Forgive and forget. We’ve all heard this phrase at some point, but it’s way easier said than done. Listen to this podcast episode with Katherine Schwarzenegger and learn why forgiveness can be a gift.
We are all hurt at some point in our lives. Maybe a close friend has betrayed your trust, a family member ignored your hospitality, or a partner cheated on you. Sometimes, these conflicts end, and the other person admits their wrong and asks for forgiveness, but other times, they don’t. Maybe they couldn’t care less that they hurt you.
Sometimes, people intentionally hurt us. Maybe you’ve been abused, neglected, manipulated, or harassed. As a young boy, I was sexually assaulted by a man I didn’t know. It was traumatizing.
There are some things that just seem unforgivable.
But forgiveness is not something you need permission for. It’s a choice that you make yourself, and ultimately, it’s an empowering and liberating one.
My guest today on The School of Greatness has just written a whole book about the subject, and it’s a book you’re going to want to read.
“I found one of the most important things that I try to remind myself every single day is to interact with people and lead with compassion. And I think that that has turned out to make a huge difference. When we get frustrated, when we get irritated even with people that we love and are close to, or people we don’t know at all — that coming back to a place of love and compassion has been tremendously helpful in my life. And I think I would tell that to others as well, just because I think that it’s really needed right now.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt is an American New York Times bestselling author, TV correspondent, philanthropist, and the daughter of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and broadcast journalist Maria Shriver. In 2019, Katherine married actor Chris Pratt, and let me tell you — they are relationship goals.
In 2010, she wrote her first book entitled Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back. In this book, Katherine describes her personal journey and encourages other young women to achieve confidence and a positive self-image.
Her fourth book called The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable was recently released on March 10, 2020. In the book, she interviews 22 different people about their experience with overcoming trauma and hurt while figuring out the path to healing and forgiveness. These stories are raw, and the people who tell them have been through the unimaginable — all of their forgiveness journeys are different, but they have all arrived in the same place of liberation and healing.
In May 2020, Katherine plans to release her own podcast called The Gift of Forgiveness which is all about people’s forgiveness journeys. Some of these people are included in her book, others are not, but what Katherine hopes is that these conversations will inspire other people to seek forgiveness in their own lives.
One huge part of Katherine’s story is her work for animals. She is a HUGE animal lover and works as an Ambassador for Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA, lending her time, voice, and energy to spread awareness about animal rescue. She rescued her own dog, Maverick, and even wrote a children’s book about him called Maverick and Me. She says that animals have taught her so much about forgiveness:
“There’s just endless love and constantly just someone that will come and lick you and greet you, no matter what you look like, what you’ve done in your life … And for me, my dog Maverick and also the animals that I’ve had growing up, have taught me so much about unconditional love and responsibility.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Katherine is such a genuinely kind and thoughtful person. I really enjoyed this interview with her and was blown away by the things she had to say about relationships, forgiveness, and learning to practice compassion and humility in everyday life.
Before we discussed her new book, I wanted to ask Katherine what she was most proud of in her life. She knew the answer right away:
“I think this probably will sound cheesy, but I think what I’m most proud of … is my relationship with my family.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
For Katherine, relationships are one of the most important things in her life. Relationships take work — whether it’s with your best friend, your partner, or your family. You can’t just start a relationship and assume it will grow over time. You have to invest in it, and sometimes, things get difficult.
“A lot of people struggle when they’re in relationships. It’s probably one of the most challenging things for people. Finding the right intimate partner. Being in harmony, having mutual interests. Staying together for a long time. It’s one of the most challenging things for people.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Like Katherine says, relationships are challenging, but if you can make them a priority in your life, the payoff is incredible. Not only will you feel loved, but you’ll be able to love others around you in ways that you know they need. When there’s people in your life that you care about, your life automatically becomes more purposeful.
Luckily for Katherine, fostering healthy relationships was something that her family was always very intentional about. Maybe growing up, relationships were rough for you. Maybe you didn’t always have a good relationship with your parents or siblings. I know I’ve had my fair share of relational conflict. Sometimes, relationships begin in hard places, but this doesn’t mean that there’s no hope.
When it comes to relationships, forgiveness is key. I don’t think I’ve ever been in any serious relationships when I didn’t have to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness. We are all human — we all make mistakes and hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally. I think that perhaps in the closest relationships, we get hurt the most.
To thrive in our relationships, we have to be willing to both forgive and be forgiven.
On March 10, 2020, Katherine Schwarzenegger released her new book, The Gift of Forgiveness. In the book, she interviews 22 different people about their experience with overcoming trauma and hurt while figuring out the path to healing and forgiveness. Katherine shared a few of their stories with me, and the pain they’ve gone through is unimaginable.
One of these stories really stuck out to me. A man named Chris Williams lost his wife and two of his children in a car accident with a drunk driver. When he woke up from the impact, he remembers hearing a voice in his head:
Let it go.
In that moment, with his wife in the seat next to him dead and two of his children dead in the back seat, a voice told Chris to forgive. And that’s what he did.
“And he said, ‘Oh, I had moments for sure, when I was angry and sad and devastated, and so hurt and really feeling that. And I would allow myself to feel those feelings, which is the most important thing. But then I would come back and work my way back to my choice to forgive.’ And for him, it was really about also feeling like when he sees his wife and kids one day in the future, that he wants to make sure that they’re proud of the way he handled it.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
I, for one, can’t imagine going through something as traumatic as that and immediately choosing forgiveness, but everyone’s forgiveness journey is different. When talking about her new book, Katherine brought up another example of a person who chose forgiveness, although it took much longer than a couple seconds:
“Deborah Copaken talks in her book about practicing forgiveness with a man who raped her when she was in college … 30 years later, she wrote a letter to him and said that was it for her … And so, I think it showed me that for other people … [forgiveness takes] 3 months, for some it’s 30 years, and for some it’s still an ongoing journey.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
The purpose of Katherine’s new book is not to point a finger at those who struggle to forgive and command them to forgive. The pain you’ve experienced in your life is very real, and it’s important to feel those emotions and not stuff them down. But if you hold onto that pain, it will grow and taunt you for the rest of your life. Forgiveness is not just for the other person who hurt you — it’s for yourself as well.
When we choose to forgive, we are choosing freedom for ourselves. While writing her book, Katherine has learned so much about forgiveness herself, and it has greatly shaped her own forgiveness journey:
“But my hope is that because I wrote this book, and because I’m able to talk to people about their forgiveness journey, that when I’m in those moments of struggling with forgiveness, that I will be able to go back and draw inspiration from their stories … So it’s not that I have been able to forgive every single person … That I’ve never struggled or had pain or anything like that. ‘Cause that’s not true at all — I have. And there are still people that I’m struggling with forgiveness and there are some people that I’ve been able to forgive. And I think that is part of my journey in my life. And it definitely sparked why I wrote this book and my interest in forgiveness.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Now that we know forgiveness looks different for other people, what are some practical ways we can practice forgiveness in our own lives?
The first step of forgiveness is just being open to it. Forgiving someone usually doesn’t happen instantaneously, and you shouldn’t expect it too. Usually, forgiveness is a journey, and the first step of that journey is just being willing to go on it.
Katherine says that this first step can be the hardest. There are so many people (myself included) who have experienced intense hurt, and forgiveness is the last thing they want to do. It just doesn’t seem fair. But when you realize that holding onto pain is actually hurting you more in the long run, it’s easier to open yourself up to the possibility of forgiveness.
Also, it’s important to not wait for permission when it comes to forgiving someone. Not everyone is going to ask for forgiveness. A lot of people don’t. Either because they aren’t sorry or because they are completely unaware they hurt you. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to forgive them. The gift of forgiveness already is in your hands. You can choose to give it to someone, whether they ask for it or not.
Once you’ve opened yourself up to forgiveness, a great way to process your own forgiveness journey is listening to other people’s testimonies and see what you resonate with the most:
“I [want] to make it very clear that just because I wrote this book, [I’m not] an expert on forgiveness … I’m a fellow struggler of forgiveness … So I think that other people’s stories have been really helpful for a lot of people, including myself. Some people like to write a letter and send it. Some people like to write a letter and keep it to themselves. And some people like to go and confront the person, and that’s therapeutic for them.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
I’ve always found that writing out your thoughts is a great way to process emotions, but this might not be the way you process things! Maybe, you prefer to paint or express yourself creatively. Maybe you like to run and process things in your head. Ultimately, when it comes to forgiveness, it is your journey, and it’s going to look a bit different than everyone else’s.
According to Katherine, there’s something that a lot of forgiveness journeys share, and that is faith.
“I think a big theme in the book though, is faith … I think it’s really just having faith you might see that person again … having faith that you couldn’t have done anything to impact what had happened … having faith and trust in a high power that you’ll be okay and that you’ll get through whatever you’re going through. Because I think sometimes when you are going through something really impossibly hard and challenging, you feel alone in that journey. To have faith that there’s a greater power that’s watching out for you … That is a reassuring feeling.” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
For Katherine, faith has been a great help in her forgiveness journey. Whether or not you share the same faith tradition as Katherine or don’t practice a faith tradition, realizing that forgiveness is something bigger than yourself can be huge. A person may have hurt you in the past, but by forgiving them, you are not only freeing yourself from resentment but also making the world a more compassionate and loving place.
Katherine is such a genuinely kind and thought person. She is such a light, and she has such a love for people.
I’ve talked many times about my journey of forgiveness, and I think people need to understand that forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. When we hold on to anger, we’re really separating ourselves from love. We separate ourselves from connection, and we put a wall up with other people (not just the people who have hurt us). Forgiveness breaks down those walls and teaches us to love again.
I’d encourage you all to check out Katherine’s new book, The Gift of Forgiveness, and also check out the Facebook Forgiveness Ambassadors Group which connects people all over the world through their stories of suffering and forgiveness.
Katherine’s definition is true to her character:
“[My] definition of greatness would probably be ‘being with the people I love and doing what I love.’” – Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Take a moment today to do just that — go be with the people in your life that mean the most to you. Do something you love today. And if you’re struggling with forgiving someone, know that while the journey can be difficult, it will be liberating in the end. There is love past the brokenness.
Join me on Episode 925 to hear about the gift of forgiveness with Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt.