Forgiveness in the Context of Positive Psychology

Connections with others play a vital role in our lives, and Sue Langley underscores the significance of forgiveness within these relationships. Forgiveness, in her view, doesn't entail erasing the memory of unfavorable events; rather, it involves letting go of the anger and resentment associated with those experiences.

Forgiveness comes around with gratitude

Nick: Perhaps one of the most challenging activities in the six day intensive was related to forgiveness. And this is obviously related to relationships. This can be very hard to practice. It's sometimes hard for us to let go if we've felt were wronged or we ruminate, we want revenge sometimes. So let's get clarity on what forgiveness is in the context of positive psychology. Why is it beneficial to practice it?

Sue: I think I'll flip your questions around first, why it's beneficial is because relationships are so important to us. So if something happens, and I can't forgive, I may be cutting off a relationship that to your point could lead me into my 80s.

Because we're all going to mess up and say or do something that hurts another person at some point. So I think we need to get better at forgiveness. We're not perfect, we may have stuffed up, hopefully someone forgives us because we didn't really mean it. And hopefully, therefore, we can do the same for other people. So we know it's really important for those longer term relationships.

If we think about what it is, I think it's really important to understand what it is compared to what it isn't. It's not about forgetting. It's not about making what happened okay. But it's letting go of the anger and resentment that you feel about the wrong.

And this is again, what people misunderstand, forgiveness isn't me saying to you, Nick, I forgive you for whatever I believe you've done to me. It’s me going, I forgive Nick, I am over it, I am able to handle it. And I think that's the bit again, that people think it's about how do I get revenge? Or how do I tell you that what you've done is not okay, blah, blah, blah. It's actually not. It's basically me handling my emotions.

And I really love about the research here, Fred Luskin is a particular wonderful researcher, he's done great research around forgiveness. What he finds is often forgiveness comes around with gratitude. So gratitude is an essential part of forgiveness. Because it might be that I'm grateful for how I've grown because of that challenge.

It might be that I've been able to let go of whatever happened and move on. And I am grateful now for what happened because it taught me something. So the interesting thing is those two seem to be connected, which I think is quite fascinating.