exaggerated, and forgiving…

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