Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

Review of The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

book_of_forgiving_largeThe Book of Forgiving

The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World

by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

HarperOne, 2014. 229 pages.
Starred Review

I don’t think you can have too many books on forgiveness. Even though it’s now been a long time since my divorce, I’ve been reading this book slowly, trying to absorb it. It articulates things I’d already learned about forgiveness as well as showing me new things to consider and new ways to look at it.

Forgiving isn’t a journey you’ll ever completely finish, but Desmond and Mpho Tutu present a Fourfold Path that will help you deal with those who have wronged you and people you have wronged as well.

This book doesn’t come from a trivial place. Here’s some of the background Desmond Tutu gives in the Introduction:

As chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I have often been asked how the people of South Africa were able to forgive the atrocities and injustices they suffered under apartheid. Our journey in South Africa was quite long and treacherous. Today it is hard to believe that, up until our first democratic election in 1994, ours was a country that institutionalized racism, inequality, and oppression. In apartheid South Africa only white people could vote, earn a high-quality education, and expect advancement or opportunity. There were decades of protest and violence. Much blood was shed during our long march to freedom. When, at last, our leaders were released from prison, it was feared that our transition to democracy would become a bloodbath of revenge and retaliation. Miraculously we chose another future. We chose forgiveness. At the time, we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country from certain destruction. We did not know where this choice would lead us. The process we embarked on through the TRC was, as all real growth proves to be, astoundingly painful and profoundly beautiful….

I would like to share with you two simple truths: 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. I have often said that in South Africa there would have been no future without forgiveness. Our rage and our quest for revenge would have been our destruction. This is as true for us individually as it is for us globally.

There have been times when each and every one of us has needed to forgive. There have also been times when each and every one of us has needed to be forgiven. And there will be many times again. In our own ways, 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.

The book begins by laying the groundwork. The authors explain why we need to forgive for our own sakes. It explains what forgiveness is and is not. (Forgiveness is not weakness, is not a subversion of justice, and is not forgetting. Forgiveness is also not easy.) Then it explains the Fourfold Path of Forgiveness, an alternative to the cycle of Revenge.

The first step on the Fourfold Path is Telling the Story.

Telling the story is how we get our dignity back after we have been harmed. It is how we begin to take back what was taken from us, and how we begin to understand and make meaning out of our hurting….

It is not always easy to tell your story, but it is the first critical step on the path to freedom and forgiveness. We saw this so palpably in the TRC, when the victims of apartheid were able to come forward to tell their stories. They were relieved to have a place of safety and affirmation in which to share their experiences. They were also relieved of the ongoing victimization they suffered from believing that no one would ever truly know what they had endured or believe the stories they had to tell. When you tell your story, you no longer have to carry your burden alone….

We may need to tell our stories many times over, to many different people, and in many different forms before we are ready to move forward in the forgiveness process. We also may find that just telling our stories relieves a burden we have carried. When we tell our stories, we are practicing a form of acceptance. When we tell our stories, we are saying, “This horrible thing has happened. I cannot go back and change it, but I can refuse to stay trapped in the past forever.” We have reached acceptance when we finally recognize that paying back someone in kind will never make us feel better or undo what has been done. To quote the comedian Lily Tomlin, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

The second step on the Fourfold Path is Naming the Hurt.

Every one of us has a story to tell of when we were hurt. Once we are done telling our stories – the technical details of who, when, where, and what was done to us – we must name the hurt. Giving the emotion a name is the way we come to understand how what happened affected us. After we’ve told the facts of what happened, we must face our feelings. We are each hurt in our own unique ways, and when we give voice to this pain, we begin to heal it….

Often it can seem easier or safer to simply dismiss a hurt, stuff it down, push it away, pretend it didn’t happen, or rationalize it, telling ourselves we really shouldn’t feel the way we do. But a hurt is a hurt. A loss is a loss. And a harm felt but denied will always find a way to express itself. When I bury my hurt in shame or silence, it begins to fester from the inside out. I feel the pain more acutely, and I suffer even more because of it….

If you cannot, or choose not to, name your hurt to the perpetrator, then you can talk to a trusted friend or family member, a spiritual advisor, a counselor, another who has experienced the same kind of harm, or anyone who will not judge you and who will be able to listen with love and empathy. Just as in telling the story, you can write your hurt down in a letter or journal. The most important thing is to share with someone who is able to receive your feelings without judging or shaming you for having them. Indeed, because it is never easy to confront the one who has harmed us directly, I strongly encourage you to name the hurt to others first.

When we give voice to our hurt, it loses its stranglehold on our lives and our identities. It stops being the central character in our stories. Ultimately, as we will discuss in the next chapter, the act of forgiving helps us create a new story. Forgiveness lets us become the author of our own future, unfettered by the past. But in order to begin to tell a new story, we must first have the courage to speak…. It is human to want to retaliate, to feel anger, and to feel a profound sense of resentment toward those who have harmed us. When we share these feelings, however, when we give voice to our desire for revenge, our rage, and the many ways we feel our dignity has been violated, the desire for revenge lessens. There is relief. Feeling this relief does not mean that there is no justice, or that it was okay for someone to hurt us. It simply means we don’t have to let our suffering make us perpetual victims. When we name the hurt, just as when we tell the story, we are in the process of reclaiming our dignity and building something new from the wreckage of what was lost.

The third step on the Fourfold Path is Granting Forgiveness.

I like this observation: “Raising children has sometimes felt like training for a forgiveness marathon.”

As our own children grew, they found new (and remarkably creative) ways of testing our patience, our resolve, and our rules and limits. We learned time and again to use the teaching moments their transgressions offered. But mostly we learned to forgive them over and over again, and fold them back into our embrace. We know our children are so much more than the sum of everything they have done wrong. Their stories are more than rehearsals of their repeated need for forgiveness. We know that even the things they did wrong were opportunities for us to teach them to be citizens of the world. We have been able to forgive them because we have known their humanity. We have seen the good in them. We have prayed for them. It was easy to pray for them. They are our children. It is easy to want the best for them.

But I also pray for other people who may irk or hurt me. When my heart holds anger or resentment toward someone, I pray for that person’s well-being. It is a powerful practice and has often opened the doorway to finding forgiveness.

It might be obvious that this step is crucial, but he reiterates why that is so.

We choose forgiveness because it is how we find freedom and keep from remaining trapped in an endless loop of telling our stories and naming our hurts. It is how we move from victim to hero. A victim is in a position of weakness and subject to the whims of others. Heroes are people who determine their own fate and their own future. A victim has nothing to give and no choices to make. A hero has the strength and ability to be generous and forgiving, and the power and freedom that come from being able to make the choice to grant forgiveness.

The final step on the Fourfold Path is Renewing or Releasing the Relationship.

Forgiveness is not the end of the Fourfold Path, because the granting of forgiveness is not the end of the process of healing. We all live in a delicate web of community, visible and invisible, and time and again the connecting threads get damaged and must be repaired. Once you have been able to forgive, the final step is to either renew or release the relationship you have with the one who has harmed you. Indeed, even if you never speak to the person again, even if you never see them again, even if they are dead, they live on in ways that affect your life profoundly. To finish the forgiveness journey and create the wholeness and peace you crave, you must choose whether to renew or release the relationship. After this final step in the Fourfold Path, you wipe the slate clean of all that caused a breach in the past. No more debts are owed. No more resentments fester. Only when you renew or release the relationship can you have a future unfettered by the past.

This scratches the surface of what’s in this book. There are examples and exercises to help you along the way. Concluding chapters talk about when you are the one who needs forgiveness and about forgiving yourself.

This is a beautiful book on a life-giving topic. I’ve got to admit, I’d like to wish readers a life where they never have to forgive anyone. But come to think of it, that would not be as rich a life. When you do find yourself needing to forgive, this book is a wonderful resource.

tutu.org.za
humanjourney.com/forgiveness
harperone.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of As We Forgive, by Catherine Claire Larson

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

As We Forgive
Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda

by Catherine Claire Larson

Zondervan, 2009. 284 pages.
Starred Review

This powerful and moving book tells the stories of seven survivors of the Rwandan genocide, and their difficult journeys to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Each story is heart-wrenching. But each survivor was able to rise above the horrendous things they experienced. That any one of these people is able to forgive is mind-blowing. Taken together, the book clearly makes the case that the path to healing lies in forgiveness.

And you won’t be ever be able to look at people who’ve wronged you as harshly again. If these survivors, whose families were killed, often before their eyes, can forgive and find healing, well, what has anyone ever done to me that even comes close?

And this book even tells stories of survivors who reach out in reconciliation to the one who harmed them, as they begin to put their nation back together again.

I like Appendix 2 at the back. It lists “Choices on the Way to Peace” for both the Victim and the Offender. Here’s the list for the Victim:

Steps to Forgiveness:
Step 1
– I face my truth.
– I move from denial to grieving the loss.
– I open my wounds and begin to heal my pain and shame.
– I forgive myself and cease blaming.
– I accept God’s forgiveness.

Step 2
The first hand of forgiveness …
I let go of my bitterness and the right to revenge.

Step 3
The second hand of forgiveness …
I confront the offender with a request to uphold my dignity by restoring something of what was lost.

Step 4
I become open to accepting the humanity and dignity of the offender — and even the possibility of restoring the relationship.

I especially like Step 3, because when you think of forgiveness, you don’t necessarily think of asking for restitution. But this list affirms that asking for some restitution is part of the forgiveness process. It’s not revenge — it’s just asking the offender to take some responsibility to help make things right.

The steps don’t talk about what happens if the offender won’t respond to the request, but the book did. The victim CAN forgive and still seek justice in court. The victim is upholding their own dignity by asking for some restitution, whether that restitution is granted or not.

The steps do make it pretty clear that reconciliation is not going to happen if the offender doesn’t respond to that request. (And the four steps for the offender are necessary, too.) But if the victim has already let go of bitterness, their own life will be transformed in a beautiful way, regardless of how the offender responds.

This is a beautiful book about forgiveness played out in actual human lives.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Monday, August 24th, 2009

left_to_tellLeft to Tell

Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

by Immaculee Ilibagiza
with Steve Erwin

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2006. 215 pages.
Starred Review
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #1 Nonfiction: True Stories

Left to Tell is an incredible book and tells an amazing story. Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan holocaust by hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women. What’s more, they had to be absolutely quiet, and were often able to hear killers describing what they had done in exterminating “cockroaches,” even someone describing with glee how her own brother had died horribly.

You would think that a book that even mentions such horrors would be tremendously depressing. Instead, reading this book uplifted and inspired me.

You see, Immaculee, with God’s help, has been able to forgive the people who killed her family and devastated her country. The fiery trial has made her truly beautiful, and even her book radiates this beautiful, loving, and forgiving spirit.

I do appreciate that she never pretends the forgiveness came easily. She describes when they first went into hiding, how there seemed to be a constant negative voice saying they’d be found, they’d be killed. Later on, after she thought she was done forgiving, all the waves of anger and hatred came back when she saw her destroyed family home and her brother’s mutilated remains.

But Immaculee learned the power of prayer in combating those feelings and those voices of discouragement and hatred. Since she couldn’t speak to the other women, Immaculee spent most of the three months in the bathroom praying. Is it any wonder she grew to feel close to God?

And there were miracles of protection and comfort. A time when killers were specifically looking for her, on the other side of the door, she was given a vision of protection and saw a glowing cross standing in front of that door. And the killers never found her.

I’ve read many books on forgiveness since my husband left me. But books about the theories of forgiveness, although helpful, can’t begin to hold the power of this book showing practical forgiveness in action. The horrors perpetuated against Immaculee’s family and nation were astronomically beyond any wrongs I have ever suffered. After reading this book, those wrongs seem utterly inconsequential. If Immaculee can, by God’s power, forgive such horrors, and by doing so become a radiantly beautiful person, then surely I can forgive such tiny wrongs as have been done against me. And I do believe that such forgiveness will make me a tiny bit more beautiful.

The message I got from this book is how forgiveness is always worth it, no matter how difficult. I am so glad I read this radiant and inspiring story.

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Review of The Forgiving Self, by Robert Karen, PhD

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

forgiving_selfThe Forgiving Self

The Road from Resentment to Connection

by Robert Karen, PhD

Doubleday, New York, 2001. 288 pages.

Even quite a few years into the divorce process myself, I still feel that anyone going through a divorce can benefit from thinking about forgiveness, if only for your own sanity!

I’ve read quite a few books on forgiveness. This one by Robert Karen took a more academic approach, a psychological approach, to the subject. I especially liked the way he explored many different aspects of forgiveness, including our natural tendency not to forgive.

I read the book slowly, and it gave me plenty of food for thought. I maintain that thinking about forgiveness can’t help but be a good thing.

Robert Karen says,

“When I first turned my attention to forgiveness, it seemed a worthwhile, if unexciting, topic. But as I immersed myself, I realized that forgiveness is as fundamental and important as any topic in psychology. There are few places it can’t take you. It embraces the meaning of love and hate, the nature of dependency, the torments of envy, the problems of narcissism and paranoia, as well as the tension between self-hatred and self-acceptance, between striving for maturity and refusing to grow up. . . .

“In our capacity or failure to forgive we reveal our ability to recognize the humanity in someone who has hurt or disappointed us, as well as to see our own limitations and complicity. It represents an ability to imagine what life is like on the other side of the fence, where another human being is engaged in his own struggle, to let go of the expectation that people exist to be just what we need them to be. And this sensibility applies to our view of ourselves, too: for forgiving others is nothing but the mirror image of forgiving oneself. Significant acts of forgiveness also entail letting go of a precious story we tell about ourselves, risking the awareness of a larger, less self-justifying truth.

“What we do in the realm of forgiveness . . . speaks to the magnitude of our self-centeredness and the extent to which we organize the world into a simple pattern of good versus bad, as opposed to a more mature ability to tolerate ambiguity and ambivalence. In the capacity to forgive we see our largeness of heart. And, in struggling to forgive what is most difficult for us to forgive, we reveal our courage, imagination, and potential for growth. The development of forgiveness is, I now think, as clear a marker of general psychological development as there is.”

I found myself posting several quotations from this book on Sonderquotes. I recommend this book for some deep thinking about all that forgiveness means in our lives.

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Forgive for Good, by Fred Luskin

Saturday, August 11th, 2007
forgive_for_good.jpg 
Forgive for Good
A PROVEN Prescription for Health and Happiness
by Dr. Fred Luskin

Reviewed August 11, 2007.
HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, 2002. 240 pages.
Starred Review.

I’ve checked out or bought several books on forgiveness since my husband left. This one, so far, has seemed the most practical and do-able.

I don’t care who you are or what your spouse did.—In any divorce, you will both have major things to forgive. For that matter, in any marriage, you will both have major things to forgive. Didn’t Harold Kushner say that forgiveness is the main quality of a mature marriage?

It seems fairly obvious that if we hold onto resentment over what our spouse did, we will never be able to be happy. Even our health is in jeopardy. There’s one little problem: How can you forgive someone who’s hurt you so deeply?

This book doesn’t only cover forgiveness between partners, but also forgiving for people whose family are victims of war or terrorism, forgiving for victims of child abuse, forgiving great evil as well as small inconsiderate acts.

He uses a practical approach. Why should you let the offender harm you further by taking up so much space in your mind? Why should the offender have the power to destroy your health and happiness?

Right at the beginning, he talks about some myths about forgiveness. Forgiveness is for you, and not for the offender. Forgiving does not mean condoning evil or turning into a doormat. Forgiveness is not about denying or minimizing your hurt. It doesn’t even necessarily mean reconciling with the offender.

Forgiveness is a choice, and a skill that people can learn to do, as this author has shown with the studies he has done (even with Irish mothers whose children were killed). Forgiveness is taking back your power, and taking responsibility for how you feel. Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you.

Dr. Luskin says, “I define forgiveness as the experience of peace and understanding that can be felt in the present moment. You forgive by challenging the rigid rules you have for other people’s behavior and by focusing your attention on the good things in your life as opposed to the bad. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or denying that painful things occurred. Forgiveness is the powerful assertion that bad things will not ruin your today even though they may have spoiled your past.”

First, he talks about how a long-standing grievance is formed. He says there are only three components:

–The exaggerated taking of personal offense.
–The blaming of the offender for how you feel.
–The creation of a grievance story.

The author never promises that people will stop hurting you. He says,

Learning to handle hurts, wounds, and disappointments more skillfully will not stop things from going wrong in life. People may still be unkind, and random events can still hurt you. The world is filled with suffering and difficulty, and just because you have learned to adapt better does not mean these problems go away. What will change, however, is the space you rent them in your mind and the amount of anger, hopelessness, and despair you feel. I cannot emphasize this point too strongly. Life may not be perfect, but you can learn to suffer less. You can learn to forgive, and you can learn to heal.

The first component, taking things too personally, can be solved by learning to look at the impersonal aspects of a hurt. This sounds callous or as if you are excusing the offender, but that’s not it. You are, in effect, acknowledging that being hurt is common, and reminding yourself that you will be able to deal with it, just as so many others have done.

The author says,

The easiest way is to realize how common each painful experience is. It is a fact of life that nothing that has happened to you is unique. If you remind yourself that you are just one of two hundred people burglarized in your community, it is hard to take it as personally. By looking carefully, we can always find at least ten people hurt in the same way…. Remembering how common our suffering is can make it seem like the hurt is being trivialized, but it is worth taking that risk to suffer so much less pain.

The second way to uncover the impersonal dimension of hurt is to understand that most offenses are committed without the intention of hurting anyone personally…. Many of the offenses we ache over were not intended to hurt us personally…. To suggest there is an impersonal dimension to many of our offenses is not to deny the pain of loss and neglect.

Please note that Dr. Luskin is not advocating denying all your hurt feelings and sucking it up because you’re human like everyone else. He is talking about avoiding forming a long-term grievance. There’s a personal aspect as well as the impersonal one.

People deal best with offenses when they can find both perspectives. When you see the impersonal dimension after focusing only on your personal pain, you discover that your specific hurt does not have to cripple you…. When we react to things that happened to us or to others we want to be able to acknowledge the pain but not remain stuck in it…. I believe we heal best from our offenses when we are able to acknowledge the damage done. At the same time, I want each of us to be able to say that what happened is not a unique catastrophe but the beginning of a new story of forgiveness and healing.

The second component in forming a grievance is blaming the offender for how you feel.

When we become upset and ask ourselves “Whose fault is this?” and then insist that the reason for our suffering lies with someone else, we have entered the second step in the grievance process. We are playing the blame game, blaming someone else for our troubles. This is a problem because when the cause of the hurt lies outside us, we will look outside ourselves as well for the solution.

When we are in pain in the present, we often blame our bad feelings on the hurts done in the past. One of the ways we do this is to assume that people meant to hurt us. Another way is to link the cruelty in the past with our current feelings. Both of these hypotheses make it harder for us to heal….. When we blame someone for our troubles, we remain stuck in the past and extend the pain. Unfortunately, we are unaware of how much we limit our chances of healing when we blame someone else…. Blame hypotheses are usually guaranteed to make us hurt and hurt and hurt until we change them.

The beguiling thing about the blame game is that at first you may feel better. You may feel short-term relief because the hurt you feel is someone else’s responsibility. Over the long run, however, the good feelings fade and you are left feeling helpless and vulnerable. Only you can take the steps that will allow you to ultimately feel better.

I like the author’s practical tone. When someone has clearly (to our way of thinking, anyway) wronged us, we feel we have a right to be angry. But he doesn’t make right or wrong the issue. He points out that blaming isn’t good for us.

When we blame another person for how we feel, we grant them the power to regulate our emotions. In all likelihood, this power will not be used wisely, and we will continue to suffer. The number of people who give power over to those who did not care about them is shockingly high.

Feeling bad every time we think of the person who has hurt us becomes a habit and leads us to feel like the victim of someone more powerful. We feel helpless because we are constantly reminded both in mind and body of how bad we feel. When we blame this normal protective response on the offender, we make a mistake. This mistake takes the keys to our release out of our hands and puts them in someone else’s hands.

Holding people accountable for their actions is not the same as blaming them for how you feel. It is justified to hold wayward spouses to their commitment to pay child support. It is justified to expect a hit-and-run driver to spend time in jail. What leads to unnecessary suffering is making your spouse responsible for your continued suffering or your inability to enter into another relationship. What does not help you is holding that hit-and-run driver responsible for your ongoing depression or the unwillingness you might feel to take risks ever again.

The third step that crystallizes a grievance is creating a grievance story.

Mistreatment often ends up as a story of victimization, a story told over and over. Whether we tell it to ourselves or to others, the constant retelling offers scant relief or hope.

Grievance stories describe the painful things you have endured but not healed from. You will know these stories because telling them makes you mad or hurt all over again. You know it’s a grievance story when you feel a flutter in your stomach, a tightening in your chest, or sweat forming in your palms. Grievance stories are the stories you tell when you explain to a friend why your life has not worked out the way you hoped. They are the ones you tell to make sense of why you are unhappy or angry.

Unfortunately, a grievance story is counterproductive.

We suffer if we tell the grievance story repeatedly to others or ourselves. Even though it is the third and final step of the grievance process, the grievance story often signals the onset of future difficulties. The grievance story is our tale of helplessness and frustration based on taking something too personally and blaming someone else for how we feel. The grievance story seems true every time we tell it because familiar stress chemicals course through our body. However, telling a grievance story too often is dangerous to both confidence and mood. It is also a health risk since high blood pressure can become a factor when thinking about a grievance story too often.

I love his solution—create a new story where you are the hero, rather than the victim.

We begin the process of creating a new story by taking care every time we talk about the unresolved painful things that have happened to us. When you hear yourself talking about a past hurt, stop for a moment to see if you are telling a grievance story. If so, pause and take a deep breath. Your grievance story, which seems so comforting and familiar, is your enemy. That grievance story, more than what hurt you, has imprisoned you. It keeps you in the past. It alienates your friends and family and reminds you and others that you are a victim. Once we change our grievance story, we are on the road to healing.

What a refreshing outlook this book provides. Dr. Luskin promises,

I will teach you how to forgive. I will teach through the experience of forgiveness to tell a different story. You will see that you have the choice to amend your story so you no longer highlight the wrong done or the hurt you have suffered. You will learn to tell your story so your problems become challenges to overcome, not simply grievances on which to dwell. By the end of this book, your story will show you as the conquering hero capable of overcoming difficult obstacles. Your story will be that of a hero who succeeded on a journey of forgiveness.

Before getting to the process of forgiveness, Dr. Luskin talks about why we create grievances in some situations, but not in others. He states that the underpinning of the grievance process is found in “unenforceable rules.” Unenforceable rules are rules we have for other people’s behavior that we can’t possibly enforce. He uses the metaphor of a police officer whose car doesn’t work sitting and fuming in his car, writing tickets.

Often when trying to enforce unenforceable rules we write mental tickets to “punish” the one who has acted wrongly. Unfortunately, if our rule is unenforceable, the only person we end up hurting with our ticket is ourselves. We clog up our minds with these tickets. We become frustrated because things do not go the way we want. We become angry because something wrong is happening. We feel helpless because we cannot make things right.

I am convinced that when you try to enforce something over which you have no control, you create a problem for yourself. That problem gets in your way as you try to figure out what is the best thing to do. It is much harder to know what to do when you are angry, frustrated, and helpless. Making a good decision is tough when you are constantly writing tickets and there is no one to give them to.

We know we are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule if anything, except a very recent grievous loss or illness, causes us a good deal of emotional distress. When facing the recent death of someone we love or the loss of one’s home or the news of a major illness, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and not be able to think clearly. However, after a short period of time we must confront the problem of enforcing a rule we cannot enforce.

An unenforceable rule is one where you do not have control over whether your rule is enforced or not. An unenforceable rule is one where you do not have the power to make things come out the way you want. When you try to enforce one of your unenforceable rules, you become angry, bitter, despondent, and helpless. Trying to force something you cannot control is an exercise in frustration. Trying to force a spouse to love you or a business partner to be fair or a parent to treat each sibling fairly is unenforceable.

The second half of the book shows how we can transform a grievance and learn to forgive. Dr. Luskin says,

Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the story you tell. Forgiveness is the experience of peacefulness in the present moment. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it changes the present. Forgiveness means that even though you are wounded you choose to hurt and suffer less. Forgiveness is for you and no one else. You can forgive and rejoin a relationship or forgive and never speak to the person again.

He has some practical steps to help you:
–take a hurt less personally
–take responsibility for how you feel
–become a hero instead of a victim in thee story you tell.

His techniques about taking a hurt less personally resonate well with the things I learned in Steven Stosny’s You Don’t Have To Take It Anymore.

Many of us are renting more space to rehashing our grievances than focusing on gratitude, love, or appreciation of nature. My central message here is when you bring more positive experiences into your life, your hurts will diminish in importance. In fact, this is the first step to taking responsibility for how you feel and beginning to forgive. If I rent out more and more space in my mind to appreciating my children or the loveliness of a rainy day, there is as a result less space and time for dwelling on the hurts.

Doesn’t this sound beautiful?

Forgiveness is the practice of extending your moments of peacefulness. Forgiveness is deciding what plays on your TV screen. Forgiveness is the power that comes from knowing a past injustice does not have to hurt today. When we have good experiences, such as moments of beauty or love, then for those moments we have forgiven those who have hurt us. Forgiveness is the choice to extend those moments to the rest of our life. Forgiveness is available anytime. It is completely under your control. It does not rely on the actions of others; it is a choice you alone can make.

He gives us some valuable techniques for refocusing our attention. He also explains some ways to challenge our own unenforceable rules. After all, “It is easier to change your thinking than to get unenforceable rules to be obeyed.”

When you find an unenforceable rule, the goal is to return to the desire and get rid of the demand. I urge each of you to fervently hope things go the way you want. At the same time, remind yourself that it is foolish to demand things go a certain way when you do not have the power to make it happen.

To heal, forgiveness is important. I am convinced that the frustration you feel enforcing unenforceable rules is the biggest threat to your motivation to succeed. Most of us give up more readily when we demand something we cannot have than when we make plans to optimize our chances to get what we want. When we hope for a caring parent, we leave room for having to make other plans. When we demand a caring parent, there is little room to maneuver.

I love his idea of changing your story from the story of a victim to the story of a hero. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. What story would be at all interesting without the hero facing some difficulties? So now the hurts are actually obstacles that make you shine!

A victim is one who often feels helpless to respond to painful circumstances or to control thoughts and feelings. A hero has worked hard to overcome adversity and refuses to be beaten by difficult life events. Forgiveness is the journey of moving from telling the story as a victim to telling the story as a hero. Forgiveness means that your story changes so that you and not the grievance are in control.

The biggest drawback to telling grievance stories is they keep us connected in a powerless way with people who have hurt us. When we mull over our past wounds and hurts, we remind ourselves of a part of our life that did not work. Reconnecting with our positive intention reminds us of our goals and enables us to move forward.

In any grievance story, someone does not get what he or she wants. Unacknowledged is that behind each painful situation is a positive intention. Once found and reclaimed, the positive intention alters the grievance story. The story is no longer just about the person and or situation that caused pain but about the goal that was not quite reached. Suddenly, instead of just recycling pain, the grievance story becomes a vehicle for learning how to change to attain that goal. The grievance story becomes a part of the positive intention story.

You will discover as you tell your positive intention story that you feel better. One reason is that you are closer to telling a balanced story. This is because each of us has many experiences. Negative ones are not more important than positive ones. A grievance freezes a hurtful experience into an unchangeable solid. Then it rents too much space in our mind and leads to feelings of helplessness. The truth is that wounds hurt, but they do not have to be crippling.

Each of us can forgive those who have hurt us. When we put our grievances into the perspective of challenges to our goals, we are giving an accurate account. Everything that hurts us is a challenge to our happiness. It is a challenge to be happy in this world. Wounds can cripple the happiness only of those who do not know how to cope and forgive. Finding our positive intention helps us connect with the big picture. Telling a positive intention story reminds everyone who hears us that we are a hero and not a victim. We deserve the best, and forgiveness helps us find it.

The author says, “From the first to the last page, my goal is to make forgiveness practical.” He achieves that goal beautifully. This book has brought me much farther along in my journey to recovering peace and joy. Thank you so much, Dr. Luskin.