Monday, June 2, 2014

The Book of Forgiving

Book: The Book of Forgiving, the Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
Author: Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Edition: eBook
Read:  May 31, 2014

Review Updated December 10, 2016
269 pages
Rated: 5 out of 5

Non-fiction book on forgiving. The authors go through a process they call the Fourfold Path. This consists of:

  • Telling the story
  • Naming the hurt
  • Forgiving the person
  • Releasing or renewing the relationship.
All of these steps are done, not only from the mouth but also with the heart. Each of these are given a chapter addition, the Tutu's set the stage for the Fourfold Path by talking about why we need to forgive and what is forgiveness. After discussing, the path, they then talk about the the need to forgive and forgiving yourself.

Each chapter contains the Tutu's thoughts and teaching. Then they offer us a prayer concerning the chapter topic. A summary of the chapter's teaching is provided, followed by a meditation for us. Through out the book, there is a stone ritual. The stone is representative things in the chapter, usually about forgiveness. You are asked to visualize aspects of this chapter through the stone. Finally, you are to keep a journal of your journey towards forgiveness.

Two truths:
1) there is nothing which cannot be forgiven
2) there is nobody who does not deserve to be forgiven.
Upon these two truths, the Tutu's build this book. You can think of some pretty horrific things which gave happened, but the Tutu's gave probably seen or even experienced worse. They make a point that without forgiveness, the alternative is internal strife which will break out onto someone eventually The other thing which comes to my Christian mind is the second point. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask for forgiveness like we have forgiven others. Without this forgiveness,we reject Christ's forgiveness.

Until we can forgive, we remained locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom... Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who has harmed us. (21). The Tutu's show that there is harm in not forgiving. When we forgive, we cut the chain which binds us to the wrong we feel. By releasing the chain we are set free. As the Tutu's said, we forgive for ourselves, in our own self-interest.

They also show that offering a conditional forgiveness, such as I will forgive you if you apologize, leaves the offender holding the cards on the forgiveness end. This allows the offender to continue to manipulate the situation. It is better to make our forgiveness based upon our own desire to offer forgiveness than upon some action by someone else. This is true, particularly if the forgiveness is not offered in person.

Forgiveness is not ignoring the truth of a situation. Rather it is the process of revealing truth, confronting an issue, in truth. Forgiveness is not saying something did not happen, rather that it did, it hurt, and part of re-veiling the hurt.

Forgiveness is not denying the harm caused by being wronged. Forgives is part of coming to terms in truth and honesty. It gives voice to the wrongs suffered.

The key is how we respond to pain and harm. There are two cycles we can follow. The first is our natural reaction: cause the offender pain and harm, to retaliate. The second is to heal-not only the other person and our relationship with them, but ourselves. This choosing leads us into the Fourfold Path.

The Tutu's point out that being hurt and causing hurt are flip sides of an action. Consequently we do need to learn how to work through hurt. Sadness, pain, anger and shame are all reactions which occur from hurt. Admitting our wounds allows us to start healing, as well as starting to see the wounds from the other persons perspective. By seeing our mutual woundedness, we share humanity. By rejecting it, we reject ours and others dignity. We cannot move out of a revenge cycle to forgiveness without acknowledging our hurt. We can choose reconciliation or retribution; to be healed or to hurt.

Healing is restoring our dignity and the dignity of others. It is not revising the event or saying it did not happen.

There is not a timeline on forgiveness. It is a process. All anyone can do is point another to the path of forgiveness.

Tutu addresses can anyone be beyond forgiveness? He draws on his Christian background to address this. He says no. No person is such a monster that they lack a moral conscience. All humans are a child of a God, even when they do deeds which are horrific. They can still be saints by re-establishing relationships with God and humans. The acts can be condemned and the person punished for them, but that does not remove the persons humanity. We can just as easily be that person. He later on talks about the horrific events in places like Rwanda. During their internal war, many people became barbaric. But afterwards, a commission called for forgiveness of those who were caught up in the events. In this way a measure of healing took place.

Stories are the method which we understand our hurt. Our stories are often have discontinuity or are broken. But they are how we come to term with the facts of our hurt. Often we feel our dignity has been slighted. By telling our story, we learn how to reacquire our dignity. When you tell your story, you are no longer alone-you have partners. But the story you tell must be true-as far as you know. But additional truth may surface over time-be open to it. Also, the stories of hurt may need to be told many times to understand your own hurt. I do not get the impression it is to slander or hurt the offender, but to create an internal understanding. To come to an acceptance of what happened and what it means about yourself. To relieve yourself from being trapped.

Tutu then addresses whom to tell your story to. The ideal person is the person who hurt you. But there needs to be receptiveness to the idea of reconciliation. But first, tell it to someone you can trust. Also, depending on the circumstances you may need to bring along someone.

Naming the hurt is to put a name to the emotion(s) which the hurt generates. Healing requires that we put pieces of our hurt stories into a coherent order, and assembly of facts. We need to own our feelings, turning from a victim to freedom from our resentment, anger or shame. Disassociation from our emotions and experience does not bring release, but repression-it will still hurt. It is truth which is the surgical knife which cuts to the core of the issues.

When we ignore pain, it grows bigger and bigger, like an abscess that is never drained,... The Tutu's echos Tournier's thoughts-Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets. It is through naming the truth of our hurt do we start to heal. By naming what has hurt us, we no longer are passive, no longer denying our hurt, but  being released from the. Bondage of being tied to the hurt. It allows us to share our hurt with others and allows us to empathize with other peoples hurt.

Try to express the hurt as soon as you can. Healing comes quicker that way.

Forgiveness does not preclude justice being served.

Forgiveness enables you to tell a new story about what has happened to you. Instead of a victim, you are now the victor. Instead of demonizing the perpetrator, you start to understand their humanity. So your story goes beyond the facts and hurts to understanding and compassion.

As part of the forgiveness process, there is a decision to be made: to renew or release the relationship. This is a choice where there is several considerations: safety and security, additional emotional hurt. Releasing, letting go, of a relationship is a valid option. Redeeming or renewing the relationship is the preferred. But even renewing the relationship does not make it the same as before. Change has happened, scar tissue has formed. Part of renewing the relationship is to understand and acknowledge our part of the conflict.

The last part f the book talks about when we need forgiving. Sometimes the act is not an intentional one, but more of a side-effect. Such as Tutu speaking out against apartheid causes the family stress and grief from being harassed. Tito asks his wife forgiveness for that. Which is harder to forgive or to be forgiven; to ask for forgiveness or to say you are forgiven? I think each comes from a place of humbleness.

Some steps along this path are:
  1. Admit the wrong
    1.  How do we admit we have wronged? State the facts and affirm the hurt we caused. Have integrity.
    2.  What if I was justified?
    3.   What if the person does not know
    4.  What about the consequences?
  2. Witnessing the Anguish and Apologizing
    1.  How do I witness the anguish?  Being picky about details does not leave room to hear the anguish the person is feeling. Empathize rather than legal.
  3. Witness the Anguish
    1.  I am sorry
    2.   How do I apologize
    3.  If I cannot apologize directly
  4. Asking for Forgiveness
    1.    Anomalous Apology sites:
      4.  347-201-2446
    2. How do I ask for forgiveness? Neither side wishes to be a victim or perpetrator forever. Tutu notes that no one can place remorse into anybody's heart.
    3. What if they do not forgive? You cannot force forgiveness, do not try to force it.
    4.  How do I make amends? Making amends many times is about restoring yourself to wholeness, as well as healing the rift between you and others.
  5. Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
Self forgiveness, like forgiving others frees us from the past. But it is not a free pass to say all right with the world. One must still walk the fourfold path, seeking to right what was wronged. Self forgiveness requires a change in ourselves. What does self-forgiveness require?
  1. Truth
  2. Truth about our feelings and guilt
  3. Humility
Forgiveness calls us into unknown territory. We need to break  what caused the wrong, the hurt, in the first place. Guilt is connected with the German word gelt which means to repay. It is an action word-we have done something which we feel was wrong. Shame is different. Rather than doing something, we have a state of being. We feel shame. Shame wants us to hide; truth seeks the light.

This book is written for those who need forgiveness whether they want to forgive or to be forgiven. (8) So states the Tutu's in the initial chapter. The corollary to this direction is, what is forgiveness, how do we do it and what does forgiveness look like? The Tutu's come up with some very good answers to these in both through their teaching and by practical examples.

They walks through a process called the Fourfold Path which leads you through a way to forgive. The path is clear; but the process can be difficult. While not comprehensive nor a text book on forgiveness, the Tutu's do show with simplicity how to walk this path. This is a book I would recommend to anyone who has hurt someone else or who has been hurt. In other words, all of us.

Notes from my book group:
December 8, 2016
It was well received. Comments included things like it was understandable and spoke to them. It lifted some of the issues which hold guilt over us about forgiving, such as forgive and forget. The use of the stone as an exercise put visual to how something unforgiven can continue to affect you. The one negative is that the term Fourfold path sounded almost like an Asian religious term.

I think I need to rethink the use of the stone. I have a tendency to think that things like this is a bit gimmicky. But how Tutu was using it in places it was an effective way to visualize the effect of an offense on a person until they are ready to forgive.

The problem with reading a book like this is I want to turn it into a study and get personal, rather than a book group which is exploring the book.
  • Why did I choose this book?
    • Originally I was looking for a book by Desmond Tutu to better understand who he is. I saw this book as an ebook at the Fresno library and started reading it. I thought his, and his daughter's writing style was simple and straightforward. Not only that, but that they were able to bring their experiences into everyday life. (Other books submitted was Night by Ellie Wiessel and The Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor)
  • What part of this book where you most impressed by?
  • Do you agree with the Tutu's that there is nothing which cannot be forgiven and thatthere is nobody who does not deserve to be forgiven? What about truly “bad” people-Hitler, Ida Imin, ….) How does the Lord's Prayer fit into your answer?
  • What aspects of forgiveness were brought home to you?
  • The Tutu's say, Until we can forgive, we remained locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom... Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who has harmed us. Why?
  • Has this book been worthwhile? How come or why not?
  • Was the exercises at the end useful-prayer, stone and journal?
  • Was there a falsehood about forgiveness that was exposed?
  • What was the best discovery about forgiveness that this book showed?
  • What other ways or methods have you found which works in granting forgiveness (besides the Fourfold Path)?

Not all questions were asked or in this form.

New Words:

  • Ubuntu(14):  humanity
  • Gacaca (240):  part of a system of community justice inspired by tradition and established in 2001 in Rwanda
  • Internecine (241): of or pertaining to conflict or struggle within a group, mutually destructive, characterized by great slaughter; deadly
Book References:

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: "He had many wounds."
  • Last Line: (from the final prayer) It [the journal] tells how I finally broke free from being defined by injury and chose to become a creator again offering forgiveness accepting that I am forgiven, creating a world of peace.
  •  The quality of life on our planet is nothing less more than the sum of our interactions with one another. Pg 9
  • For every injustice, there is a choice. Pg 11
  • The traumas we have witnessed or experienced live on in our memories. Pg 20
  • Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person is our jailer. Pg 16 
  • Forgiveness is not dependent on the actions of others. Pg 26.
  • None of us wants to have our life story to be the sum of all the ways we have been hurt. Pg 51
  • When we tell the truth about our hurt and loss, we lessen the power it has over us. Pg 91
  • Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past. Lily Tomlin. pg 98
  • We can't let go of feelings that we don't own. Father Micheal Lapslet, 107
  • You may not have had a choice in being harmed, but you can always gave a chose to be healed. (123)
  • Unless you seek forgiveness from those you have harmed, you will find your are bound inside two prisons-the one you are in physically and the one you have around your heart. It is never too late to repair the harm you have caused. ... No one can lock away your ability to change. No one can lock away your goodness or your humanity. (188) quote from Eugene de Kock
  • It can be very hard to forgive others, but often it can be harder still to forgive ourselves. (206)
  • Forgiveness is at the core of peacemaking. (241)
  • The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Quoted from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Death: The Final stage of Growth, 96
Table of Contents:
  •  Introduction: Into Wholeness
  • Chapter 1: Why Forgive
  • Chapter 2: What Forgiveness is Not
  • Chapter  3: Understanding the Fourfold Path
  • Chapter  4: I-Telling the Story
  • Chapter 5: II-Naming the Hurt
  • Chapter 6: III-Granting Forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
  • Chapter 8: Needing Forgiveness
  • Chapter 9: Forgiving Yourself
  • Chapter 10: A World of Forgiveness


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