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2014-05-04 15:00

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The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World

Desmond and Mpho Tutu


229 pages; R255

The Truth and ­Reconciliation Commission showed us that forgiveness is possible if we strive for it. Now, Archbishop ­Emeritus Desmond ­Tutu and his daughter Mpho have written a book for those seeking forgiveness and for those who want to forgive.

The Book of Forgiving is a practical guide to healing, borrowing stories from ordinary people who have travelled this path. The premise is that everyone at some point needs to forgive or be forgiven – a process that scientists say holds many health benefits.

Four steps to forgiving others

Step 1: Telling the story

“There is a profound reclaiming of dignity and strength when you are able to stand in front of your abuser, stand in your truth, and speak of how that person hurt you,” the authors say. It is not always possible to talk directly to your abuser, so speak to trusted friends, family members or religious leaders.

Step 2: Naming the hurt

Difficult though it may be, naming our hurt is as important as telling the story. “We give voice to our hurts not to be victims or martyrs, but to find freedom from ­resentment, anger, shame or self-loathing that festers inside us,” the ­Tutus write.

Step 3: Granting forgiveness

This act heals the person granting forgiveness more than it does the forgiven. This is because carrying resentment only increases your burden. Granting forgiveness ­results in the telling of a new story, from “victim to hero”. You can’t move on until you forgive.

Step 4: Renewing or releasing the relationship

As strange as it may sound, you are inevitably in a relationship with your abuser – one bound by hurt. This relationship can be either ­renewed or terminated. You can decide how best to handle it once the first three steps are taken.

Four steps to being forgiven

Step 1: Admitting the wrong

Admitting to your wrongs must be done in earnest, as a way of taking responsibility. It must be done without justification or expectations.

Step 2: Witnessing the anguish and apologising

This needs humility and sincerity, or it makes a mockery of the process. Say “I am sorry”. Mean it. Do not argue or justify your actions. Answer all questions honestly.

Step 3: Asking for forgiveness

There is no guarantee that you will be forgiven, but asking forgiveness is a form of accounting for your wrongs and letting go of the past. Show remorse. It is the responsibility of the one who seeks forgiveness to make things right.

Step 4: Renewing or releasing the relationship

It is possible for victim and abuser to move forward and create a new story, but sometimes this ideal is not possible. In such a case, the relationship should be terminated without any ill will to forge a new future free of the past.

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