“If you really want to be of use in this world, some humility has to emerge about your flaws, and your weaknesses, and your selfishness.” - Dr. Fred Luskin
Resentment. Guilt. Shame.
These are words most of us are intimately familiar with. When you store memories of past events in your brain, you attach meaning to them - this is referred to as a narrative. The narratives you form, or the meanings you attach to a mistake you made or a betrayal you’ve endured, don’t always serve us well, though. Learning to forgive yourself and others in a humble way is the path forward to a happy and healthy future...but it’s not always easy!
Don't worry, though. We're here to help. Today, we’re turning to an expert in the field of forgiveness, Dr. Fred Luskin. He is the Director of Stanford University's Forgiveness Projects for over 20 years and is currently a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the School of Business as the co-founder of the Wellness Education Program. He is also the author of the best-selling books Forgive for Good and Forgive for Love. To help you understand Dr. Luskin’s invaluable wisdom surrounding the concept of forgiveness, the founder of karuna, Arun Sardana, speaks with Dr. Luskin in the open book journey episode No future without forgiveness.
If you’d like to listen to the episode, press play below - and don’t forget to subscribe so you can join us on our journey of uncovering the wisdom that lies behind the science of happiness! Before you go, though, read on to discover some of the major takeaways surrounding forgiveness that we all can use to improve our lives.
The first thing Dr. Luskin makes clear is that forgiveness is not about forgetting what you’ve done or what’s happened to you. It’s about remembering it in an entirely different manner. He tells us that “there is no such thing as a memory that exists in objective reality. It’s really just remembering differently. You don’t want to forget, you just want to remember differently.” If you can shift your perspective of an event in a way that is compassionate, in a way that accounts for the human flaws that we all have, you can create incredible value from the things that once hurt you. As Dr. Luskin puts it, “there’s no one right answer, and people’s needs can shift over time, but there’s something valuable in knowing you have the potential to remember things in a way that helps you move forward in your life in a positive direction.”
While forgiveness is an invaluable tool that you can use to help you be free of your past, there is also an importance in acknowledging feelings of guilt or shame and holding yourself accountable for your past actions. Dr. Luskin says that “one of the few real gifts we offer this world is an honest accounting of our own bad behavior.” Don’t be afraid to experience “short-term shame, guilt, honest inspection - those show your humanity.” Self-forgiveness requires humility, an understanding of your flaws, weaknesses, selfishness. The fact that many people don’t experience those short-term feelings of shame and guilt is what’s much more dangerous.
Another important question surrounding forgiveness is what to do with the people that we just can’t seem to forgive. Those that have taken advantage of you and caused you harm. How can we go about forgiving people who we blame for our misfortunes?
Dr. Luskin gives us a profound example to answer this question - “you’re watching a baseball game, and it’s the bottom of the ninth. The last play of the game, the umpire screws up and calls your team member out. The game is over, and you blame the umpire for losing the game…and you forget the hundreds of plays and experiences that led you to be in that position. You forget the missed hits, the mistakes that you made during the game. You forget the missed hits, mistakes that you made last week that made this game so important. You have to be very careful of what you blame for your own life experiences.”
“The question is, did each of us do everything that we could to put ourselves in the best position to be able to handle what life was going to throw us?” Dr. Luskin reminds us that you have to ask yourself that question to be able to see things clearly. You must be very careful to not take a singular event that you believe was the only cause of your misfortune. It’s much more complicated than that, and we have many ways to be a little more responsible for our own participation in our hardships. From this point on, the cure is prioritizing what’s within your realm of responsibility that you can do to help yourself.
In the words of Desmond Tutu, without forgiveness, there is no future. We need to be able to forgive ourselves and those that have wronged us unencumbered by the past. That requires a shift in perspective that can be moved along with the use of narrative practices - tools that can help you reframe your interpretation of past events. One great tool we’ve created here at the karuna school of happiness is the transformative karuna happiness system™ - transformative guided microlearning and journaling experiences that help you to reframe events in a more compassionate and joyful light. Be sure to check it out if you’re ready to begin your journey towards forgiveness.
Dr. Luskin sends us off with one gold nugget of wisdom that he believes everyone should practice every day - turn yourself into a person who has a much easier time saying thank you to other people for what’s been done for you. Gratitude, the ability to look for what’s present rather than notice what’s missing, is one of the essential keys in unlocking true forgiveness in your life. Thank you for joining us today, and remember - happiness lives here. Welcome home.