Teaching Schedule

Book Talks

Purchase "Forgive for Good" Audio Tapes 

Media Coverage

Dr. Luskin on Video and Audio

Research Abstracts


The 9 Steps of forgiveness


Silicon Valley Life

Published Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002, in the San Jose Mercury News

Palo Alto man helps cultivate forgiveness

Religion News Service

A jerk in a Saab just nipped into your parking place.

Your boss lied through his capped teeth and promoted his newest flavor of the month instead of you.

Your sister advised you to dump the loser you were dating. Now she and he are a blissful couple.

You've got a grudge, baby.

And Fred Luskin thinks you are entitled to it. You get to be hurt, angry and resentful. If your spouse cheated on you, perhaps six months or a year of fuming is reasonable. But after an interval of seething, the director and founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project says, you should stop.

Not because it is noble, but because it is practical. Your blood pressure, your clenched stomach and your co-workers will thank you.

``When you first are hurt, you are processing it through,'' the Palo Alto psychologist said. ``You need support and advice. You need to tell a couple good friends. Five years later, the advice you need is to shut up.''

Luskin, a former health-food restaurateur, has made it his calling to help the furious become unstuck. He runs five-week forgiveness-training seminars at Stanford that cost $210. He and a Presbyterian minister bring small groups to California from Northern Ireland for weeklong sessions on healing from the violence there. And Luskin is explaining his technique in a new book, ``Forgive for Good.''

Make peace with life

``Life does not always seem fair,'' he writes. ``I witness needless suffering because people do not recognize that making peace with this fact is an unavoidable life task. . . . If you can view your mind as a house, I can teach you to control how much space you rent to your wounds and grievances.''

Luskin, 47, says that at each stop on his current book tour, ``I guarantee you that three people will come up to me and say, `My husband really needs this book,' '' he said. ``And maybe their husbands really do. When people come up to me with their personal hurts, I always impersonalize it. I say that hurt is common. This is a tough planet we got born onto. And there is a way to perceive that hurt differently. But addressing their specifics cold, I don't think that's ethical.''

So the Long Island-raised psychologist won't analyze you instantaneously, like Frasier Crane. But he will tell you that he started on this forgiveness track after a dear friend dropped out of his life.

An only child of an accountant and a homemaker, Luskin counted on Sam's friendship. But Sam became engaged to a Californian who disliked Luskin. The day after she met Luskin, Sam disappeared. No wedding invitation. Nothing.

``I finally wrote him a letter,'' Luskin said in an interview during a stop in Cleveland. ``I wrote the typical psychologist's letter, this is how I'm feeling, yada, yada, yada. He sent back a postcard. `Wondered where you were.' He added at the bottom, `I'd love to see you.'

``I got this intuitive glimpse that I didn't want to be this upset because he'd been . . . insensitive . . . . The deepest insight that came to me was we all go to a different movie. He was watching `Love Story' and I was watching `Abandonment.' Well, I didn't want to give him all that power over me. I wanted the show to be over. I wanted out of the theater. And I still wanted the friend.''

Once Luskin set down his grievance, he got back his friend. ``You live long enough,'' he said, ``people disappoint you. It's the nature of the beast.''

Luskin wondered whether his techniques could help women whose sons had been killed in the strife in Northern Ireland. He brought a dozen of them to Stanford, then a group of men and women with murdered family members and, just recently, community activists from Ireland who are trying to bring peace and mourn their own dead.

``It is so powerful to get them away to a place that is warm and gorgeous,'' he said. ``We have a group of students wait on them hand and foot. We have homes for them to stay in. We let them know that 10,000 miles away, people really care about them. And then we really listen to them.''

Reconciling with hurt

The Irish participants report they now sleep better. They have less stress, anger, hurt and resentment. The hurt doesn't disappear, but some of the mothers say they have become able to mother their surviving children again, Luskin said.

The major religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, make forgiveness a central tenet. Luskin, who has meditated for 20 years, believes cognitive psychology provides some of the tools to do it.

A veteran of more than 100 interviews, Luskin said many journalists have called to ask about forgiveness in the wake of Sept. 11.

``I see it as a train ride,'' Luskin said. ``Forgiveness is the last stop. First you must work on emotional competence and emotional healing. You must feel what went wrong. You must name it. You must share it, and you must gain some control over it. All that has to be there before forgiveness can wipe the slate clean.

``You don't start with Adolf Hitler. And you don't start with Sept. 11. I spend my entire first session on gratitude. Then I say choose someone you love dearly who it would be ridiculous not to forgive for something stupid you've held on to. A parent, a child, a spouse. Start practicing there. And find out how good that feels.''