Forgiving others is one of the most difficult lessons to learn in life.
Years ago I was on a road trip with a friend. Long hours in the car allowed for some deep conversation. Her husband had wronged her and she had been struggling with all it entailed. The question we spent hours discussing was: How do I forgive?
Being familiar with forgiveness from the vantage point of needing it every day I could only offer what I felt was logical feedback. I suggested praying for the ability to forgive, to understand how to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to this particular situation.
“Just forgive him and move on” sounds simple and easy, yet forgiving is sometimes anything but easy or simple. Letting go of resentment, forgetting about the pain, and releasing the burden are all associated with forgiveness. But when our natural tendency is to seek retribution, justice, and punishment we have to wonder where do these opposites come together to resolve anything?
The Book of Forgiving
I recently read The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. I was curious to discover and understand how victims of such atrocious acts could find forgiveness and move on.
Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho have witnessed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Together they have formulated answers to the darkest questions about how to forgive broken down into three parts.
Part 1 helps us understand what forgiveness is and why it is so essential in our life. The three chapters in this section explore what forgiveness is and is not, and introduces the Four-Fold Path.
In part 2 they break down the Four-Fold Path and introduce ideas for healing yourself and the world. These are the four steps:
1. Telling the story
2. Naming the hurt
3. Granting forgiveness
4. Renewing or Releasing the relationship
Each chapter within this section discusses the process and supplies steps of meditation, a stone ritual, and a journal exercise to help work through their technique.
The final part works through needing forgiveness, forgiving yourself, and a world of forgiving.
We all have been on both sides of the forgiveness paradigm. As both the recipient and inflictor we all have experience in what it means to give and receive pain. For this reason, we have a need to understand what it means to forgive and be forgiven.
The basic concepts of this book rang true in my heart, but I felt so much of it was repetitive. Maybe it was based on the belief that repetition teaches. In which case, it would be proven correct. The stories and examples were real and helped me to see what was possible. If you can push through the repetition and find the meaningful message for you and your situation your time would be well spent. Tutu takes the religion out of the process and helps his readers to see forgiveness as attainable and worth considering as part of the human experience.
Favorite Forgiving Quotes
“It is good and helpful to let go of resentment, but how do we let go of resentment when we have been harmed? Of course, it is better not to exact retribution, but how can we forgo retribution when what has been taken from us cannot be restored? And is it even possible to forgive and still pursue justice? What steps must we follow to achieve forgiveness? How do we heal all our holes in our hearts that come with being the fragile creatures we are?”
“The path of forgiveness is not an easy one. On this path, we must walk through the muddy shoals of hatred and anger and make our way through grief and loss to find the acceptance that is the hallmark of forgiveness. While it would be much easier to make this journey if the route were marked clearly, it is not. The boundary line between those who have caused harm and those who have been harmed is not clear either. “
“There is no future without forgiveness. Our rage and our quest for revenge would have been our destruction.”
“It seems there is no end to the creative ways we humans can find to hurt each other and no end to the reasons we feel justified in doing so. There is also no end to the human capacity for healing. In each of us, there is an innate ability to create joy out of suffering, to find hope in the most hopeless of situations, and to heal any relationship in need of healing.”
“There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness. When you can see and understand that we are all bound to one another – whether by birth, by circumstance, or simply by our shared humanity – then you will know this to be true.”
“We are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again.”
“We do not have to let the hurt make us perpetual victims.”
How has forgiveness shaped your life?
Known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and the Templeton Prize in 2013. He was appointed the chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1994. There he pioneered a new way for countries to move forward after experiencing civil conflict and oppression.
His daughter, Reverend Mpho A. Tutu is the executive director of The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.