Mediation and Forgiveness

June 1, 2011

Not all mediations require one party to forgive the other, yet in some mediations an apology on one side and forgiveness on the other, can play an important role in resolving the dispute. To gain insight into the role of forgiveness in mediation, I recently read Fred Luskin’s book, Forgive for Good. Luskin is the co-founder and director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project (www.learningtoforgive.com) where he has conducted research and trainings on forgiveness. Luskin reports that “[p]eople who are taught to forgive become less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious, less stressed, more confident, and they learn to like themselves more.” His book offers tools that readers can use if they wish to be rid of their anger towards someone — what Luskin calls a “grievance.”

One section of Luskin’s book struck me as particularly significant as it relates to mediation. Luskin notes that when people have a grievance, they make assumptions about the person they are angry with, and blame that person for their pain. A typical assumption is that the other person intentionally hurt them, whereas the hurt may actually have been accidental. If a mediation can help one party see that the other party did not mean to cause hurt, that person will be much closer to forgiveness and to resolving the dispute.

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