Forgiving is hard. Sometime it feels impossible. If you have been hurt, your pain is real. Forgiving doesn’t excuse bad behavior. It doesn’t accept blame. Forgiveness frees you from the chains of bitterness and disease that the hurt has cause you. Forgiveness is freedom.
The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and our World, written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chair of The Elders, and Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, offer a manual on the art of forgiveness—helping us to realize that we are all capable of healing and transformation.
I purchased and listened to the audiobook, but I highly recommend you purchase the physical book. Included in this book are exercises and meditations to help guide you to a practice of forgiveness. This is a book you will want to keep on your shelf for a lifetime reference and guide to forgiveness.
The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and our World
Everyone makes mistakes. We all have broken pieces of our hearts, minds and souls. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. It is through forgiveness we heal our brokenness.
2 simple truths:
There is nothing that can’t be forgiven.
There is no one that can’t be forgiven.
We all need forgiveness – To give forgiveness and to be receive forgiveness.
The quality of our lives are nothing more than the quality of daily life lived with each other.
Forgiveness is what stops our lives and human communities from unraveling.
Forgiving is not easy. Walking through the grief, anger, and memories caused by the hurt, can make forgiveness seem impossible. But it is possible. In forgiveness you will find freedom. By forgiving you are helping the world return to its inherent nature which is good.
Humanity: We are only human in relationship to others. Our lives are intertwined. My dignity is bound up in your dignity.
If you are going to take the forgiveness journey, you must believe that transformation can and does happen.
Meditation: Prayer before the prayer:
I want to be willing to forgive
But I dare not ask for the will to forgive
In case you give it to me
And I am not yet ready
I am not yet ready for my heart to soften
I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again
Not yet ready to see that there is humanity in my tormentor’s eyes
Or that the one who hurt me may also have cried
I am not yet ready for the journey
I am not yet interested in the path
I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness
Grant me the will to want to forgive
Grant it to me not yet but soon
Can I even form the words
Dare I even look?
Do I dare to see the hurt I have caused:
I can glimpse all the shattered pieces of that fragile thing
That soul trying to rise on the broken wings of hope
But only out of the corner of my eye
I am afraid of it
And if I am afraid to see
How can I not be afraid to say
Is there a place where we can meet?
You and me
The place in the middle
Where we straddle the lines
Where you are right
And I am right too
And both of us are wrong and wronged
Can we meet there?
And look for the place where the path begins
The path that ends when we forgive.
Part One: Understanding forgiveness
Chapter 1 – Why forgive?
Are you hurt and suffering? Maybe your husband has cheated on you or you have been physically or emotionally abused or abandon. Maybe it wasn’t you but someone you love who is hurting. You are right to be outraged.
The feeling of retaliation is a natural response. But until we choose forgiveness, we will be trapped by the pain of the person who hurt us. It is only in forgiveness that we find true peace and happiness again. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We forgive to help ourselves. Forgiveness frees us from a broken and bitter heart.
Chapter 2 – What forgiveness is not
- Forgiveness is not an effortless act.
- Forgiveness is not quick, it can take several times through the grief cycle before freedom is found.
- Forgiving is not easy.
- Forgiveness is not weakness. It requires courage and strength.
- Forgiveness does not subvert justice, it creates space for justice to be enacted.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting.
Chapter 3 – Understanding the Fourfold Path
The Fourfold Path:
- Tell your story to a trusted friend, family member, minister, mentor or counselor.
- Name the hurt.
- Grant forgiveness.
- Renewing or releasing the relationship.
Part Two – The Fourfold Path
Chapter 4 – Telling the story
- Tell the story to a trusted friend, loved one, minister, mentor or counselor.
- Speak only the facts.
- Consider telling your story to the person who has harmed you. If it is unsafe to do so or the person has passed away, write a letter. The letter doesn’t have to be delivered.
Chapter 5 – Naming the hurt
- Identify the feelings within the facts. Remember, no feeling is wrong, bad or invalid.
- Recognize the stages of grief and find out where you are in the process.
- Find someone who will acknowledge you and listen to your feelings without fixing them.
- Accept your own vulnerability.
- Move forward when you are ready.
Chapter 6 – Granting Forgiveness
- Forgiveness is a choice.
- Forgiveness is how we move from victim to hero in our story.
- We know we are healing when we are able to tell a new story.
Chapter 7 – Renewing or releasing the relationship
- The preference is always to renew the relationship unless there is a question of safety.
- Ask for what you need from the perpetrator in order to renew or release the relationship. (Ex: An apology, an action on their part, or to never see that person again.)
- Look at your part in the conflict.
Part Three – All can be forgiven
Chapter 8 – Needing forgiveness
- Gather support as needed. (Ex: Legal, ministerial, friend…)
- Admit the wrong.
- Witness the anguish and apologize.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Make amends or whatever restoration is needed.
- Honor your victim’s choice to renew or release relationship.
Chapter 9 – Forgiving yourself
None of us are perfect. What we do is not who we are.
Understand the difference between guilt and shame. Shame is about something we did, shame tells you that you are a bad person.
- Requires action to make it right.
The biggest barrier to forgiving ourselves is shame. Shame tells us, we are not worthy of forgiveness.
Breaking the chains of shame:
- Share your experience with others.
- Be of service to others.
- Try a 12 step program.
- Be compassionate with yourself.
For more information on how shame is shaping your life, click HERE.
We become imprisoned in the past when we do not forgive ourselves from past mistakes. If you have not sought forgiveness from the victim, do so.
Chapter 10 – A world of forgiveness
Every person wants to be acknowledge for who they are. We want to know that we have infinite worth.
When we have hatred for others, we carry it in our own hearts and it harms us more than it harms them.
We were made for connection. We take care of our world by taking care of each other. How we take care for each other is by cultivating a practice of forgiveness instead of a mindset of grievance.
A grievance mindset sees all that is wrong with the world. A world of resentment and bitterness.
A forgiveness mindset sees the world through eyes of gratitude. A world of hope.
We have opportunities every day to move through the steps of forgiveness. Here are a few simple examples:
- Driver that cuts me off.
- Child breaks something that was special to you.
- Husband comes home late.
Cultivating a practice of forgiveness starts with you and me in everyday life. By extending grace to a driver who cuts you off. Being kind instead of shaming a child who breaks something. Forgiving instead of fighting with your husband. These seemingly small acts will change the world by reestablishing human dignity.
Choose to live in peace, compassion and love. Chose to live a life of forgiveness.
*Quotes in italics, meditation, and chapter summaries taken directly from the book.
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