Forgiveness and the Healing Process: A Central Therapeutic Concern

By Cynthia Ransley; Terri Spy | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

Letting go: a question of forgiveness?

Cynthia Ransley and Terri Spy

The editors set off on an exploration of forgiveness-two people with very different views on the subject. We were aware of the paucity of material written in the UK and the range of research and literature coming out of the USA, largely emanating from psychologists with a belief in the value of forgiveness.

We brought together writers-psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers, a criminologist-with expertise in working in particular areas of practice. We hoped they would offer different perspectives on how people let go of wrongs and hurts and discuss the extent to which they saw this as linking with forgiveness.

Some of the authors gave a personal view of the term forgiveness. Several wrote from a belief in its positive power. They saw it as freeing the victim from a preoccupation with the wrongdoing and the offender, and as ultimately, in Moosa, Eagle and Straker's words 'a milestone on the road to recovery'. Two expressed misgivings about the term itself. And a warning was given about the potential misuse of power, in the sense of people feeling coerced (because of their religious, cultural or political background) to forgive, or of forgiveness being bestowed from a place of superiority.

Ransley's research (Chapter 3) suggests that the word forgiveness is not as widely used as terms such as letting go, acceptance and becoming reconciled. These latter terms may be useful, in our more secular society, as they do not carry religious overtones. However, they are imprecise. 'Letting go' may emanate from a place of unforgiveness or disinterest in the offender. Equally the person using the term may equate it with forgiveness. However, we must also be aware, as Ransley pointed out in Chapter 1, that people give very different meanings to terms such as forgiveness. In this book, authors tended to emphasise three different aspects to forgiveness:

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