כוחה של סליחה

עודכן ב: 27 ספט 2021

הסליחה הוכחה כמפחיתה כעס, כאב, דיכאון ומתח ומובילה לתחושות של אופטימיות, תקווה, חמלה וביטחון עצמי. עבודתו של ד״ר לוסקין יושמה ונחקרה בהצלחה במסגרות ארגוניות, רפואיות, משפטיות ודתיות


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. He is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (Harper, San Francisco, 2001) and Stress Free for Good: Ten Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness (Harper, San Francisco, 2005), with Kenneth Pelletier, Ph.D.



Dr. Luskin presents lectures, workshops, seminars and trainings on the importance, health benefits and training of forgiveness, stress management and emotional competence throughout the United States. Dr. Luskin and other's research has confirmed the virtues of forgiveness in the promotion of psychological, relationship and physical health. Forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress and lead to greater feelings of optimism, hope, compassion and self-confidence. Dr. Luskin's work has been successfully applied and researched in corporate, medical, legal and religious settings.



Dr. Luskin, what lead you to engage with the subject of “forgiveness”?

As a Jew who was born in New York and grew up with generations of Jews who fled Russia a 100 years ago, some of the inspiration for the work that I did came from having parents who were anti-German, because of the Holocaust. I knew that it was unfathomable what people did to the Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s in Europe - I mean unfathomable and horrifying. As I grew up, I realized that the world could be an incredibly horrid place and that for no obvious reason - people are mistreated unfathomably! But I also came to understand that as human beings, both individually and tribally, we need some statute of limitations. After generations, we need some detachment from the perpetrators. That’s what I couldn't articulate growing up. Did the Germans and the Austrians and the Poles mistreat Jews? Of course. But when does the identification with that stop? With this generation, the next generation, the generation after that?


First, I didn't have the skills, and second, I realized that there had to be some kind of spiritual power. I am semi secular as a person, but I really respect and understand that there is intelligence way beyond mine, and so there had to be some information, data awareness that wasn't just rooted in the individual grievance or the group grievance but was a method of healing. Again, I couldn’t articulate this to my mother or my father or my aunts, but it was always in me and so that's one reason in terms of the work I do.


In addition, I have practiced meditation since college, and I know personally, but have also having studied this field, that there is a way to attain some degree of peace around your own life. The realization that, yes Jews and blacks and untold numbers of people have been horribly treated, and the world has used Jews all over the place as scape goats - but that’s not the only reality – is important. There is also an inner release of that that comes from maybe something spiritual or maybe a higher kind of awareness. About 25-30 years ago, I started to recognize that I was interested in the interface between that suffering, which is legitimate, and the possibility of a higher-order integration that stops the suffering. So I started to practice and teach and research the interface which is forgiveness, but we teach it from a secular point of view. You can teach people anything from a secular point of view or a religious point of view. I believe that it is the same thing, just from a different source of affirmation. So that that has been my reason for doing the work that I do- so that people can grasp the different way of holding their woundedness, their sufferings and even their grievances.



Since you mentioned with the Holocaust, I was wondering: if it is possible to use this practice when you're using it between two people, can you use it also with groups and a collective memory? How do we forgive as a collective? Is it possible?

It’s possible, we have done small amounts of it.

Years ago I did so many trainings for mediators like this. I gave a keynote address maybe a decade ago to the American Bar Association alternative dispute resolution section on forgiveness. Mediation or dispute resolution without some infusion of forgiveness is some degree of malpractice. You can't force it, but it's also part of the purpose of this process – understanding that dispute resolution doesn't really end until people don’t identify themselves as a victim, so that disengagement of victim status should be part of all of dispute resolution. Yet some people are simply incapable of that, and some people are too rooted in their identity as an aggrieved person to work through that. But I believe that to not have that as a part of the menu sells the whole process short. It's very tricky because with group stuff, that tribal identity often is more important to people than their own personal wellbeing, and so it becomes really weird - people do really weird and dangerous things for the good of their troop or the good of their tribe. Individually I think it can be framed as “the only real revenge is a life well lived.”

I would think that part of a mediation’s framing would be a successful resolution of this means – realizing that you don't have to think of each other in this way. We are not just resolving the external conflict or disagreement, we want to also resolve your holding of each other as the problem rather than all of us trying to resolve the problem. That would be my long-winded answer.


I heard in one of your interviews that you had said that you were hurt by somebody really close and it affected you and gave you motivation for the research. Did you forgive this person eventually?

Oh yes, I did.


Second: How did this affect you? How long did it take you to reach that place and to be after the process of forgiveness?

I will tell you something interesting, because that person is a close friend now and there is zero energy at all about what happened. I forgave them before we got back together, so the forgiveness process was internal and it was a process out of desperation because my life didn’t work.


I was just bitter and frustrated and the world didn’t’ feel safe anymore, it was just horrible. But I released that and I released his power over me. Then we reconciled. The forgiveness came first internally and by the time, I saw him I didn’t need to talk about it much because I was at peace, and even deeper than that and more frightening than that - I saw how much of my suffering I had caused and how little of my suffering he had caused - and that was not pretty. It was like “Fred – you didn’t shepherd your own life very well.” He did a not so good thing, no doubt about it and then you made it ten times worse. That’s the other piece of why forgiveness is helpful to people – because otherwise, people can take difficult life events and then make them so much worse [by not forgiving].



So why is it so hard for people to forgive? We know that it would make our lives much easier if we just forgive, yet we still find it so difficult to do so.

I don’t believe that people think that their life would be so much better if they forgive, because if they believed that then they would forgive much quicker. People do what they believe. What they are telling you when they don’t forgive is that holding the bitterness will keep them safe. People don’t lie with their actions, they lie with their words. So what most of us are experimenting with is that since life is difficult, and since every one of us has suffered at the hands of other people, and we have caused other people to suffer, it’s a bi directional thing. We are all experimenting what to do with it and for many people, holding some type of resistance to that makes them feel safer: they are on guard, they will never be sideswiped again. This is something which they are telling themselves. When you forgive, you recognize that there is a different kind of safety, which comes with not holding on and amplifying the bitterness. It involves offering the world a little more trust, and also having a little more trust in yourself that you can be hurt and go through it. So it’s a different kind of safety and different kinds of people choose different kinds of safeties - but we are all looking to be safe.


When would you say it is easier forgive, when we are more mature and have more life experience, or when we are younger? When is it easier for us to learn to trust again?

Generally, people do become more forgiving when they get older, also because you have had so many experiences of people being “crappy,” you recognize that you can’t just hold on to it all, and mortality makes it seem stupid to hold onto the past: if you will be dead in 8 years, what are you holding onto? But you said the word trust and that’s a crucial part of this. When you teach forgiveness or when you look at forgiveness what you’re saying is: ”I need to trust myself to heal, to be able to hold suffering“ and let’s say to be magn