If you are able to forgive, does that mean you have renewed your connection with that person?
A plethora of accolades, news stories, and television spots paid homage to the life and accomplishments of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (died December 26, 2021) this past week. His leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission received attention.
Coincidentally, a few days before Tutu’s passing I read The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World (by Desmond and his daughter Mpho Tutu).
The fourfold path of forgiveness starts with telling your story of pain/injury/suffering, identifying your hurt associated with the story, and offering forgiveness to the perpetrator(s). The last step (#4) is labeled as Renew or Release. The Tutus offered the following metaphor as one way to understand the challenge of renew or release.
- Take a beautiful breakable item (like a cup) or a picture, photo or piece of fabric.
- Break it.
- Then, using the pieces construct something beautiful. It could be a rebuilt cup, for instance.
As you view the reconstructed item, the authors ask you to consider the following questions:
- Was it possible to make something beautiful from the pieces?
- Was the reconstruction difficult or easy?
- How much did the reconstructed item you created resemble the old (original) item you had?
- Will this item (the refurbished item) be able to serve the same function as the old and beautiful item?
- “What did you learn about renewing and releasing as you engaged in this exercise?” (see pages 161-162)
Now, instead of the reconstructed broken cup, consider a relationship, career, community team, or a political party. Consider someone who has injured you (emotionally, financially, spiritually, occupationally, or physically). Let’s say you completed the first three steps in the fourfold path and you are able to forgive. Does that mean you have renewed your connection with that person?
The Tutus state, “Renewing a relationship is not restoring a relationship. We do not go back to where we were before the hurt happened and pretend it never happened. We create a new relationship….a relationship transformed….Releasing a relationship is how you free yourself from the victimhood and trauma…releasing is refusing to let an experience or a person occupy space in your head or heart any longer…” (155; emphasis added)
Someone may ask, “Why forgive, then, if you do not plan on renewing the old relationship?” Or “How can I renew anything with that person with the suffering I hold in my heart?”
In her book The Dance of Connections, Harriet Lerner says, “The fact that you’re the only one suffering may be the best argument for stepping back from a negative argument.”
For me, this was a reinforcement of Tutu’s call for forgiveness. It does not exonerate the perpetrator but it can relieve a burden from one’s heart. It helps release the suffering. And it may lead to releasing the relationship.
Desmond Tutu explains forgiveness in this short (4:25) interview with Bill Moyers.
Make it a wonderful week and HTRB has needed.
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The Growth and Resilience Network®
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