Review of The Forgiving Self, by Robert Karen, PhD

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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3 Responses to “Review of The Forgiving Self, by Robert Karen, PhD”

  1. Anne Hector says:

    To Robert Karen -
    my 20yr old daughter, who once adored her dad – (he left when she was 8, came back when she was 15) – had his own (2 kids from an affair) – showed hatred towards her dad – she also lost her best friend at age 16 and changed from a brilliant, artistically talented child to one who took drugs and had bad friends – battled to get back to complete her matric year … and now at 20 she read an article in an “Oprah” magazine and asked me to purchase your book ‘The Forgiving Self” – I cannot tell you have happy and at peace I am, knowing that my child is getting her life back, that she is realising that she has to Forgive Herself first then all things will follow …
    I Thank God too -because he has always had his hand upon her – I believe that…

    Thank You Robert….

  2. I’m looking for a nice romance anime that focuses entirely on the relationship (thus, the couple should have already gotten together and focuses on the relationship, not on the ‘getting together part’. Although it won’t be bad if they showed the ‘getting together part’ in a few episodes, and then get together and focus on the relationship).. . Kare Kano did a good job on this, with likable characters and sometimes good humor. So far it was the best I’ve seen.. . I’ve already tried Peach Girl, but I absolutely hated the main character and the overall ‘shiny’ drawing style. Gravitation was sucky in general, going into the stereotypical gay relationship. Good Morning Call was boring, with boring main characters (I hate the way the female main character looks like, that shoujo style makes every girl look like each other from every other manga/anime that uses that style).. . So any suggestions? Please don’t let it be drama-centered, or even a ‘harem’ anime .. I like the main characters just being in love with each other without having problems like ‘omg I saw him with another girl and he might be cheating on me’. Also, I do not like drama, so I’m looking more for romance/comedy..

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