My Favorite Positive Emotion: Forgiveness

I bring you Post # 3, originally published on March 29, 2017.

While I was researching ideas for my blog, Persephone Rising, I came across an interesting study by George Vaillant, a Harvard researcher and physician. His research melds spirituality, ethology, and neuroscience, and in this study, he writes about the eight positive emotions that enable us to live happier, healthier, and more connected lives.

To him, of enormous importance is the fact that none of the eight are “all about me,” unlike the negative emotions that are all “me-centric.” These emotions keep us connected with our deepest selves and with others and include love, hope, joy, compassion, trust, gratitude, awe, and forgiveness. I decided that today’s blog would focus on one of my favorite positive emotions: forgiveness.

In the 12-week program that I teach, two weeks are devoted to forgiveness, and next to Increasing Your Sense of Deserving, this is probably the most difficult lesson for my clients, as it can bring up painful memories and unhappy thoughts. But it’s a profound and important lesson to learn. In fact, one client asked to repeat the lesson so he could get an even better understanding of the impact forgiveness played in his life, and how he could move beyond the pain.

Now, people can do some pretty appalling things, making forgiveness exceedingly difficult. And, at times, we can find ourselves playing the “if only” game. If only we could have a conversation, if only we could reach a place of mutual understanding, if only she could see my viewpoint, if only he would apologize, if only, if only, if only — and, we never move beyond the hurt. This can lead to feelings of resentment and a desire for some form of payback or revenge.

It’s natural to feel angry, to say “I’m not going to let that ‘so and so’ get away with that,” whatever ‘that’ is. However, resentment and revenge reduce you to your worst possible self, and, in some ways, puts you on the same level with that very person that you resent. This reminds me of that saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

A crucial thing to bear in mind is this — as long as there is someone being “jailed,” there has to be a “jailer.” Being a “jailer” keeps you in a dark place; it’s exhausting, negative, and basically, jails you along with the offender. Forgiveness frees the one being jailed, but more importantly, it frees the jailer.

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process and practice of change (and it’s a life-long practice — believe me). It helps you move away from your role as victim and releases the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life. Compassion is the beginning of forgiveness. Try thinking about it this way — it’s about the person, not the deed; not the transgression but the offender’s humanness and pain.

Now, this doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't diminish or excuse the act. You can forgive someone but not their offense. Nor does it mean that you continue having a relationship with someone who is hurtful and unhealthy for you. But it does mean that you can better understand and have compassion toward someone else’s behavior. Forgiveness brings a peace of mind that helps you move forward.

Anne Lamott wrote, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past.” It means knowing that the past is done, the chips have fallen where they may, and the damage can never be undone. No amount of resentment is going to fix it or change it. But you can move beyond it. Through forgiveness, you become less encumbered by the scars of the past and able to cast off the chains of that dark place (remember the jailed and the jailer) and live with more freedom, happiness, and balance.


TIME TO DINE: Cooking for Joan

As I mentioned last week, I’m including a favorite recipe from the online cookbook I’m creating. I’ve decided to call the cookbook, Cooking for Joan, in honor of my mother who unexpectedly passed away in 2001. It was through her that I was inspired to cook. My mother was a “good” cook, for the most part. Some of her dishes were superb and would be a hit in any restaurant. Those, of course, will be included in the cookbook. However, she had a few duds in her repertoire — don’t get me started on her pork chops — a dreaded weekly repast, which my siblings and I still laugh about to this day. But it was her spirit and love of food that brought me to cooking. So, this is for you, Mom!

I recently discovered this dish online — I think on the Bon Appetit site. I’ve made my adjustments and tweaks, and it’s a fantastic meal — simple, comforting and tasty. My friend Michelle loves it, and I believe my Mom would love it too... Enjoy!

Ribollita with Italian Sausage


Prep Time: 30 | Cook Time: 2 hours | Makes: 6 | Difficulty: Easy


  • 2 cups coarsely torn day-old sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
  • (or just use store-bought croutons or Texas Toast)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch of kale, ribs removed, leaves torn into 2” pieces
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained, chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, shaved


Preheat oven to 350°

If you’re making your own croutons:

Toss bread and olive oil on a foil-lined baking sheet, making sure to get oil on every piece; season with salt. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crunchy, 15–18 minutes. Let croutons cool.

For the soup:

Mix sausage and wine with your hands in a medium bowl until mixed with small crumbles.

Cook in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until firm but not browned, about 4 minutes.

Add onion, carrots, celery, anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but still hold their shape, 20 minutes.

Add kale, tomatoes, beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until kale offers no resistance when bitten and flavors have melded, about 1 hour.

Add vinegar just before serving

Divide croutons among bowls and ladle soup over.

Serve topped with Parmesan and drizzled with more oil. If you don’t want to croutons to get soft so quickly, just add them to the top.

bon appétit!

**Image courtesy of Your Design

Categories: Relationships - Personal Interactions , Change - Challenges

Tags: seeking forgiveness , finding happiness , achieving balance , life coach , spirituality , neuroscience , ethology , positivity , ability to forgive , how to forgive , Italian soup , things to make with kale