Forgiveness is a multi-faceted topic.
From cheating spouses to disloyal friends, we often encounter situations that incite anger.
And while it’s natural to want revenge when someone wrongs us, studies show that forgiveness can lead to a host of mental and physical benefits, including reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and improved heart health.
Often we just need to let go, whether it’s a grudge against someone else, or anger we hold towards ourselves.
Not sure where to start? These 5 books about forgiveness can help.
The Best Books on Forgiveness
1. Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness by Fred Luskin
In Forgive for Good, Fred Luskin discusses the many benefits of forgiveness and offers a step-by-step guide on how to practice it.
Luskin defines forgiveness as “the conscious decision to let go of resentment and bitterness” and argues that it is not only beneficial for the individual but also for relationships and society as a whole.
Luskin points to scientific research that has shown that forgiving others can lead to improved physical health, mental well-being, and relationships.
He cites studies that have found that people who forgive are less likely to suffer from heart disease, arthritis, and other chronic illnesses, and are more likely to experience positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and love.
Forgiveness also leads to reduced stress levels and improved sleep quality.
Luskin’s guide to forgiving others consists of seven steps: (1) acknowledging the hurt, (2) identifying the feelings associated with the hurt, (3) recognizing that the feelings are not permanent, (4) understanding that the other person is also human, (5) forgiving oneself, (6) reaching out to the other person, and (7) releasing the anger.
He notes that these steps can be adapted to fit different situations and advises readers to take their time and go at their own pace.
In addition to discussing the benefits of forgiveness, Luskin also provides advice on how to deal with anger, recommending taking a break from whatever is causing anger, writing down what is making one angry, thinking about how best to respond, and then responding in a constructive way.
Luskin also stresses the importance of communicating effectively with others in order to resolve conflicts.
2. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
Lovingkindness is a book about the Buddhist concept of metta, or lovingkindness.
The author, Sharon Salzberg, is a prominent meditation teacher and Buddhist nun who has been studying and teaching meditation for over forty years.
In the book, she discusses the different ways that metta can be practiced, both on a personal level and in relation to others.
Salzberg begins by describing the different stages that a person typically goes through on the path to developing metta.
- The first stage is one of self-preoccupation, where a person is mainly concerned with their own happiness and wellbeing. This stage can be difficult, as it often involves a lot of self-judgement and dissatisfaction.
- The next stage is one of concern for others, where a person begins to see the interconnectedness of all life and starts to feel empathy for others. This stage can be difficult as well, as it often involves overcoming feelings of hatred or envy.
- The final stage is one of pure love and compassion, where a person feels unconditional love for all beings and sees them as part of one interconnected whole.
Salzberg then discusses the different ways that metta can be practiced.
- One way is to simply focus on sending thoughts of love and kindness to oneself, which can be done by sitting quietly and repeating phrases such as “May I be happy,” “May I be free from suffering,” or “May I be at peace.”
- Another way to practice metta is by extending these thoughts outwards to others. This can be done by sitting quietly and picturing someone you love, such as a partner or child, and sending them thoughts of love and compassion.
- You can also send metta to people you don’t like or people who have hurt you in the past. The important thing is to focus on sending positive thoughts rather than negative ones, in the spirit of forgivness.
Salzberg also discusses the importance of being patient on the path to developing this ability.
It can take time for these feelings to develop, and there will undoubtedly be setbacks along the way.
The most important thing is to keep practicing regularly and not give up when things get tough.
3. The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
The Gift of Forgiveness is a book written by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, detailing her journey of forgiving those who have hurt her in the past.
The book begins with Pratt sharing her story of being sexually assaulted by one of her managers while working at a radio station.
Pratt details her struggle with forgiving her attacker, and how she eventually reached a point where she was able to let go of the anger and resentment she felt towards him.
Pratt goes on to share the story of her father, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his affair with another woman while still married to Pratt’s mother, discussing how she struggled with forgiving her father for his infidelity, and how she eventually came to terms with his actions.
Throughout the book, Pratt offers advice on how to forgive those who have hurt you in the past, stressing the importance of taking things slow, and not rushing into forgiving someone just because you feel like you should.
She also emphasizes the importance of self-care during the process of forgiveness, and encourages readers to take time for themselves in order to heal.
Overall, The Gift of Forgiveness is a powerful book about the healing power of forgiveness.
4. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
The Book of Forgiving is a comprehensive guide to the process of forgiving others and oneself.
The authors explore the power of forgiveness and offer a four-step process for achieving it.
They emphasize that forgiveness is not about condoning bad behavior or pardoning someone who has wronged you; rather, it is about releasing yourself from the chains of anger, resentment, and hatred.
- The first step in the forgiveness process is acknowledging your anger and pain. This can be difficult, but it is essential to taking control of your emotions and beginning to heal.
- The second step is deciding to forgive. This may seem like a daunting task, but the authors remind us that we have the power to choose whether to forgive or not.
- According to the authors, the third step is asking for God’s help, as they propose that forgiveness is not a human endeavor; rather, we need divine intervention to overcome our own limitations.
- The fourth and final step is granting forgiveness, although does not mean that you have to forget what happened or become best friends with the person who hurt you; it simply means that you are releasing yourself from the grip of anger and hatred.
Tutu and Tutu offer several exercises to help readers practice the four steps of forgiveness.
Crucially, they also discuss the importance of forgiving oneself, which can be just as difficult as forgiving others.
The book concludes with a discussion of how forgiveness can be used as a tool for social change, both on an individual level and on a global scale.
5. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
In this popular book, Kristin Neff discusses the importance of self-compassion and offers ways to foster it in one’s life.
She defines self-compassion as consisting of three main elements:
- Mindfulness – being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings without judgement
- Common humanity – recognizing that we all experience pain and suffering
- Self-kindness – being gentle and forgiving towards oneself
Neff discusses a number of research studies that have shown the benefits of self-compassion.
For example, she cites a study that found that people who were more self-compassionate had less anxiety and depression, were more optimistic, and had better relationships than those who were less self-compassionate.
Additionally, she cites research that shows that self-compassion can help people forgive themselves for past mistakes, be more motivated to achieve their goals, and cope better with stress.
One of the key messages in Self-Compassion is that it is important to be kind to oneself because nobody is perfect.
We all make mistakes and we all have weaknesses and it is not helpful to beat ourselves up over our shortcomings; instead, it is much more beneficial to be accepting and forgiving.
Additionally, Neff stresses the importance of not comparing oneself to others, as we are all different and possess our own strengths and weaknesses.
As such, there is no need to compare ourselves to others in order to determine our worthiness; we are all worthy just as we are.
Overall, Self-Compassion provides a great deal of evidence for the benefits of self-compassion and offers many helpful tips on how to cultivate it in one’s life.
I found Neff’s discussion of the research studies very informative and her advice on how to be more self-compassionate extremely useful.
Forgiveness is an essential skill to learn, whether for the benefit of our relationships, or for practicing self-compassion.
By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the issue, we can better overcome long-held negative feelings.
These books are a great starting point for learning how to forgive, and how to live a happier life as a result.