Forgive and let live is one way to happiness
Seattle Times staff reporter
Someone cuts you off on the freeway, your wife leaves you for another man, your parents refuse to leave you alone.
Whoever crawls underneath your skin, if you can forgive that person, you will be much better off, according to Fred Luskin, author of "Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness." Luskin will sign copies of the book and speak about forgiveness at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle.
Forgiveness is not about reconciliation, it's about "renting too much space in your mind," Luskin says. "Reconciliation means you reestablish a relationship with the person who hurt you. Forgiveness means you make peace with a bitter part of your past and no longer blame your experiences on the offender."
The book evolved both from his personal experiences and from the research he continues as the director and co-founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. He's counseled thousands, ranging from divorced people and disgruntled employees to 35 men and women from Northern Ireland who have faced extreme hardships.
"Some talk about their wounds for a long time, and some let them go. If you are one of those who have not let go of what has hurt you, then this book is for you," Luskin writes.
The concept is simple: Harboring negative feelings — whether deserving or not — can increase stress levels and make you more vulnerable to both emotional and physical ailments. The theory is that increased stress levels can lead to higher blood pressure, which can lead to physical problems such as heart disease.
"We are inadequately trained as human beings to know how to respond pleasantly to life disappointments," Luskin said. "Forgiveness is an alternate way of responding. After all, sometimes life is crappy, but you don't have to be crappy in return."
In his book, Luskin uses a tangle of real-life examples. He himself learned how to forgive after one of his friends didn't invite him to his wedding because the fiancée didn't like him. It took years for Luskin to forgive him.
"I did not have a good off switch," he said. "Now I'm slower to get upset, and that's really the biggest change. I weigh (my emotions) more carefully now and ask, 'Do I want to give that power away to someone else?' I ask that question pretty often."