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The Book of Forgiving

I have finished reading Gnarr (light, pleasant, refreshing), and have now started reading The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond and Mpho Tutu.

But let me back up. A couple of years into grad school, I hit a point where I came to realize that certain aspects of my life just weren't quite lined up right. My instincts told me to push some people out of my life who were hurtful, but then, in successive months and years, I kept being struck by a feeling of wanting to figure out how to forgive, but not really having the best sense of how to do so in different cases.

In the spring, in conversations with my mother, this book came up and it piqued my curiosity.

So, here's a basic notion that has been brought up so far. Let's say you slap me. The pain and surprise would probably lead me towards an instinctive response in which I slap you back. But what is the net consequence? Two people in pain, full of distrust.

As the Tutus point out, this isn't the only option. It's possible to increase the net amount of good in the world if we respond differently. This does not mean denying the hurt that has happened, and Tutu has heard of so much hurt and suffering in the context of apartheid in South Africa.


This reasoning reminded me of something. Over the summer, while we were cavorting around on bicycles in costumes, annikusrex's husband commented that our whimsical and entertaining costumes were effectively increasing the net happiness in the world.


These may seem like fairly simple points, but it's often easy to lose sight of them. I can see how the act of forgiving can release the wounded from his or her wounds and allow healing to occur.


( 8 remarks — Remark )
Oct. 10th, 2015 06:21 am (UTC)
hi, are you perhaps aware of the hawaiian healing practice called hooponopono ?


i didn't mean to hurt you,
i am sorry if i ever hurt you
please forgive me
i love you

apparently the man who started it healed an entire psych ward from psychosis..

now that's forgiveness!

i have a book called healing yourself. what i cannot resolve in myself is the disconnect from what i once believed to be god, benevolent love. i am now of the opinion that god is a pig (orwell), or maybe a dog (buddha), but no benevolent father..
; '

there is another group called heart math that meditates on solstice and full moon events to help raise world consciousness. i was never very good at math, but i would like to believe like einstein that the possibilities exist..

good luck with that read. desmond tutu was a dynamic man.
Oct. 14th, 2015 02:10 am (UTC)
Re: foregiving
I'd never heard of ho'oponopono way before. Sounds like it has some insightful indigenous cultural perspective to offer, although I must admit it's pretty far from my life experiences to date, so a bit challenging to relate to. On the flipside, sometimes that's what we need to experience to push ourselves to change, eh?

I can't say I have much of an answer on the issue you can't seem to resolve for yourself. Sometimes the tension of nonresolution is what's important, actually. Biologists tend to think of the world as a beautiful, brutal place, and yet still find comfort in the natural world. Not quite the same as contemplating a deity, though.

The counterpoint my father has offered in another comment looks like it will offer an interesting direction as well.
Oct. 14th, 2015 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re: foregiving
another indigenous insight that i like is the four agreements by don miguel ruiz

The Four Agreements are:

Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Don't Take Anything Personally.
Don't Make Assumptions.
Always Do Your Best.


; )
Oct. 16th, 2015 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: foregiving
Yes! I read this book back in college, and found it to provide some useful/helpful perspective. The "don't take anything personally" is relevant to this thinking on forgiveness.

The Book of Forgiving is worthwhile, even for those who are not in the midst of dealing with major hurt. More for the sake of thinking about how to relate to other human beings.
Oct. 17th, 2015 06:54 am (UTC)
Re: foregiving
i'll check it out
Oct. 10th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
Article by Steen Halling in the Seattle Times last winter:

Steen is a friend of mine who has researched the psychology of forgiveness while teaching at Seattle University (he's now retired). This article is a much-condensed version of the topic; he has published and spoken at greater length and depth elsewhere.

His main finding is that forgiveness is not an act of will, not a decision that a person makes, but that forgiveness "just happens" when one has acknowledged, fully grieved and let go of the hurt that has been experienced. Kind of the other way around from what you have written, describing forgiveness first, then the healing.

Oct. 14th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC)
Re: forgiveness
Thank you for the link, Dad.

As I read more - this book is describing what it calls a "path to forgiveness," but in early sections is addressing how one interacts with the associated hurt. I may have described things somewhat backwards in my post, in that I don't think that one can forgive without having worked through the hurt and grief in some manner. Perhaps it is working through things that leads to healing. But then I don't quite know how forgiveness can be disentangled from the process.

I don't think forgiveness can be forced, and yet at the same time I do think it is possible to work towards it. But I am not certain about this point at this stage.
Oct. 16th, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: forgiveness
I'm also now curious about the cultural context for Steen's work. I suspect it might be different if a person's context is more along the lines of forgiveness within assumed monogamous romantic relationships, vs. forgivness in the setting of trying to come to a point of resolution regarding violence and oppression, as in the case of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa. The latter case speaks more powerfully to me, especially as I think about places experiencing violent conflict today.
( 8 remarks — Remark )

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