I’m never going to forgive them for what they have done! I don’t know if I can forgive them? If I forgive them then they’ll think they can hurt me again. How many times have you heard people use these phrases or have these beliefs? Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. But how do we get there? how to you forgive when you feel you have been betrayed?
Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has witnessed some of the most horrific crimes people can inflict on others. He lived in a country, which disenfranchised the majority of the population, but somehow he emotionally survived. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu teach people how they can come to forgive while holding onto their dignity.
Four step of forgiveness
Together they explain the four step process of forgiveness: Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness, and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship. Each one of them offers personal stories where they too, have had to face life-changing challenges and they choose to forgive.
1) Telling the Story
In “Telling the Story” they explain how you can restore your dignity after you have been harmed. By either verbalizing or writing out your story, your experience, you can start to understand and make sense or meaning of your pain and hurt. Through therapy and by speaking with a therapist allows you to tell your story, your experience, uninterrupted, and all from your point of view. expressing your story allows you to start the journey towards healing and releasing your anger, your hurt your resentment your pain.
2) Naming the Hurt
In “Naming the Hurt” they explain how the hurt needs to be voiced and how never naming your pain or talking about this injury can having lasting effects and emotional scares. too often we are too embarrassed or ashamed to talk abut our experiences. We may have grown up in a home where we were taught to “not share our dirty laundry in public”. Telling our stories to others, helps us heal. It can be restorative because naming the hurt helps to release the negative emotions tied up in the experience. By externalizing the experience we allow others to empathize with our pain and offer their support and understanding to the difficult journey we have experienced.
3) Granting Forgiveness
In “Granting Forgiveness” Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu point out how forgiveness is a choice that only you can make. Granting Forgiveness if you so desire, frees you from the pain of hurt and betrayal. They discuss how we are all born from the same human family and each one of us is flawed. But it is much more then just accepting our flaws.Granting Forgiveness is ultimately also about gong from the role of victim to that of a victor. You decide which role in life you wish to hold onto. One of victim full of shame hurt and pain. Or do you want a new story for yourself and new beginning and a closing of an old chapter.
To be clear Granting Forgiveness is not about forgetting or ignoring your experiences, the wrongs that were done or the pain and hurt you experienced. Granting Forgiveness is about releasing the burden of hurt and pain from yourself. This is an action you do solely for your own benefit.
4) Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
“Renewing or Releasing the Relationship” discusses the possibility of renewing your relationship with the one who harmed you or releasing yourself from what may be a toxic relationship. We see this in our work when we work with couples, individuals or families after an affair, divorce or betrayal. The decision and choice to renew or release a relationship or friendship is so individual. Only each person can make that choice. How do you make sense of your struggles and move forward from pain to hopefulness? This is the hard work and journey for you to do.
Deciding to rebuild a relationship with a partner a parent or a sibling, or a friendship requires trust. It requires both parties face fears, grieve losses, and examine the personal decisions and choices each of you made in the relationship. Only you can decide what is the right choice for you. only you can decide if you wish to open yourself up and trust again.
Then book engages you in a conversation that provides clear examples of how others have struggled with forgiving perpetrators of violence and injustice and crime. It provides you with the language of forgiveness to help you find the words you may need. There is even a chapter on forgiving yourself. Each chapter offers the reader meditations, exercises, websites, journal exercises and prayers to guide the reader along the path to forgiveness. This book is an easy uncomplicated read written in simple, clear and empathetic language for all readers.